Election called as yet another parish councillor resigns

More than ten villagers have requested a by-election to fill the two vacancies created by the resignations of John Coley and Rose McCready from the Parish Council in July.

The notice for the election was published on 16th August, but there is only a very short window for nominations to be received. Nomination papers must be delivered to the Returning Officer at Cherwell District Council no later than 4.00pm on Thursday, 24th August. Nomination forms are available from Cathy Fleet, the Parish Clerk ( or Cherwell District Council.

If three or more candidates are nominated, the election will be held on Thursday, September 21st.

Meanwhile another vacancy has arisen with the resignation of recently co-opted councillor Anna Allen. Anna cited “cultural differences” as the reason for her departure. She said she didn’t agree with the direction in which the parish council is moving and felt there was a disconnect between the council and villagers.

Her resignation leaves only three members on the council, Acting Chairman Stuart Ferguson and Councillors Martin Lipson and Helen Wright.

A notice has been posted about filling the vacancy created by Anna’s departure, which could trigger a further election if ten villagers request it, or be filled by co-option. Requests for an election must be received by Cherwell District Council by 31st August.

The vacancy created by the previous resignation of Richard Preston will be filled by co-option. But the three remaining councillors may face a dilemma at their next meeting on Monday, September 18th if the people who volunteered to be co-opted are also standing for election.

The situation is complicated, and the costs of holding one or more by-elections is considerable. There will be another election for all the members of the Parish Council next May.

Neighbourhood Plan published and open for consultation 

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan has now been published. A six-week consultation period will end on September 19th,, and villagers and local businesses are asked to respond.

The plan is available online at . Paper copies can be found at village halls and from parish councils.

The following press release from the Forum gives the details:

“Oxfordshire’s latest neighbourhood plan – for the Mid-Cherwell area – has been launched after three years of preparation. Unique in the UK because of its scale, the Mid-Cherwell area comprises eleven rural parishes in the Cherwell District of North Oxfordshire. At the heart of the neighbourhood area is the former RAF Upper Heyford airbase, now a strategic development site called Heyford Park, whose developer is also involved in the plan. It was this development that was the stimulus for many surrounding villages to get together to create a statutory plan covering the wider area for the next 15 years.

“The hard work of the Forum, the body leading the plan and representing all the participating communities, has now resulted in a list of policies concerning traffic, housing development, and community infrastructure – including the proposed designation of 29 “Local Green Spaces”. The documents can be viewed online at Mid-Cherwell’s website and hard copies are available at local community centres, village halls and from the parish councils concerned.

“Responses are invited from any interested parties, but especially residents and businesses in the area itself. The pre-submission consultation period starting on Monday, August 7th 2017 lasts for six weeks to Tuesday, September 19th 2017. Following a review of all the responses, a final version of the plan will be submitted to Cherwell District Council before the end of the year. The plan will then be subject to independent examination and a referendum before becoming part of the statutory development plan for the area.”

Contact Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum at

The members of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum are:

Ardley with Fewcott Parish Council (lead parish)

Duns Tew Parish Council

Fritwell Parish Council

Kirtlington Parish Council

Lower Heyford Parish Council

Middle Aston Parish Meeting

Middleton Stoney Parish Council

North Aston Parish Meeting

Somerton Parish Council

Steeple Aston Parish Council

Upper Heyford Parish Council

The Dorchester Group (associate member)

Heyford Park Residents Association (associate member)


Election of Parish Councillors

for the Parish listed below

Parish Number of Parish Councillors to be elected

Steeple Aston Parish Council


  1. Forms of nomination for the Parish Election may be obtained from the Clerk Steeple Aston Parish Council or Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4AA from the Returning Officer who will, at the request of an elector for any electoral area prepare a nomination paper for signature.
  2. Nomination papers must be delivered to the Returning Officer, Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4AA on any day after the date of this notice but no later than 4pm on Thursday 24 August 2017.
  3. If any election is contested the poll will take place on Thursday 21 September 2017.
  4. Applications, amendments or cancellations of postal votes and amendments or cancellations of proxy votes must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4AA by 5pm on Wednesday 6 September 2017.
  5. New applications to vote by proxy at this election must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4AA by 5pm on Wednesday 13 September 2017.
  6. Applications to vote by emergency proxy at this election on grounds of physical incapacity or for work/service reasons must reach the Electoral Registration Officer , Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon, OX15 4AA by 5pm on Thursday 21 September 2017. The physical incapacity must have occurred after 5pm on Wednesday 13 September 2017.  To apply on the grounds of work/service, the person must have become aware that they cannot go to the polling station in person after 5pm on Wednesday 13 September 2017

Dated Wednesday August 16th

Yvonne Rees,Returning Officer

Printed and published by the Returning Officer, Bodicote House Bodicote, Banbury, Oxon OX15 4AA


Steeple Aston Parish Council

Clerk to the Council: Cathy Fleet
Westfield Farm Cottage
Steeple Aston
OX25 4SS
Tel: 01869 347000 Email:




NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that pursuant to section 87(2) of the Local Government Act 1972, that Anna Allen has ceased to be amember of Steeple Aston Parish Council, and a vacancy now exists in the office of Councillor for the said Parish Council.

In accordance with the Local Elections Rules an election to fill the vacancy shall be held if, within 14 days after the date of this notice (i.e. no later than 31 August 2017), a request for an election to fill the said vacancy is made in writing to the Returning Officer, Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury OX15 4AA by TEN electors for the said Parish.

In the event that no such request is received by  31 August 2017 the vacancy will be filled by co-option.

Yvonne Rees

Returning Officer

Dated 10 August 2017

Note: In computing the fourteen days Saturdays, Sundays, day of Christmas break, of the Easter break or of a bank holiday or day appointed for public thanksgiving or mourning are disregarded


Beware Giant Hogweed in the Tchure

Steeple Aston resident Stan Owen reports that a Giant Hogweed plant has been found in the field at the bottom of the Tchure, through which the footpath from North to South Side runs.

The plant is extremely dangerous, and can cause terrible blistering if you are exposed to the sap.

The Royal Horticultural Society says that Giant Hogweed, a relative of cow parsley, can grow as tall as three metres (10 ft). Its website warns “Although an impressive sight when fully grown, giant hogweed is invasive and potentially harmful. Chemicals in the sap can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity, where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.”

Stan says the plant is nowhere near the footpath, so presents little risk as long as people stick to the pathway. The plant has been treated to remove it, but he would like to warn people not to go anywhere near it.

Disappointment as majority of Grange Park TPO’s to stay

Cherwell District Council has decided that nearly all the individual Tree Preservation Orders imposed on Grange Park will stay in place despite objections from residents.

Individual tree preservation orders covering more than 40 trees were announced in November 2016 in place of the controversial and outdated Area Order covering most of the trees on the estate. Residents had until mid-January to make their objections known to the council.

Twelve objections were received by the council including a detailed report from Peter Wharton of Wharton Tree and Ecology Consultants Ltd, who had been commissioned by the Grange Park Residents Group.

The council had six months to consider the residents’ objections, and they took it right to the wire only giving their final response in mid-May. They confirmed that the vast majority of TPOs would remain in place, but agreed that six individual trees and one group of two trees should be excluded.

Council officers considered in detail 32 individual objections from residents, and gave their responses in writing. In most cases they rejected the residents’ comments. But they accepted the objections that two trees were too close and three weren’t visible to the public. Of the other three trees excluded, one has bleeding canker, a second has co-dominant stems and the third had already been removed with the council’s consent.

A Tree Preservation Order prohibits the cutting down, topping or lopping of the tree without first obtaining permission from the council.

Andy Allen, who led the fight against the Area TPO, described the imposition of the individual TPOs back in November as a “bitter blow”. After the latest decision to go ahead with most of the orders he explained there were clearly winners and losers as the burden of ‘preserved’ trees falls very unfairly on some (four trees in the case of one house). But he didn’t hold out much hope of further protests by residents.

He said, “The problem we have now is that, rather than having the old Area TPO reviewed and revoked as we had hoped (with possibly one or two trees of special merit still protected), we have new TPOs on individual trees ‘set in stone’ in perpetuity. The only way we can object further apparently is to take the matter to the High Court for which I’m sure nobody would be prepared to risk the expense.”

Hear SAL Editor Cathy on Radio Oxford

Photo by Paul Ekert

Cathy Lawday, the award-winning editor of Steeple Aston Life, was interviewed for a feature on parish magazines for BBC Radio Oxford.

Cathy was asked about her role as editor, and about the part that SAL plays in promoting a sense of community in the village.

The interview was broadcast early in the morning on Sunday, May 21st. The BBC kindly gave us an audio copy of the interview so that villagers who missed it could hear what she had to say.

To listen to Cathy talking to presenter Sophie Law, please click here.

Richard Preston stands down from the Parish Council

Tributes have been paid to Richard Preston, the Vice-Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council, who has unexpectedly resigned after more than 25 years of service.

The current council Chairman, John Coley wrote: “Richard’s contributions have been so distinguished that the Parish Council and all parishioners, past, present, and future owe him a great debt. How great that debt is will soon become apparent when all the many things he has undertaken fall on the shoulders of other councillors.”

Margaret Mason, the former Chairman who worked with Richard for many years, said the village would surely miss him. She went on, ” Richard has been a mainstay of Steeple’s Parish Council since 1994 when he agreed to be co-opted. Blessed with huge energy, enthusiasm, a deep love of the village and a very ‘can do’ attitude when bureaucratic attitudes or lack of finances make things difficult, Richard likes nothing better than a challenge to overcome.

“He would probably say that getting the playground up and running would be the thing he was most proud of in his time on the Council, though there are certainly more to choose from. The project had a rather negative beginning but a change of membership, during which Richard joined the council, created a more positive environment. The Parish Council applied for the leasehold from the Dr. Radcliffe’sTrust, and a Play Area committee was formed, with Richard chairing it. After this the plans took flight and, a year and a lot of hard work later, it was opened at the VE Day celebrations in 1995. Twenty seven years on, and still pleasing yet another generation of children, I think we would all agree what a tremendous asset and success it has been.

“Richard’s energies have always been focussed on getting the best for the village, and the older members have not been ignored either. Getting the Dial a Ride service running here was one of his initiatives. He can always be relied on to know where help is needed, (and to give help too), who to talk to to get things done and, very importantly, where to apply to raise funding for a project. He is a very skilful form filler-in and many projects would not have seen the light of day without his expertise and commitment.

” As vice chairman of the Council during most of the years I was chairman he was immensely supportive in so many ways, which I valued. The village has benefitted greatly from his hard work and initiative. More time to look after his garden now? Perhaps, or perhaps not, he still has many other village interests. We all owe him our gratitude for the years he has spent as a Parish Councillor.”

And Julia Whybrew, who has worked with Richard in several roles over the years, echoed the views of many when she described “Richard’s boundless exuberance and enthusiasm, his astonishing energy and his ability to get others to co-operate.” She said, “He has made the village a better place to live, especially for children. The play area is hugely successful, as demonstrated by the number of its users, and it is Richard’s vigorous support that made this dream into reality.”

Richard himself has not explained much about his reasons for resigning, although there may be some clues in the letter he wrote for publication in Steeple Aston Life. He wrote, “After a quarter of a century representing the concerns and aspirations of the parishioners of Steeple Aston I have made the decision to retire as a parish councillor. Not maybe exactly when or as I expected to leave the position but on reflection, the correct decision………….”

“……….. It has been a wonderful quarter of a century of serving the community and giving something back to a village that supported me and my family so well in my days of self-employment as a market gardener and greengrocer.

“The role of parish councillor has changed somewhat over that time and I feel that bureaucracy and red-tape are now getting in the way of progress. In my opinion there is too much time spent ticking boxes and not enough time made in taking this village forward.  On saying that it is still possible to make things happen and with a little determination and talking to the right people anything can be achieved.

“This gives me the opportunity of thanking everyone who has supported me through my time as a councillor especially the villagers who make their own contribution to village life by passing on their thoughts and comments on various aspects of village life. After all, it is the residents of Steeple Aston who I have served for the last 25 years and that is what the position is all about and for that I have been extremely privileged to have served with so many superb councillors and hopefully enhanced and improved village life for all.”

John Coley spelled out the extent of Richard’s achievements, writing, “Richard’s greatest legacy is the Play Area. This was established in two phases, first for the younger age group and subsequently for the older group. Happily, when Richard inaugurated the zip-wire and trampoline, they didn’t suffer a Boris-style breakdown!

“To realise his project required a good deal of fund raising and here behind the scenes Richard has been masterful. He seemed to know of every conceivable fund to which the village could apply for funds. For instance, he found out that, although we were right on the edge of one business zone, he could apply to a largely unused fund designed to compensate for some disturbance which most of us didn’t realise we had! But it is one thing to know about funding sources, quite another to fill out the 50 page forms in duplicate, or triplicate, and acquire quotes, signatures, etc. and submit a successful application.  He masterminded funding, secured the purchase of apparatus, and commissioned and project-managed construction work. He also stayed responsible for ongoing maintenance, persuading contractors to give priority to Steeple Aston.

“Ironically, although Richard’s passion is cricket and not football, he was instrumental in this hugely successful project, persuading the Football Foundation to provide hundreds of thousands of pounds to extend Robinson’s Close football pitch, improve the school paying field and upgrade the Sport and Recreation Centre changing rooms to the level required for higher league football.

“I could go on for pages more, because Richard has made similar contributions to many aspects of the life and fabric of the village. He will be sorely missed on the Parish Council and all Councillors thank him warmly for all that he is done as a councillor.”

To read the full text of Richard’s letter, please click here.

“Quack Pot” protest repairs may be delayed

The Steeple Aston “Quack Pot” protest against the potholes on South Side provoked an immediate response from Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department. But it seems that it may take a while for the repairs to be done. Officials have said they will do the work without closing the road if possible, but if the road needs to be closed the legal process takes three months.

The protest certainly caught the public’s imagination. Within hours it appeared in local papers, then Parish Councillor Helen Wright appeared on local radio and television. Soon it was buzzing around the internet. The story was for a while number 10 in the stories most read on the BBC website, Facebook was humming and it appeared on news websites such as The Poke.

Later, it also appeared in national newspapers including the The Times, the Sun and the Daily Mail, and Martin Lipson was interviewed on Radio 5 Live. To listen to his interview, please click here.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department also noticed the publicity very quickly. An official visited the road immediately, and a team were sent soon afterwards to do a detailed inspection. Now we await a decision on when the work will be done.

The idea for the protest started as a bit of a joke when Parish Council Chairman John Coley suggested in his Annual Report that the rash of holes had become so bad that the council might consider a “Quack Pots Day” where they would fill all the holes with water and float plastic ducks in the ponds.

Fellow councillor Martin Lipson happened to have several hundred plastic ducks in his basement (previously used for a children’s charity event). So on a very rainy Wednesday, 17th May he floated 100 of them in the potholes outside the Old White Lion.

Young Woody Wright, pictured above, had lots of fun playing with the yellow ducks. But his mother Helen explained it was a serious attempt to get something done about the potholes which have been worrying villagers for nearly two years, causing at least three of them to trip and fall recently.

In a press release sent to local media and to county councillor Aresh Fatemian the parish council said, “Drivers and pedestrians in South Side, Steeple Aston were astonished last Wednesday to find their much-loved potholes inhabited by one hundred bright yellow ducks.

“Villagers and others have had to negotiate this particularly bad stretch of potholes in the centre of the village for over 18 months. Every month, like a lot of other parishes, the Parish Council has reported a worsening situation to Oxfordshire County Council Highways. So this month the Parish Council resolved to highlight the problem so that OCC can’t continue to duck the issue.

“Parish councillors Helen Wright and Martin Lipson, aided by other villagers, floated 100 rubber ducks in the rain-filled potholes. Helen said “Despite our reporting that since the start of the year three residents had tripped in these holes and fallen, precisely nothing has been done.”

“Smiling drivers wound down their windows, braving the heavy rain, to ask what was going on, and passing local residents applauded. Woody Wright aged three said “I think the ducks like their new ponds”.

“After the ducks had been re-homed, Martin Lipson said “We can now only hope that OCC will finally do something to put into decent repair the main road through our village. This has gone on long enough.”

To read the Parish Council Chairman’s Annual Report in full, please click here.