Grange Park residents await TPO verdict 

Residents of Grange Park who have objected to the imposition of individual tree preservation orders to replace the controversial and outdated area order on the estate are waiting for a response from Cherwell District Council.

The proposed new orders cover more than 40 trees. Following representations, the original deadline for objections was extended by a month to 12th January. Most of the residents of the 26 Grange Park properties affected who wanted to object were able to do so in that time.

In addition, the Grange Park Residents Group engaged a consultant, Peter Wharton of Wharton Tree and Ecology Consultants Ltd ( to assist them with their objections. He produced a very detailed and comprehensive objection letter which was submitted, on behalf of the residents group, to the Head of Law and Governance at Cherwell District Council before the deadline.

The letter made a clear case for rejecting the proposed TPOs on technical and legal grounds. As yet the residents have had no response to their objections, apart from an email acknowledgment that Peter Wharton’s letter was received and passed to the Arboricultural Department for consideration.

Cherwell District Council said previously that the TPO must be confirmed before the end of six months from when it was made otherwise it lapses. If there are objections then a report will be required to respond to the issues raised before the TPO can be confirmed in full or modified. The new TPO was issued on 14th November 2016, so there is some time to go before the six month deadline is reached.

To read the full text of the letter sent to CDC, please click here.

Governors consult on academy status for village school

The Governors of Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School in Steeple Aston are consulting with parents, staff and others on the conversion of the school to academy status as part of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST).

Parents and carers were invited to meet with representatives of the Trust, governors and the school’s leadership team on Tuesday,17th January. This meeting formed part of a period of open consultation during which governors are seeking the views of staff, parents/carers, Church and community representatives and the children.The consultation is expected to end on 4th February.

Chair of the Governors, Lise Boote wrote to parents: “The Governors consider that becoming an academy as part of ODST will bring many advantages to Dr Radcliffe’s School. It will support us in our continued journey of improvement with access to high quality school improvement services; it will help us ensure that the ethos and values at the core of our school will remain intact; it will give staff and governors more freedom of choice about how the school develops and we believe it will help us to better withstand educational changes at a national level.”

She said that in practical terms academy status will change some things behind the scenes. The Governors feel these changes will enhance the running of the school but otherwise parents and children will see very little difference. There will be no impact on the curriculum or admissions policy. The Governors will continue to work closely with the Diocese, the Local Authority, the schools in The Warriner Partnership and other local primary schools who have converted to academy with ODST. There will be no change to the name of the school, the school uniform or term dates.

ODST is a not for profit organisation set up by the Diocese of Oxford in 2012. Dedicated to providing excellence in education, it allows schools to develop and share best practice and work in support of one another whilst benefiting from central support services. There are currently eighteen primary schools working with ODST and it is planning to expand this to around 30 schools over the next year.

To see the full consultation document and other information, go to the school website and look under Key Information.

For more information about ODST, go to their website

Villagers examine Neighbourhood Plan policies

Steeple Aston residents had the chance to examine detailed proposals from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum at a meeting in the Village Hall on January 24th.

The meeting was one of several held during the month so that residents of the 11 villages included in the plan could have their say on the policy proposals before they are presented to Cherwell District Council, hopefully in April.

Steeple Aston Parish Councillor and Chair of the Forum Martin Lipson told the meeting that the aim of the plan was to restrict development to within designated areas in order to enable the villages and the landscape to retain their historic character.

In addition to these policies, the Forum has developed a Community Action Plan to move forward with issues that are not strictly part of the planning remit, such as requiring utility providers to improve their services in the area.

After submission to the district council, the plan will be sent to an independent examiner who may require changes before a referendum can take place. It is hoped that the process will be completed by the end of the year.

In his monthly bulletin on the progress of the Plan, Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “We can look forward to 2017 as the year in which all our work on MCNP comes to fruition. As you know, we are starting the year with community engagement meetings. They will tell us, after all our drafting and discussions, whether any of the policies need adjustment to meet with your approval.

“Local Green Spaces have been nominated by many of our parish councils and these will now go into the Plan. These will add extra protection from development to valued community spaces.

“We have been instrumental in setting up a group meeting for all those Cherwell parishes who are in the process of forming Neighbourhood Plans (Cherwell District Council having declined to set this up). The first meeting to share experiences and knowledge gained will be “in the middle of February.

“The Plan Forum has received Government funding to commission a consultancy firm to undertake a Heritage and Character Assessment of all the larger settlements in the neighbourhood area (and their surroundings). The report will sit alongside our policies to make sure that future development fits in with the special ambience (lovely word, that) and history of our part of Oxfordshire. This will take place over the next few weeks, ready to go into the Plan Report.”

To see the draft policies proposed, and the Community Action Plan, please click here

For more information about the Forum, go to their website:

SAL and its editor celebrate a special win

Photo by Paul Ekert

Photo by Paul Ekert

Steeple Aston Life’s editor, Cathy Lawday, says she is “thrilled to bits” with the news that the magazine came second in the 2016 National Parish Magazine awards. And she’s especially pleased she was awarded the prize for best editor.

This year there were over 600 entries in the competition and the judges said the standard was the highest ever. Within the last three years, SAL has twice been in the top three places in this national competition, and they have improved their position from third place in 2014 to second place this year

SAL was pipped at the post by the overall winner, the Tetbury Advertiser from Gloucestershire. This is a full colour glossy magazine that charges £90 for a half page advertisement. It compares with SAL’s mainly black and white offering charging just £12 for the same sized ad.

And Tetbury is much larger than Steeple Aston. In fact it’s a small town that just happens to have the Prince of Wales living nearby. Last year’s winner with a similarly glossy appearance was Sonning Parish Magazine, which had a picture of local resident Theresa May on its cover. So SAL, without glossy colour photos and lacking in famous faces, has done very well to come second.

Cathy, who took over the editorship of the magazine from Edwina Kinch in August 2013 said: “It’s an amazing achievement for such a small village especially when you compare our magazine with some of the competition. The second prize is awarded to “Best Editor” – which I’m particularly thrilled to have won. Taking on the editorship of the Life after Edwina’s amazing long and experienced tenure as editor was a daunting task, so I’m glad someone thinks I’m getting it right.

“The organisers say that this award is judged on: “Order of content, variety, accuracy and interest value”.  Although I might be good at ordering the content, and providing variety; the accuracy, interest value and content all come from the people who contribute to the magazine each month, and I’m really appreciative of their efforts and input. Producing SAL is very much a team effort.”

The National Parish Magazine Awards aim to give magazine editors recognition for the service they provide, which so often goes un-rewarded, and perhaps give an incentive to those who are considering joining their ranks in future.

The full results this year were:

1st and Best Magazine Overall – Tetbury Advertiser (Gloucestershire)
2nd and Best Editor – Steeple Aston Life (Oxfordshire)
3rd and Best Design – Liphook Community Magazine (Hampshire)
4th and Best Print Quality – Farnborough Parish Magazine (Kent)
5th and Best Content – The Parish Magazine, Charvil (Berkshire)

SAVA “100 Objects” exhibition attracts over 100 visitors

Perhaps appropriately over 100 visitors came to Steeple Aston Archive Trust’s exhibition “A History of Steeple Aston in 100 Objects” held in the Village Hall on the weekend of 19th/20th November.

sava-100-exhibition-3SAVA member Dave Jarratt reports: “At some point in the 600 years of the Anglo-Saxon era, an early Steeple Astonite mislaid a spear head. Many centuries later, in the 1940s, boys cultivating the gardens in the grounds of Dr Radcliffe’s School came upon the hunting implement and handed it to the teacher. Subsequently, in the absence of anything like SAVA in those days, it found its way into the County Archive Collection. On the occasion of SAVA’s latest exhibition, it was on view in the Village Hall, just a few yards distant from where it was first dropped and then discovered.

“The spear head (pictured above on the left) was just one of the hundred objects on display at this year’s show. The theme was a well-tried one but, when applied to the village archive, gave the opportunity to open up the contents to a wider audience. Some of the objects were immovable like the war memorial but were represented photographically; others needed careful handling as fragile historical documents and artefacts, though you could touch the Steeple Aston bricks as much as you liked!

sava-100-exhibition-2“The collection was organised chronologically, starting with minerals and fossils, and ending with plans for recent housing developments. Along the way was Margarita Chamberlayne’s Hunting Diary illustrated with ink drawings and a wry commentary on the horses and their riders. Harriet Kilby was the daughter of the family at Rectory Farm in 1835 and produced a beautiful sampler. The first minutes of the newly formed Parish Council in 1895 showed concern about the poor state of the footpaths and the need to “light the villages with lamps”. Plus ça change.

“The largest of the mobile objects was the bier, made to carry coffins through the village to the church in the days before funeral directors. (Inevitably one visitor to the exhibition couldn’t resist commenting that he was only there for the bier! Ed)

“A simple bowl of conkers revealed a touching story amongst the WW1 objects. They were the direct descendants of what was known as the Verdun conkers planted by Charlotte Brookes to form an avenue of trees which still exists, though a little depleted now, near the “chicken sheds” on the road from Steeple to Middle Aston. The conkers were originally harvested from the battlefields of the Verdun after the great siege of 1916.

“A great many of the objects had been donated to SAVA by villagers in recent years, many having been hidden away for years, a little like the Anglo-Saxon spear head. Such items are the life-blood of SAVA who are always willing to accept or copy documents and artefacts relating to the village.

sava-100-exhibition-1“An appreciative set of over 100 visitors attended this wide-ranging exhibition over two days, many staying for hours. Some demanded that SAVA produce a book of the show. We shall see. In the meantime, for those that missed this weekend, there are two new books on sale which draw on previous exhibitions.”

To see the SAVA books on sale, please go to:

Is it the end for local telephone boxes?

BT’s plans to do away with several local telephone boxes are out for consultation, and the Parish Council, along with others, says we should keep the one at Heyford Station where mobile reception is poor.

Cherwell District Council have received notification from BT that they are planning on removing a number of phone boxes within the district. The council are undertaking local consultations which must be complete by 5th December, and Steeple Aston Parish Council considered the plans at its October meeting.

The local boxes which are proposed to be removed are Jubilee Close in Steeple Aston, Heyford Road, Lower Heyford (ie the station) and the Horse & Groom, Caulcott.  Of these, in the last 12 months 24 calls have been made from the Station, two from the Horse & Groom and none from Jubilee Close.

Parish councillors were told that mobile phone reception is poor at the station, and there was concern that lone travellers, especially at night, might be unable to call a taxi when they found their mobile wouldn’t work.

So the Parish Council is proposing to support Lower Heyford council in attempting to retain the station telephone box. But it did agree that the others could be removed.

If anyone has views about any of these boxes, they should contact the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet before December 5th. She can be contacted at or by phone on 01869 347000.

Community Speedwatch Campaign launched

Speeding in Steeple Aston is seen to be a problem by many villagers, so having listened to these concerns and taken advice from local police, the Parish Council is now launching a “Community Speedwatch” campaign.

This is a locally driven initiative where members of the community can join together with the support of the police in order to monitor the speeds of vehicles using roads in our village.

Several volunteers have been recruited and will soon receive training to use speed detection devices. Those vehicles exceeding the speed limit will be referred to the police.

The aim of this scheme is to educate drivers to reduce their speeds, improve the quality of life for our community as well as reduce the risk of accidents.

Every year around 5,000 children are killed or seriously injured on our roads – two out of three of them while out walking or playing.

This “Community Speedwatch” initiative is not about trying to catch people speeding, it’s about trying to remind drivers to watch their speed while they’re in Steeple Aston. It is seen as a proactive solution to improve the safety and quality of life for everyone in the community.

National Road Safety Week starts on 21st November, when communities across the country are encouraged to raise awareness of all road safety issues (

If these are issues that you care about, then you can join Steeple Aston’s Speedwatch campaign, and help make our roads safer for all. For more information please email Parish Councillor Helen Wright:

For more information about Community Speedwatch, please click here.