The date of formation of the RYDA is uncertain and is probably never going to be resolved. We still hold all the formal Minute books, with the very first entry being the AGM on 11th April 1956. That meeting approved the Minutes of a meeting on 30th August 1955, but unfortunately no copy of those Minutes has survived and so all we know is that we had been formed by August 1955.
Why we were formed
Those first surviving Minutes on April 1956 also go some way to explaining why the RYDA was formed. The Minutes record:
“Mr Tamlin put forward a resolution that this meeting deprecates the delay of the Parish Council in dealing with matters put forward by the Association both at the Annual Parish Council Meeting and with correspondence generally.
Commander Hunter, however, said that he felt that it would be unwise to do this as he feared that this would slam the door on any possibility of future cooperation.
The resolution was therefore not adopted.
The Chairman concluded by saying that the Association could do much to help the Parish Council keep up to the mark.”
However, the Minutes of the AGM 3 years later in March 1959 give a much more precise reason for the establishment of the Association:
“Mr Stanbury said that he had good reason to believe that there was a misunderstanding between ourselves and some of the residents of Crown Yealm Estate. The Association had come into being in the first case because permission had been granted by the Planning Authorities for this field, now known as Crown Yealm Estate, to be developed, whereas we had understood that it would never be built upon. Although we achieved some modifications, we were unable to prevent building taking place. He thought that some of the present residents on this land thought that, because of this, we had a personal grievance against them and resented their presence, whereas this was of course very far from the case. He felt that some of them had not joined the Association because of this misunderstanding“
The AGM in March 1959 was dominated by news that the Government proposed to establish a Borstal Institution at Collaton Camp. The opposition to it was clearly intense and Sir Henry Studholme (then MP for Tavistock and owner of Wembury House) was recruited to the cause and asked to fight the case in the House of Commons. He did so with some gusto but was reluctant to force the issue with Ministers in case their decision went against local feelings.
News about the Government plan had spread far beyond the Parish, as the Minutes record that: " A Mr F Hilton of Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, had written to the Parish Council describing the damage done by escaping Borstal Boys to private property. The Hon Sec was writing to him suggesting he might inform the press." The press had obviously been alerted as a later Minute remarks: " Mrs D Wilson had very gallantly gone to Cardiff to appear on ITV in opposing the Borstal. She had done very well"
It is not clear from any subsequent Minutes when the threat was seen off, but seen off it was.
Over the more than 60 years since our formation, there have been 20 Chairman, with one brave man doing 2 stints.
? - 1956 Dr Holman
1956 – 1957 Mr A C O Stanbury
1958 – 1959 Mr O D Hunt
1960 – 1967 Mr W G Tamlin
1968 - Mr David Hussell
1968 - 1969 Mr I Wheatcroft
1969 – 1976 Mrs Katherine Greenwood
1976 – 1981 Colonel Gordon Lake
1982 – 1984 Mrs Crummie Gray
1985 – 1987 Major Bill Garth
1988 – 1989 Mr Colin Richards
1990 – 1992 Captain Peter Foster RN
1993 Mrs Anne Crawford
1994 – 1996 Mr Gordon Wright
1997 – 1999 Mr Roger Hallett
2000 – 2002 Mr Robin Geldard
2003 – 2005 Mr Christopher Bradley
2006 - 2009 Rear Admiral Robin Hogg
2009 - 2012 His Honour Judge William Taylor
2012 – 2013 Mr Christopher Bradley
2013 - 2018 Brigadier Christopher Lunn
Snippets from the First Few Years
A Borstal Institution at Collaton?
However, the most telling contribution was probably made by Mr Tamlin, who had been critical of the Parish Council at the AGM in 1956 and was now Chairman RYDA. He made the obvious point that an airport so close to the RN Gunnery School at HMS Cambridge was probably not advisable!
After much debate at the AGM, the following Resolution was unanimously passed: "The Association views with great concern the suggestion that an area of Collaton designated by the National Parks Commission in 1960 as an AONB should be used as an airfield".
The issue rumbled on, and the Association led the charge by calling a public meeting in July. Numbers attending and the venue were not recorded in the Minutes, however it was ‘a full house’. By this time, Plymouth Corporation had already decided to press ahead with the airport and so the purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the inevitable Public Inquiry. The meeting decided to instruct a solicitor and brief counsel as soon as possible. Volunteers came forward to lead a press campaign and the Association committed all of its funds (£200) to oppose the airport. It was estimated that a further £500 would be needed from voluntary contributions. Not surprisingly, the meeting voted unanimously to oppose the airport.
Intriguingly, the Minutes of a Committee meeting some 5 months later on 10th December 1963 under the heading "Letter from America" records: "Mr Tamlin said that he had received a letter from the Friendship International Airport, Maryland, and the City of Baltimore Aviation Department, regarding the airport at Collaton. This letter is attached to the files, but it is doubtful if it will serve any useful purpose at this stage".
An Airport at Collaton?
There is little doubt that the campaign led by the RYDA against the proposed airport at Collaton was one, if not the, major campaign in its entire history. It made a very significant contribution to the final decision not to proceed.
The announcement that the RAF intended to withdraw from Collaton had clearly triggered a number of ideas for the re-use of the site. The prospect of an airport first raised its head at the AGM in March 1963. It would be fair to say that the proposal caused consternation. Strident objections ranged from: excessive noise; disturbance to livestock; significant widening of Puslinch Hill etc.
All the obvious objections were raised, but the impact on the oyster beds gets most mentions. It is also clear that no one had addressed the incompatibility of water-skiing and a 6 knot speed limit on the river.
The idea rumbled on for several years until the AGM in 1968 recorded that the Rural District Council had dropped the idea.
Throughout the 60 years’ existence of the RYDA, planning applications and the development of more housing have been running themes throughout all of the Minutes. There has scarcely been a single Committee meeting when planning of some description was not discussed. As has already been mentioned above, the roots of the Association lie in general disappointment with one particular planning application.
“The Chairman in his address considered the increasing need for societies such as ours…The exploitation for quick profit by individuals, by local authorities, more especially by the large anonymous groups of businessmen who want a vast road system, airports in every town, new towns in most unlikely places, big holiday camps, all at the expense of rapidly dwindling acres of the British Countryside…What must the policy of associations such as ours be? Forces ranged against us are enormous. To be doing our job satisfactorily, we are bound to be unpopular with those who would seek overspill towns for every village, vast car parks at every beauty spot, holiday camps in every secluded cove, all with an eye to monetary and material returns. The exploitation of places they may never see, for having spoilt their own country, they take good care to spend their holidays far from the scenes of their depredation.” (Chairman AGM 1966)
“It had never been our aim to stop all development but only to see that such development did as little damage to the amenities as possible…..The Association did however, give all members the right to air their grievances in cases where they thought the amenities or natural beauty of the area were being adversely affected.” (AGM 1969)
Littered throughout the Minutes from the earliest days, there have been a number of concerns that indicate that almost nothing that the Association addresses today has not already been debated, discussed and argued over by our predecessors. Here are a few examples:
•An inadequate bus service (first raised in 1960).
•The dilapidated look of the Co-op.
•The need to protect trees and woods. The threat to Brookings Down Wood was raised in 1959 when an undisclosed plan by the Forestry Commission revealed that they planned to cut down part of the wood and develop it.
•Sewage in the river. Pollution at The Brook was sufficiently worrying that it was referred up to the Ministry of Health after the 1957 AGM.
•An increase in the number of second homes. Following the 1973 AGM, this was referred to Michael Heseltine MP, then MP for Tavistock. The letter was passed on to the Minister for Housing who “was actively studying the problem”. It is understood that the Department is still studying the problem!
•The need to increase membership.
•Chasing unpaid subscriptions.
•Rubbish left by holiday home visitors.
•Inadequate parking in the village. Far too many references to list them all.
•Too many uncontrolled bonfires.
Unfortunately that particular file has long since been lost so we have no idea what contribution the US had made to the airport debate, making it an unusually useless Minute.
(It is worth noting that Friendship International Airport has since been renamed several times and is one of the 3 major airports serving Washington DC and is now Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.)
It is no surprise that the airport was still the hot topic at the AGM in March 1964. Most of the debate seems to have revolved around whether to brief counsel or just hang on to the coat tails of the County Council who were also opposed to the plan. Estimated costs had now risen to c£1,300 based on a similar case at RAF Harrowbeer near Yelverton.
The AGM of March 1965 reveals that the RYDA had organised a petition against the airport and a QC had been appointed. Everyone was waiting for a date for the Public Inquiry.
A Committee meeting on 11 January 1966 recorded that the Public Inquiry which had been scheduled for February had been postponed. There were rumours that the Government had abandoned its plan for the airport.
Our records do not reveal why the plan was abandoned but the final mention of the scheme was at a Committee meeting on 16 January 1967 which notes: “The bill for the Association’s fight against the Airport had since been paid. The Hon Sec said that those who had given £5 and over could expect a 27½% rebate. To reduce the sum below £5 was not feasible. The Committee agreed.”
Apart from the major issue of the airport, the 1963 AGM was faced with another controversial proposal: to allow a water-ski school near Steer Point. A vigorous debate took place, after which a vote was taken with 78 against and just 2 members in favour. One brave member supported the idea because it would be fine, he said, because water-skiers glide on the surface and so created no wake; a surprisingly lack of understanding about how water-skiing works.
Planning Applications and Housing Development
But, contrary to what some people may think, the RYDA has never been opposed to all new development. The following extracts from the Minutes from the early days express views which any subsequent Committee would be happy to endorse.
“The Chairman said that, as the population of the United Kingdom grew, it became increasingly necessary to have development control. Developments could clash with the aims of the Association. We did not wish to obstruct unduly those who wished to build a house for their own use, but we did have to watch very carefully where speculative building contractors wished to build large estates purely for commercial gain.” (AGM 1961)
“It was agreed that a letter be sent to the County Planning Authority once more asking for a plan. Mr Gray said that it was absurd to talk about planning when there was , in fact, no plan.” (Committee meeting 16 May 1961)
And finally, A Sign of the Times
The 1957 AGM recorded:
“The Secretary said that the Superintendent of Police had said that he considered it unnecessary to remove the tree trunk half way down Puslinch Hill as he did not consider it a danger.”
Now those were the days when the Police – a Superintendent no less – could get involved in such small matters. It was clearly an issue of huge local importance as it was raised again a year later. A vote was actually taken by 24 votes to 6 to drop the matter. Sometimes common sense really does prevail!