Crowds flocked to Bolney today to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal as she officially opened a collection of new affordable homes in the village.
The 12 new homes at Magdalene Rise have been achieved through a community partnership between Bolney Parish Council, Mid Sussex District Council, Action in Rural Sussex and English Rural.
HRH Princess Anne, patron of English Rural Housing Association, met excited residents and viewed two of the new homes, before officially opening the development by unveiling a commemorative plaque.
Emily Hutchings has lived in the village for 33 years and volunteers at Batchelor’s Field Cafe in Rawson Hall. “I think it is really exciting,” she said.
“I think every village needs affordable homes to bring in all sorts of different people. Young people who are moving into these are delighted.”
Mum-of-two Amelia Thomson is moving into one of the new homes tomorrow. “I am excited and ready to move,” she commented.
Speaking about the new development, she said: “I think it is nice – we are bringing people together who already know each other and we are building another community.”
The 25-year-old said her two children, aged two and four, were excited to meet Princess Anne. “They have been prepping for it for three weeks! My son is giving her a flower.”
Youngsters at Bolney Under Five’s Pre-School waved flags in excitement ahead of meeting the princess. Victoria Lindfield, pre-school manager, said: “It means a lot for her to come down to Bolney. A lot of our children were born in the Princess Royal Hospital.”
The new homes, comprising one-bed flats, two-bed flats, two and three-bed houses, are rent only.
Planning restrictions ensure that local people with a connection to Bolney will always take priority as residents.
Councillor Tony Steer, chairman of the parish council, said: “This local initiative where the parish council has worked closely with English Rural and other key partners to develop affordable homes will benefit local people and the community for years to come.”
District council leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards said it was an exciting day for Mid Sussex. “It’s great that with the help of a local landowner, families will be able to live in the village in which they grew up,” he added.
Susan Pyper, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, was impressed by the development ‘which will make a difference to many people’s lives and the village of Bolney’.
She added that it was ‘a true example of what can be achieved to ensure the life of the village is vibrant’.
Davina Irwin-Clark, High Sheriff of West Sussex, said she was delighted to be part of the special day and said the development ‘will make such a difference to the vibrancy of the village’.
Commenting on the princess’ visit, Martin Collett, English Rural’s chief executive, said: “We are always really pleased when The Princess Royal comes to open one of the developments. It recognises the hard work of everybody involved and it is a chance to celebrate what they have achieved.
“It also helps us raise the profile of these developments and we are always encouraging other parish councils to get involved.
“The princess’ visit also helps promote the value that small affordable housing developments can bring to villages like Bolney, providing well-designed homes in partnership with and for the benefit of the community.”
Landowners Susan and John Seward said they were ‘very pleased’ to be able to provide the parish council with a space for affordable housing.
“It has been a long process but it is an extremely attractive site for people to live in,” said Susan, who was a district councillor for 18 years.
She added: “Having been a district councillor, I know how hard it is to find affordable housing so this was not a difficult decision.”