Charlotte co-opted to fill last council vacancy 

Charlotte Bartlett has agreed to be co-opted on to the Parish Council. So for the next three months the council will have its full complement of members at last. Then they will all have to resign and stand again (if they want to) in the election to be held on Thursday, May 3rd.

Charlotte, of Seven Springs House, stood for election to the council last December. She was beaten by Richard MacAndrew by 72 votes to 57. But at their January meeting councillors decided to ask her if she was willing to be co-opted to fill the remaining vacancy. 

Before the election Charlotte was interviewed by Julia Whybrew for Steeple Aston Life. She said: “I realise that much of what I love about this village is directly because of the time and effort that others put into keeping it the way it is, strangely, both just the way it has always been and yet also vibrant and moving forward.”

Charlotte lived here when she was a child and all her early memories are of this village.  She had close friends in Middle Aston and kept her contacts with the village by visiting them for many years. Her family moved away because of her father’s job; then when she married she lived in Holland, New Zealand and Syria.

She eventually returned to London with her husband Andy and their two sons Oliver and Hugh. Quite by chance she discovered that her childhood home was for sale.  “It seemed to be too good to be true!”  They bought the house in 2004 and moved in. Charlotte says “My big regret is that our two sons were too old for Dr Radcliffe’s School, as I know that has always been like a bedrock for the village.”

Andy commutes to London weekly, where he works in finance, but both boys are still based nearby in Oxford. Oliver is just completing his PhD after eight years at the university, and Hugh works for a church charity having studied for a Master’s at Oxford Brookes.

Julia said that Charlotte has a lot to contribute to the Parish Council. She has both the time and the inclination to help other people.  She has worked in a PR company and has plenty of experience working with others.  She has been involved with community projects, particularly in Syria where she worked with women’s groups in villages around Damascus, teaching sewing skills and supplying equipment enabling them to earn their own living.  She started and ran her own project to distribute basic food supplies to the most vulnerable families in the winter months. She has experience of fundraising and is very keen to take an active part in the community.

Highways Authority says South Side plans are unsafe for pedestrians

The Local Highways Authority, Oxfordshire County Council, has added its objection to those of the Parish Council and others to the plans for six houses to be built on South Side.

In comments on the scheme the Highways Authority states it objects to the granting of planning permission “due to the lack of existing provision for pedestrians on the route between the site and the village” and they “do not consider that a safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved for all people….”

Steeple Aston Parish Council has already objected to the planning application by Rectory Homes to build six four-bedroomed houses on South Side opposite the entrance to Hill House. There have also been objections from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum and from a number of villagers.

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 comments: “While we consider that appropriate housing development on this site could be acceptable in principle, the application scheme is not suitable for the following reasons:

  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….. of the six dwellings only 2 should be 4-bedroom, 3 should be 3-bedroom, and 1 should be 2-bedroom. Such a mix would offer more affordable homes to local people, which we regard as an essential component of an acceptable scheme on this site.
  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. There is no recognition of this difficult problem in the application (despite discussion at the local meeting at which the applicants presented their proposals in November 2017) …
  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 opposite the site. The “Access Appraisal” report presented by the applicant relies on data collected in a week of heavy snowfall which must have produced untypical speed and volume data. We request that the survey be repeated in order to present data that can be taken seriously…..

Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum objects to the lack of smaller more affordable houses, and is concerned about pedestrians, as are many of the individual commentators. Their submission says simply, “The application scheme will require pedestrians to walk in the road to access the rest of the village, which is unacceptable.”

Another concern from former vice-chairman of the Parish Council Richard Preston is the lack of car parking space. He writes, “There is insufficient on-site parking for the six sizeable properties if one considers the probability that at certain times during the year, many of these properties will have visitors arriving by motor car. The outcome of this scenario would be vehicles parked on the main highway creating significant danger to the users of the highway for access to and from the village.

To see the plans and make a comment go to Cherwell District Council’s planning portal and entering the reference number 17/02414/F.  The expiry date for neighbours’ comments is 24th January, although no date for consideration of the application has yet been set. To see the Parish Council’s comments in full, as well as comments by others, including the Highways Authority, click on the Documents tab.

Rectory Homes is a privately-owned company founded in 1991 and based in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. It specialises in building high quality homes, often in quite small numbers, in London and the South East. They have built 100 houses in the last year, and are responsible for developments in nearby Witney, Thame and Oxford. The company has an agreement with the South Side landowner that they will purchase the site if their planning application is approved.

To find out more about the company and see examples of its work go to its website,

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 to be submitted in February

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan will be submitted to Cherwell District Council in February, three-and-a-half years after the idea was first conceived.

Following the Pre-Submission consultation which closed in October 2017, all the Plan documents have been amended to take account of the many comments that were submitted by local residents, various organisations and landowners and statutory consultees.

But there has been a delay while an environment report has been prepared. In his monthly report, John Coley explains:

“Just when we thought we were set to formally submit our Plan, there has been a delay. We had hoped that Cherwell District Council would help us to with a “Strategic Environment Assessment” (SEA), but it’s turned out to that we were too optimistic.  We have had to produce the required document ourselves.  Not only that, but the SEA “screening”, as it’s called, must be studied by several Agencies first, including the Environment Agency.  This will inevitably delay us by about a further month.

“The SEA is a EU Directive, which applies now and may, or may not, apply after 2019. The Objective is “to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development”.

“In essence, we had to show in our “screening” that the policies of the Neighbourhood Plan will not adversely impact on the environment. Since much of the Plan is aimed to protecting our rural environment of Mid-Cherwell, we’re hoping that this will be accepted without more delay.

“We are seeking to create “non-coalescence zones” between communities so that housing creep cannot join up villages. This is critical where development at Heyford Park could, if not checked, approach Upper Heyford and Caulcott. We had a very close Forum vote on this topic, which delivered a larger zone than some wanted, but less than the separation which others had asked for. This is now one of the Plan’s key policies.

“Hopefully by next month I will be able to report that we have now entered the formal process leading to the examination of the MCNP and its referendum.”

Following the submission of the report to CDC there will be a further six-week consultation period. The district council will then appoint an external Examiner to consider all the documents. After the Examiner’s report is published any final amendments will have to be agreed before a referendum is called.

Follow Steeple’s Rose as she sails round the world

Steeple Aston resident Rose Todd has now reached Australia as a crew member on Qingdao, one of the boats competing in the Clipper Round the World Race 2017-18.

She started her adventure in Liverpool on 20th August 2017, and will be sailing a total of 40,000 nautical miles to circumnavigate the globe in eleven months.

Rose took up sailing after the death of her son Harry at the age of 18. He spent his last few months supported by Helen and Douglas House, the Oxford Hospice for children and young people, and Rose is raising money for them.

She sailed two legs of the 2013 – 14 Clipper Race from San Francisco to London. But this time she has signed up for the whole race around the world. She has been given one of the most important roles on the boat – she is the victualler, which as she explained before she set off is a major responsibility.

She wrote, “Being the victualler on a boat is right up there at the top of the ‘you-cannot-get-this wrong’ list when it comes to crew roles! Being the victualler means that I am responsible for organising everything to do with food; deciding what we need (ie writing the menu), buying the stuff, packing the stuff into bags to survive the journey, deciding where to store the stuff in hiding places on the boat, retrieving the stuff when it is needed for cooking and eating, making sure we have enough stuff, and buying more stuff and repeating the process before the start of each race.”

Since last August, Rose has had some exciting times reaching Capetown in October, then seeing many seabirds as well as whales and dolphins on her way through the Southern Ocean to Australia. Now she faces the next few months travelling to China, then across the Pacific Ocean and through the Panama Canal to New York. Finally she will sail home across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool.

You can follow Rose’s adventures on her blog at

And you can help her raise money for Helen and Douglas House at

Villagers protest against proposed Enstone development

A group of villagers in West Oxfordshire have joined together to object to a proposed development next to nearby Enstone airfield. They are appealing for other local people and parish councils to oppose the application for planning permission by 10th January.

The “Move the Mullin” campaign has been formed to fight a proposal by the Great Tew Estate and American businessman and philanthropist Peter Mullin to build an automotive museum, corporate pavilion, Bentley showroom and 28 luxury residential homes on land adjacent to Enstone Airfield.

They argue that the location for a proposed development of this scale and form in a rural area is inappropriate and contrary to national planning policy.  It has numerous costs for local residents – not least significantly increasing the traffic on small country roads that are already in a poor state of repair.

They suggest that this museum could be built in a location with much better connectivity to the road network and public transport, such as Bicester Heritage or Silverstone.

The Move the Mullin campaign, which is supported by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is an informal group of residents who live in Enstone, Church Enstone, Gagingwell, Sandford St Martin, Ledwell, Westcote Barton, Middle Barton, Little Tew, and The Wortons. They are appealing for others to join them in objecting to this development.

They write: “The most effective way to oppose this development is to make a public objection to planning application 17/03745/OUT on WODC’s planning portal.  Please forward this email to your friends and neighbours to encourage them to make an objection too. The timeline for making objections is 10th January 2018 (although objections may be heard after that date) – so please do not delay! The more substantive objections that are made, the better chance we have to stop this development

“We believe that if national planning policy is properly applied to this application, and West Oxfordshire District Council hears the communities’ voice, we can stop this type of inappropriate development.

“To contact us please email”

Hallelujah – a Christmas mob goes to Marylebone!

Evening commuters at Marylebone Station were surprised and delighted when fellow travellers in the crowd started singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at full volume!

This choral flash mob was the inspiration of Steeple Aston’s Caroline Compston, and she organised it to raise money for the charity Singing for Syrians. To see the performance, please click here.

Local residents Nicholas and Heather Cleobury were involved as well. Nicholas was the conductor and also pre-recorded the accompaniment, which was played through the station’s load speaker system. Heather booked the 40 professional singers and can be seen singing herself along with Martin and Ruth Dale from Steeple Aston Choral Society

Trumpeter Kevin Kay-Bradley was there and local MP Victoria Prentis, one of the organisers of Singing for Syrians, can also be spotted in the crowd lending her support.

Heather Cleobury said “It was a really fun thing to do and afterwards we sang Christmas carols by the tree in the station.”

Singing for Syrians is a nationwide campaign from The Hands Up Foundation, encouraging anyone and everyone to hold concerts and events to raise funds and awareness for some of Syria’s most vulnerable people. All money raised goes directly to projects helping Syrians inside Syria (where possible), including paying doctors’ wages in rural southern Aleppo, running a kindergarten in Idleb and funding a number of prosthetic limb clinics.

The charity’s aim is to remind people how Syria was, and to remind them of the millions of ordinary people who continue to live in areas shattered by war, who need help to live lives that we take for granted. The idea behind their campaigns is to show that rather than feel helpless, we all have the power to do something, and by coming together in a positive and uplifting way, and singing at the tops of our voices, we can all make a difference. For more information on the Singing for Syrians campaign, visit