Six candidates nominated to stand for Parish Council

Six out of the seven people currently serving as parish councillors have been nominated to continue in office after May 3rd. As there are seven vacancies there won’t need to be an election for the Parish Council this time around.

The six nominees are Charlotte Bartlett, Charlotte Clarke, Stuart Ferguson, Martin Lipson, Richard Macandrew and Graham Porcas. The seventh current councillor Helen Wright decided not to stand for re-election this year.

Once they have taken office these six new councillors will be able to co-opt a seventh if they so wish.

To see the official nomination document, please click here.

There will however be an election on  May 3rd for a Cherwell District Councillor as there have been four nominations for the single vacancy. Conservative councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes is opposed by candidates from the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party.

To see the official nomination document, please click here.


It’s a special first for John in the Spring Show

Steeple Aston Spring Show was quite an occasion for John Coley. Not only did he receive the Mead Vase for winning most points in the show, he also came top in the Horticultural Classes, winning the Duncan Cup. But the real surprise came when he shared first place in Cookery Classes, the first man ever to win in this competitive section. He is pictured here receiving congratulations from Hanny Nicholson. In the background holding the WI Cookery Cup is the other winning cook, Victoria Clifton.

The Annual Spring Show took place on Sunday, 25th March in the Village Hall. Richard Preston, Chairman of Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society, reports:

“It was the first Sunday of Spring and on one of the few occasions this year, the sun came out and encouraged visitors to view the superb array of entries in the show. Overall the entries were down slightly on last year which is not surprising taking into consideration the lateness of the season.  However, 295 exhibits were entered by over 50 entrants providing a wonderful display of flowers, cookery, photography and crafts.

“The children’s entries were plentiful and of an extremely high standard with Ruby Keates winning the Bedding Trophy for the best exhibit as judged by our visiting expert on the day. Ruby also won the under-fives section gaining most points in her age group.  The under-eight winner was Hector Wheeler-Nunneley and the under twelve section was won by Fearne Ward.  The under sixteen category was shared by Abbey Keates, James Martin and Jenny Marsden.

“Onto the flower section where competition was keen for The Duncan Cup, the winner being Mr John Coley who also won the WI Cookery Cup or at least shared it with Victoria Clifton. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the first time a male entrant has won this section where an array of jams, cakes, savouries and other delectable offerings makes up this highly competitive division.  Janet Coley won the Handicraft Cup and Sheila Ballard gained most points in the floral art division.  The winner of The Mead Vase, presented to the person winning the most points and entering a minimum of three divisions was Mr John Coley.

“To all winners, competitors and all those who came along in the afternoon to view this splendid display, thank you so much for supporting what is probably the oldest society in the village having started life back in the 1860’s. Without your support this grand village tradition would not survive.

“Looking forward to the summer, and I think we are all doing that, the Annual Show will take place as usual on Robinson’s Close and the Village Hall on August Bank Holiday Monday. The schedule is now available from me or you can view it online.”

To see the full results of the Spring Show, please click here.

To see the Summer Show Schedule and download it, please click here.

For photos of the Show taken by the multi-talented John Coley, please click here.

And to see more photos of the show taken by Catherine Crook and set to music on Smilebox, please click here.

Neighbourhood Watch revived following anti-social behaviour

A new Neighbourhood Watch scheme has been set up in response to the recent spate of crime and anti-social behaviour in the village. The new coordinator Martin Brimacombe recently met with Thames Valley Police and they agreed that reviving the scheme would be of benefit the community

There was an attempt to relaunch the old Neighbourhood Watch scheme three years ago, but there weren’t enough volunteers so it was decided to rely on the Thames Valley Alert scheme instead. Recent events though have meant that there has been an enthusiastic response to Martin’s call for street representatives.

Martin moved to the village in July 2014 after a short spell in Upper Heyford. He had spent the previous 24 years in the British Army, much of time stationed at Bicester.

He said: “Moving into the village has been a great experience and an introduction to a quiet rural community for my family. We have been made to feel very welcome by the members of the community out and about and at the Red Lion.

“However over the last six months it has been a little unsettling after becoming one of the victims of a number of the increased criminal activities and anti-social behaviour issues.

“Having expressed my concerns to Thames Valley Police about the increased activity and the thought that someone or property will be injured or damaged, I was asked take on the role and responsibility of becoming the new Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for the village.”

The purpose of Steeple Aston Neighbourhood Watch is to promote good citizenship and greater public participation in the prevention and solution of crime so that effective liaison with the police and other partners can be achieved in order to promote reduced crime levels.

Martin says: “It’s a little shameful that our village is now the highest in the surrounding area for criminal activity. Let’s get as many people behind this and help make this a better place for us all to live in. Initially crime numbers will rise if everything’s reported, but this will reduce once the activities cease.

“Criminal activity in the village will continue to cause problems with the villagers with anti social behaviour, theft, crime, criminal activity. It will continue to hurt all of our pockets financially with house insurance and motor insurance growing under the criminal postcode lottery.”

The new Neighbourhood Watch scheme already has representatives in the following areas of the village: the Lower Heyford end of Heyford Road; The Crescent; Nizewell Head; Paines Hill; The Dickeridge (still to be confirmed); South Side/Jubilee Close; Water Lane; Shepherd’s Hill; Fenway; Grange Park; Cow Lane and Northside. Parish Clerk Cathy Fleet will liaise with the Parish Council.

Martin says that if your street or area has not already been covered and you would like to come forward to nominate yourself as a street coordinator then, please email your details to him at the address below.

He says becoming a street coordinator doesn’t involve too much, just informing your neighbours of events and developments in criminal-related activities and keeping an eye on one another and people who are vulnerable.

You can contact Martin at

To find out more about Neighbourhood Watch in the village, how you can receive alerts and report crime, please click here.

Congratulations to Steeple Aston WI as it celebrates its centenary

To read an account of the celebrations on 13th March and see lots of wonderful pictures, please click here

Steeple Aston Women’s Institute, the oldest extant WI in Oxfordshire, is celebrating its centenary in style in March with a special programme of activities and speakers, including a surprise outing for members in June. Its centenary dinner took place on 13th March at the Village Hall.

The current WI President, Merrill Bayley looks back over the achievements of the last 100 years. She writes: “The earliest document we hold states that, towards the end of the great war in 1917, Mrs Vincent of Cedar Lodge Steeple Aston, called a meeting of the women in the village and told them of a new society called The Women’s’ Institute, which had just started in Anglesey North Wales 1915.

“Miss L G Worrell took the minutes of the first documented meeting held on March 21st 1918 and she subsequently became the first President. As a result this event has become our official birthday date. The records of the Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes (OFWI) confirm this with a simple entry stating, “Steeple Aston WI – Formed in March 1918”, whilst OFWI themselves were not formed until 1919.

The Minutes & Memory Books
“The minutes have been diligently kept with just a few gaps during WWII, which is pretty good going! We have a large collection of Minutes and Memory Books. The latter are beautifully covered with embroidered work created by various members over many years. These Memory Books hold souvenirs and photographs taken at events and meetings with various snippets of descriptive notes beside them.  We are continuing to compile these books, one per year, and now have an Archive Sub-Committee who have combed through all the old Memory Books, re-hinging and re-binding as necessary using acid free paper to ensure preservation, for perhaps the next 100 years?

What has Steeple Aston WI done for our Village?
“Never mind what the Romans did for Britain, what did Steeple Aston WI do for our village? During WWII our WI organised the ladies of the village to make-do and mend and collect vegetables and fruit for pickling and preserving. In order to carry out this incentive the Ministry of Food allocated the WI the extra sugar required. Our WI also knitted scarves and socks for members of the armed forces overseas.

“Since the war our WI has continued to undertake various projects within the village. For example, presenting embroidered hassocks to the Church, arranging to have a map of the village erected beside the bus stop on South Side and donating funds towards the replacement of the ancient Sycamore in the churchyard. We support many events in the village such as, running a stall at the Village Show selling jams, pickles, cakes and bric-a-brac. We present our Silver Jubilee Cup and our Coronation Bowl for both the Spring and Autumn shows.  We have also arranged for the planting of a tree on South Side with an accompanying plaque to commemorate the millennium as well as lobbying for and part funding better lighting outside the Village Hall.

“Each year we join with other village organisations to lay a wreath on the War Memorial.

“We are 36 members strong, with four new members joining recently. Our members ages range from 40 – 90.   Our WI is run by a committee (pictured here) currently led by office holders, President: Merrill Bayley, Treasurer: Linda Needle, Secretary: Janice Kinory and Vice President: Mary Rushworth, ably assisted by Pauline Brock, Catherine Crook, Julie Hillier, Angie Allen and Priscilla Lange.

“Members have been contributing to our Centenary Fund for several years and for the past two years a sub-committee has steered the preparation and planning for 2018. A special programme of activities and speakers has been arranged for this milestone year, including a surprise outing for June. Invitations have been sent to our members and special guests for our centenary dinner celebration on 13th March 2018 at the Village Hall.

The Future
“The WI motto is ‘Inspiring Women’. To this end we strive to enlighten, educate and usually entertain our members, to make new friends and connections through the wider WI community.  In keeping with new technologies we are embracing new methods of communication including Facebook and our own page on the Steeple Aston website. We continue to encourage all of our members to reach their own potential through the Steeple Aston Women’s Institute.”

To read an account of the celebrations on 13th March and see lots of wonderful pictures, please click here

Southside planning application withdrawn

The application for planning permission to build six homes on South Side opposite the entrance to Hill House has been withdrawn, at least for the time being.

The developer, Rectory Homes, withdrew its application on 15th February. This followed a number of objections from local residents, the Parish Council, the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum and the Highway Authority

In general, neither the Parish Council nor other commentators are hostile to some development on this site. But there are major objections to the scheme proposed. The Parish Council listed the three main ones:

  1. Housing mix: the proposal is for six houses of four bedrooms. There is however a clear need locally for a mix of house sizes, including some with smaller number of bedrooms…..
  2. Safe pedestrian access: walking into the village with no footpath – especially in darkness – is dangerous, and difficult to solve where the road narrows at the Red Lion.
  3. Safe vehicular access: the new road junction for the development will exacerbate an already dangerous stretch of road unless measures are taken to improve safety. Both speeding and limited visibility on the bend here have caused several near misses for traffic using the Hill House lane used by about 20 cars serving various dwellings.

It is possible that a revised plan may be submitted at a later stage. A message from Amy Atkins of Rectory Homes is published on the Cherwell District Council planning website. In it, she confirms the withdrawal of the current application and writes to the planning department “I look forward to working with you in the near future to overcome the concerns of the site.”

Police to examine CCTV footage after more anti-social behaviour

Further anti-social behaviour by teenagers in the village during February has led to numerous reports to the police – and they should be able to look at some more CCTV footage which may help to identify the culprits.

Several incidents involving up to five teenagers have taken place on Paines Hill, South Side and in The Dickredge. There have been damage to cars and break-ins to sheds and a conservatory. Villagers are urged to take photographs or videos if they witness any incidents and make them available to the police. You can report non-urgent incidents online or by phoning 101

Paris Clerk Cathy Fleet reports that on Monday, 30th January a group of youths were seen openly taking drugs in the presence of school children in the playground. Later in the afternoon, the basin was pulled off the toilet wall taking tiles off with it, and the brand new soap dispenser was also pulled off the wall.

The following day some youths targeted the village shop, stealing some items of little value. The police have been informed of both incidents and it is hoped they will be able to examine CCTV footage from the shop and be able to identify the culprits.

Cathy Fleet said that the damage to the toilet will cost money to fix, not to mention the time involved. She added, “I think it’s time these idiots and their parents were held to account.”

In discussions on the village Facebook page many villagers echoed her frustration, calling for the parents to take responsibility for their children’s behaviour. There were also calls for CCTV to be installed in the area around the Village Hall. There are cameras already at the school and the shop, but the Parish Council has been reluctant to install cameras around the play area in the past. Now villagers are being encourage to raised the issue at the next Parish council meeting on February 19th.

These latest incidents follow on from a spate of vandalism in the village before Christmas. There were a number of photos taken of the culprits and the police were said to have spoken to them. After a few quiet weeks the problems have started up again.

Villagers are encouraged to report anything suspicious they see to the police, and to get photographic evidence if possible. The more people who contact the police the better. If the non-emergency number 101 isn’t answered, then dial 999.

Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan submitted at last

Martin Lipson, Steeple Aston Parish Councillor and Chairman of the MCNP Forum, writes: “After over three years of preparation, the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan has finally been completed and formally submitted to Cherwell District Council. Before the end of March, CDC will launch the statutory consultation – during which anyone can submit comments on the proposed Plan. They will advertise this on their website and in various public locations, where copies of our documents will be available.

“The Plan will then go to Examination before a local Referendum is held in all eleven parishes involved in the Plan, of which Steeple and Middle Aston are just two. MCNP is believed to be by far the largest grouping of parishes that have prepared a neighbourhood plan in the country (and there are 2,200 of them in preparation, with 410 already approved).

“As many local people know, it is the development of Heyford Park that is the main reason why the parishes got together in the first place, keen to ensure that houses did not proliferate in the fields and villages around it, and keen also to ensure that adequate supporting facilities are provided for the new population, and that the effects of increased traffic are minimised.

“The Neighbourhood Plan therefore contains policies that, for example, support provision of a new cemetery for Heyford Park, require developers to submit proposals for reducing the impact of motorised traffic, and to take steps to replace any loss of biodoversity as a result of development.  The Plan also has a non-statutory section called the Community Action Plan, in which the parishes will continue to work together over the years ahead to bring to fruition a number of ambitious aims that are not just about land-use planning.

“At this stage we don’t know in which month of 2018 the Referendum will be held, but we do know on past experience that there are bound to be more delays. In May and June, we have been told, CDC planners will be occupied with the Public Enquiry into the somewhat unpopular proposals for thousands of new houses in the south of the District, to assist Oxford’s “unmet housing need”.  So we know that our Examination will not take place before that one is finished.

“Close discussions with CDC planners in the lead-up to our submission resulted in a few more changes to the version of the Plan on which MCNP consulted last summer. Steeple Aston’s settlement area – the built-up zone of the village in which development is preferred – has now had omitted the two areas at each end of the village that were previously shown on the village policy map. This is because CDC took the view that these potential sites would only be suitable as rural exception sites for low-cost housing, and as they were exceptions they should not be in the preferred zone.

“This does not diminish the Parish Council’s wish to see one or both of these sites eventually developed in a way that will benefit the village, but it does reduce the encouragement that might have otherwise been given to purely commercial developers. It is somewhat ironic that Rectory Homes recently put forward their scheme for one of the sites (opposite Hill House on South Side), only to have to withdraw it – as also reported on this website. If it is resubmitted without elements of affordable housing it will now have less support under the MCNP than it would have done. The other site – the former allotments on Heyford Road – remains perhaps a distant possibility.”