News Archive 2010

December 2010

Traffic lights proposed to save affordable housing

Oxfordshire County Council has been asked to consider putting traffic lights on Sixtyfoot in Steeple Aston in a bid to save the planned affordable housing there. The suggestion is being considered by the Highways Department following the decision by Hook Norton Brewery not to sell the hedge beside the Red Lion carpark to the developers.

Margaret Mason, Chairman of the Parish Council explains:

“We have all been waiting, with a good deal of anticipation, to learn whether Hook Norton Breweries would agree to selling the narrow strip of land adjacent to the Red Lion Car Park to make possible the removal of the hedge and the re-building of the length of wall by the pub. This would be necessary in order for a footpath to be created, and that is crucial for the building of the 12 affordable houses on the Sixtyfoot exception site to go ahead.

“The Parish Council has learned from Sovereign, the Housing Association, that the Brewery have told them their wish is to adopt a neutral position. They do not wish to sell the land, thereby preventing the creation of the vital footpath. To those who want to see the affordable housing built this will come as a great disappointment. There is one more solution to explore and Sovereign is backing it, that of traffic control lights, which would allow traffic east and west to pass alternately, along the stretch between Water Lane and Hill House entrance approximately, and make it possible to narrow the road by a footpath. As the danger of this stretch of road, for both traffic and pedestrians, has been the major and most reasoned argument raised against the Sixtyfoot site this may be a good solution, if OCC Highways agrees. That is being discussed with them at the moment. Again it will probably not be welcomed by all but it would have the additional benefit of making that difficult stretch of road, about which so many complaints have been made, much safer.

“There have been opposing views about the choice of the site on Sixtyfoot, and suggestions made that land on Fir Lane would be more suitable. When the need for more affordable housing was first discussed the Sixtyfoot site was one of only three sites in the village that were considered potentially suitable by the District Council, the Fir Lane land was considered “an inappropriate location for affordable housing beyond the village. These houses would be entirely separate and remote”. Of the three only the owners of the Sixtyfoot were prepared to sell their site. The Parish Council’s backing of this site has been questioned but would it have been sensible, indeed ethical, for the PC to attempt to promote an alternative site which would be much less likely to be given planning permission, when one which CDC considered suitable was available? Then our motives might well have been questioned. We agreed with CDC, and believe that the site is a good one, maybe not ideal but the best available. True, it is on the far side of the village from the school and playgrounds but is on the right side for the shop, the pubs and the bus stops. As two of the houses are intended for older people this was also a consideration.

“It may be that the Sixtyfoot site will not be able to go ahead and if this is so it is really regrettable that 12 village families will be denied the possibility of staying in the village when so much progress has already been made. The Parish Council will continue to work with the Housing Association in the hope that a viable solution may still be found. We will know more by next month.”


Parents and children celebrate Pre-School reopening

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Children and their parents gathered at Steeple Aston Pre-School for its official reopening on Saturday 6th November. Leading the celebrations and cutting the traditional ribbon was Edwina Kinch, who was the supervisor there for nearly 30 years.

The current manager Louise Mohajeri explained that Edwina had joined the Pre-School as supervisor back in 1971. At that time the pay was 15s a session, which after decimalisation on 15th February of that year became 75p. Quite a lot had changed since then!

Louise thanked all those involved in the building project especially Dr Radcliffe’s Trust who provided the £160,000 needed for the building project. She also thanked the fundraisers for the Pre-School who over the years had raised £40,000 to provide all the new equipment required.

She said, “Huge thanks are also due to the builder Rocker Buswell whose work has been above and beyond even my very high expectations. This has enabled us to achieve the best possible environment for our children.”

Edwina cut the pink ribbon to officially open the building, which had been closed for five months during the rebuilding. She was presented with a large bouquet by Kyle Hite from North Aston. Kyle won a competition amongst Pre-School children to design a new logo.

The logo decorated a special pink cake baked to mark the occasion. It can also now been seen on the front of the building, as well as on the staff uniforms and the new Pre-School website, www.steepleastonpreschool.org.uk.

To see the cake and lots more pictures please click here.


Village Christmas cards on sale

Christmas cards showing Steeple Aston in the snow earlier this year go on sale from the beginning of November.

The cards come in packs of eight (four of each design) with the message: “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year”. Packs cost £5.00 each.

One pack shows Paines Hill in the snow and the Steeple Aston signpost.

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The other a Church view in winter and the bridge at Rousham.

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The cards will be on sale in the village shop and at Christmas events in the village or you can email editor@steepleaston.org.uk with your order.

The cards have been produced by Steeple Aston village website, www.steepleaston.org.uk. Money raised will be donated to village projects.

To see larger versions of the photos in the media gallery, please click here.


Have your say on bus pass changes

The Parish Council is seeking your views on plans to change the arrangements for concessionary bus passes next year.

From April 2011 responsibility for the concessionary bus pass scheme for the over-60s and disabled people will be passed from Cherwell District Council to Oxfordshire County Council. They will be standardising the terms of the scheme throughout the county.

At the moment, the government funds the scheme to start from 9.30am. Some generous districts allow free travel from 9.00 am and pay towards the earlier start themselves. Cherwell District Council doesn’t do this currently.

Oxfordshire County Council now proposes to move the start time to 9.00am for the whole county. As it happens this will make no immediate difference to Steeple Aston residents as the bus to Banbury at 8.45am will still not qualify and the bus to Oxford leaves at 9.31am and does currently qualify. But there is no guarantee that the 9.31am might not be revised to, say, 9.25am in the future

In addition, the county council plans to stop paying for the issue of national travel tokens or senior railcards instead of a bus pass, which is also not reimbursed by the government. Cherwell District Council does currently allow people to have travel tokens instead of a bus pass, so this option will be lost under these proposals.

The county council are also not planning to pay for dial a ride, because they will not be reimbursed for this by the Government. Cherwell do not currently pay for this.

The parish councillor who is collecting views on the proposed changes to send to the county council is Stuart Ferguson. He says, “I guess from a purely Steeple Aston point of view we would prefer the 9.30am start all over the county and for the dial a ride, which presumably would include the doctors’ minibus, to be free. But either way villagers are going to get more than at present.”

If you have an opinion on this, please email Stuart before 27th November. His email address is stuart.ferguson@bioch.ox.ac.uk.


Brewery says no to hedge sale

Hook Norton Brewery, owner of the Red Lion pub, has decided that it does not wish to sell the hedge around the pub car park so that it can be converted in to a pavement.

This is a blow to Steeple Aston Parish Council as plans to build 12 affordable houses on Sixtyfoot depended on the provision of the pavement. The parish council and the developers, Sovereign Housing, now have to reconsider their position.

The brewery’s decision follows the presentation of two opposing petitions for and against the sale of the hedge. Feelings were running high on both sides, but parish councillors say there is a real need for more housing for villagers and there is no alternative site in the village which is available and suitable for affordable housing.

George Dailey who lives next to the proposed site and organised the petition against the sale of the hedge has suggested that other more suitable sites are available, particularly the site of the old chicken farm on Fir Lane. He says that site has been offered to Cherwell District Council, but has been turned down as unsuitable. The Planning Officer’s explanation was that this is “…an inappropriate location for affordable housing beyond the village. These houses would be entirely separate and remote”.

Mr Dailey wrote to Margaret Mason, the parish council chairman saying: “Sixty Foot is ten times further away from the School than the Chicken Shed site. I and my Consultants have formally written to Mr Duxberry (the Planning Officer) again. In view of the fact that the Chicken Shed site is 200 metres from the Playing fields and playground and has no Highway issues, we have again asked Mr Duxberry, exactly on what grounds and using what formal planning parameters, did he reach his decision…..I have to tell you, that every single person I spoke to thinks the Chicken Shed site should be pursued.”

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At November’s parish council meeting an old map, showing the village boundaries, was passed round. The purple line marks the parish boundary, and it can be seen that most of the chicken shed site (or poultry farm) is in Middle Aston. Also there is no access to the site from the road that is also within the Steeple Aston boundary.

To see a full screen version of the whole map showing the full parish boundary, please click here.


Tribute bells rung for Rector

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To mark the departure of Revd Dr Stephen M’Caw from Steeple Aston and his installation as Rector in Keynsham a Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples was rung on the church bells in Steeple Aston on Friday October 15th.

This tribute was also for Revd Sue Burchell of Great Tew, Branch Chairman of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of ringers, who was likewise installed as Vicar of St Leonard’s, Grimsbury, Banbury.

The team comprised: Heather Hughes, Diana Gardner, Dorothy Clifton, Claire Tarrant, Malcolm Hensher, Heather Bletchly, Graham J Clifton (c), Mick Journeaux.

 


 November 2010

Opposing petitions go to brewery over housing site

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Two opposing petitions have gone to Hook Norton Brewery – one in favour and one against the proposal to build affordable housing on Sixtyfoot in Steeple Aston.

The project cannot go ahead if there is no pavement from the new houses to join up with other pavements in the village. The only way this can be achieved is if the brewery, which owns the Red Lion, agrees to the hedge around its car park being converted to a pavement.

Feelings are running high on both sides following a request by the Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason in Steeple Aston Life that residents let the brewery know whether they are opposed to or in favour of the scheme to build the 12 affordable homes for village people on the Sixtyfoot site.

A petition against the scheme was organised by George Dailey who lives next to the proposed site. It says simply that the undersigned are opposed to Sixtyfoot as a location for affordable housing. He says he spent three-and-a-half hours knocking on the doors of houses near to the proposed development site and managed to get 70 signatures from 50 households for his petition which has now gone to the brewery.

Julia Whybrew, who chaired the group recently involved in producing the Parish Plan, is concerned that people with close ties to the village should not be priced out of the housing market and forced to leave the village against their wishes. She says the Parish Plan showed that by a majority of two to one villagers are in favour of building new affordable housing in the village.

She says: “The petition against the development was available for signature in the Red Lion and taken round some local houses, including Bradshaw Close. A few days later I went round Bradshaw Close myself to see what support there was for affordable housing at Sixtyfoot. I knew that those against had already been round and explained why they did not want to see it go ahead so I was expecting an uphill job. I found that the vast majority were in favour of affordable housing in general and also felt sympathy for those currently living in the house beside the proposed site. I found seventeen of the twenty-one householders in Bradshaw Close at home. Of these two said they never signed any petition on principle, eleven signed my petition and four refused.

I then went round the road I live in, Grange Park, which is close to the existing affordable housing. I wished to see what support there was for affordable housing on Sixtyfoot, as viewed from the other side of the village. I found 21 householders at home, of whom 19 signed the petition, though in two cases only one of the couple I spoke to wished to sign and the other refused. Others have taken the petition in favour elsewhere in the village and found substantial support.”

Mr Dailey said he thought that the brewery were being put under pressure by the Parish Council and wanted to demonstrate that the proposal does not enjoy overwhelming support in the village as had been suggested by them. He said he was not opposed to affordable housing as such, just to the location in Sixtyfoot.

His main reason for concern is road safety. At the moment he says the Red Lion junction is self-policing – because the hedge impedes visibility, everyone slows down. If the hedge is removed, traffic will speed up. Also the development would involve the frequent crossing of South Side by pedestrians at a point where there is inadequate vision both vertical and horizontal. And a metre wide footpath will not be safe for mothers with pushchairs.

Mrs Whybrew says that on her petition journey she was given conflicting views on whether the replacement of the hedge by a pavement would make the road safer or less so. All agreed that it would help visibility on a blind piece of road. One group, support the view of the Highways Department of Oxfordshire County Council, thought it would be safer because there would be more visibility. The other group were concerned that if visibility was better it could make the corner more dangerous as people might drive faster. But in either case a pavement would be better for pedestrians than a hedge, since this would leave the narrow road entirely to vehicles.

The other main argument against the proposed site is that the development, which is mainly designed for young families, is too far from the facilities they will use – the school, pre-school and play area for example. This is likely to encourage more road traffic in the village.

Mr Dailey says he know that other sites are available nearer to the school and other facilities. He says the site of the old chicken farm has been offered to Cherwell District Council, but has been turned down as unsuitable. Planning Officer’s explanation was that this is “…an inappropriate location for affordable housing beyond the village. These houses would be entirely separate and remote”.

Mr Dailey strongly disagrees and argues that the chicken farm site is available and would be much more suitable for affordable housing. He has employed a planning consultant who is currently questioning this judgement, and is awaiting a reply from the planning officials at the council.

He has written to Mrs Mason saying: “Sixty Foot is ten times further away from the School than the Chicken Shed site. I and my Consultants have formally written to Mr Duxberry (the Planning Officer) again. In view of the fact that the Chicken Shed site is 200 metres from the Playing fields and playground and has no Highway issues, we have again asked Mr Duxberry, exactly on what grounds and using what formal planning parameters, did he reach his decision…..I have to tell you, that every single person I spoke to thinks the Chicken Shed site should be pursued.”

Mrs Whybrew emphasises that at present there is only one site which is both acceptable to the planners and where the landowner is willing to sell. Unless those objecting to the site can convince the planners to change their minds, the Sixtyfoot site is the only option and there’s no way of knowing how many years it will be until either one of the landowners or the planners will change their minds. She says: “My conclusion from all this is that if the Sixtyfoot site is the only one for now, then the majority would prefer this project to go ahead, rather than there being nothing.”

Mr Dailey is determined to fight the proposal along with several others. He also argues that building affordable housing on Sixtyfoot will dramatically alter the rural approach to the village and the conservation area, and he is concerned that once one development has been allowed in the area, more will follow.

He plans to be at the Parish Council meeting when it is next discussed to make his views known. Meanwhile Hook Norton Brewery has a difficult decision to make.


Parking is main police problem in ‘safe and happy’ village

Steeple Aston is a safe and happy place to live, according to local police. But rogue parking is proving very difficult to deal with.

WPC Caroline Brown from the Bicester Rural Neighbourhood Police team attended a recent meeting of the parish council and gave a very reassuring account of the crimes in and around the village in the last 12 months. A year ago Steeple Aston was in the top three local villages for problems with antisocial behaviour. But no incidents of antisocial behaviour have been reported in the last 12 months, and other reported crimes were only minor and have been dealt with.

Parking is still a problem however. The police have done 43 patrols of parking in the last year. They have spoken to drivers, put warnings on cars and finally given tickets for parking at the top of the Dickredge. There was a considerable improvement in the parking there for a while, but things are slowly returning to how they were.

It had been hoped that the County Council would upgrade all the village bus stops, which would have the side effect of making the bus stop go as far as the corner at the top of the Dickredge. But this hasn’t happened yet.

WPC Brown said she would ask the patrols to focus on the area again, starting with fliers and going on to tickets if necessary. Oxfordshire County Councillor Ray Jelf , who was also at the meeting, promised to speak to OCC regarding the promised upgrade of the bus stop.

The road around the Red Lion was also discussed and it was noted that there had been no serious accidents there. Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department said they did not have the money to improve it as there was no accident record. However they suggested that the Parish Council might wish to put in white gates, which would cost roughly £1,000. Councillor Jelf said it was his experience that these did reduce speeding. WPC Brown said she would monitor the situation and suggested that the village might wish to rent or buy a speed indicator device for that entrance to the village.

WPC Brown explained that the Highway Code said that not parking by a corner was advisory only. However parking so as to obstruct the road was an offence, and this had sometimes happened at the Red Lion end of Water Lane, the Dickredge and the bottom of Jubilee Close.
She asked villagers to ring 08458 505505 when there was a car causing an obstruction so that the police could come out and investigate.

WPC Brown concluded her report to the Parish Council by saying that Steeple Aston is a safe and happy place to live.


First Village Steward gets to work

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Steeple Aston’s first ever Village Steward took up his new role in August. Mark Probbitts is already well-known around the village as he’s been cutting the grass verges here for the last three years.

His new responsibilities as part-time Steward are to keep the village neat and tidy, and in particular to maintain the Millennium Park and play area. He’s pictured here blowing the first of the autumn leaves off the path around the Village Hall.

One of Mark’s regular tasks is to carry out weekly safety checks of the equipment in the children’s play area, which he normally does on a Sunday evening. This job was previously done by volunteers.

In four hours a week Mark will carry out a variety of tasks around the year to maintain the cleanliness of the village including mowing, weeding, hedge trimming and fencing. The hours may increase when there’s extra work to be done.

Mark, who comes from Over Norton, set up M & D Garden Services with his wife Debbie in 2002. His uncle Paul also works with him full-time. Altogether the company has contracts with 21 villages ranging from Eynsham to Barford St Michael, they also do contract work for West Oxfordshire County Council.

Mark, who was previously an agricultural contractor, did a six-month course in horticulture at Horton cum Studley before setting up the business. He enjoys working for himself, despite the fact that it often means long hours. In the summer, he says, he can sometimes start at 4.30am and not get home until after 10.00pm.

But the job does have its rewards. In 2006, he appeared in Country Life magazine when Kingham, one of the places he looks after, was chosen as “England’s Favourite Village”.


New landlords move into the White Lion

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Dave Bacon and Karen Richardson, have taken over as landlords of the White Lion pub in Steeple Aston.

Dave and Karen, pictured here, took over from the Willatt family on Friday 10th September and have great hopes of developing the pub – attracting new customers from further afield while continuing to function as a traditional village inn.

They have moved into the flat above the pub from their home in Woodford Halse north of Banbury. Both of them are chefs, but for Dave this is his first time as a pub landlord. He says he has plenty of experience on the other side of the bar though!

Karen qualified in pub work at age 21 and has worked in the business for many years. She also does training in food hygiene and most recently was Catering Manager at Blenheim Palace. Dave spent five years as a development chef for Marks and Spencer before working in a variety of jobs in catering, office management and property maintenance.

The couple have taken the lease from the pub’s owners Admiral Taverns on a six-month trial basis. If all goes well they would then hope to sign a lease for at least three years.

Admiral Taverns has plans to extend the pub to provide a 60-seater restaurant with the aim of attracting customers from further afield as well as hosting functions and business meetings. Dave and Karen also hope they will be able to have a games and snooker room.

Nothing will happen for the first six months though, so regular customers won’t notice too much change immediately. Food will be available in the pub from Monday 20th September when a new menu will be launched. And the couple are keen to continue with traditional activities such as darts and dominoes for customers. They will also continue to have Sky TV.

Dave and Karen were welcomed to Steeple Aston with flowers from Mel and Sarah Phipps of the Red Lion. The two couples have already met, and the newcomers are looking forward to friendly competition as well as cooperation with their rivals on the other side of the village.

Meanwhile, they have plenty to do settling in and getting to know the locals. Karen was particularly interested to hear about the village football teams. She was a keen player of women’s football and qualified as a referee some years ago when she lived on the Isle of Wight.


Improvements will make Village Hall cosier

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Major improvement works are under way at Steeple Aston Village Hall to make it a warmer and more welcoming place by the end of the summer holidays.

The improvements include new gas-fired boilers and a water heater system, new radiators in the kitchen and committee room, secondary glazed windows and the insulation of doors and windows in the hall and stage area. This photo shows the new flues for the boilers.

The Chair of the Village Hall Management Committee, Barbara Brewer said: “Thanks are due to the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, the Oxford Community Fund, the Doris Field Trust, Cherwell District Council, the Parish Council and the Village Hall Management Committee without whose funding the improvements would not have been possible.

“Special thanks are also due to the VHMC committee members who have tirelessly filled in forms and pleaded our cause for many months.

“We do hope that all users of the hall will appreciate the improvements; they will no longer need to feed the meter with pound coins every hour, as heating charges will be included in the hiring fees.

“However all good things come at a price and the hiring charges will consequently be increasing slightly in September. We hope that people will still regard them as excellent value for the facilities they are using.”

To see the new hiring charges, please click here.


Numbers up for “friendliest and best organised” show

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An increase in entries and visitor numbers for this year’s Summer Show made for a very busy Bank Holiday Monday in Steeple Aston. Even the sun shone for this traditionally happy occasion.

There were 980 entries for the wide variety of competitions and an estimated 900 visitors coming from far and wide. Chairman of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society, Richard Preston said “There were lots of new faces among the entrants, and fortunately many of them won. Also, the judges told us the exhibits were of exceptional quality. One judge commented that this was the friendliest and best organised show she goes to.”

The Society’s President Edwina Kinch urged villagers on to even better things next year. She said the last time there were more than 1,000 entries was in 1991. She hoped that in 2011 that record would be broken for the society’s 120th Summer Show.

She presented the cups and prizes to the winners who included as always Richard and Daphne Preston – Richard took the Walker Cup for overall show champion and Dorothy the Fothergills Cup, the George Alder Memorial Cup and the Wadham Cup.

A newcomer among the prizewinners was Bryan Badby, pictured above, who won the highly competitive Hayter Cup, which had a minimum of 11 entries in each class. This was the first time that Bryan had entered the show and he swept the board in his division. In addition to the Hayter Cup he also took home with him the Lee Cup and the Banksian Medal.

Bryan is obviously a force to be reckoned with in the future. He’s helped by the fact that winning the Hayter Cup runs in the Badby family. Bryan’s father Sam won it several times back in the 1950s.

More familiar winners included Victoria Clifton and Eleanor Jolley who won the cookery and handicrafts divisions respectively once again. The Scott Cup for Floral Art was won by Margaret Mason for the second year running, Roderick Nicholson’s roses beat the opposition again and John Coley won the senior Photography Cup.

There was a tie for the winner of the Senior Children’s Cup between Alice Owen-Lloyd and Harry Tomkins. Harry, who collected the cup, will pass it on to Alice after six months. Other children’s cup winners were Yolanda Martin (Juniors) Tyler White (under 8s) and Alex Burt (under 5s). The Junior Photography Cup was won by Hannah McLoone.

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The Fun Dog Show, which runs alongside the Flower Show attracted more than 30 entries. The show is sponsored by The Hart Veterinary Centre in Bicester. The overall winner – the Dog of the Day – was Tiggs, a terrier cross owned by 11-year-old Jim Caldwell. Jim who lives in Middle Barton was a pupil at Dr Radcliffe’s School in Steeple Aston until this summer. He was presented with his cup by local judge Malcolm Butler.

Other stalls and attractions on the day included a bouncy castle, bowling, several handicrafts stalls, a prize draw, and a variety of popular games and side shows. Steeple Aston Church Allotments Association had a busy stall selling plants, vegetables and their very own cookbook. Teas and homemade cakes were served in the Village Hall, and as usual there was a lively auction of fruit, veg and flowers just before the prizegiving.

Richard Preston said: “Many thanks to all the hard-working members of the committee and to everyone who came along. Particular thanks are due this year to the members of the Allotment Association who provided many of the new entries. It was a very successful day – this is what village life is all about!”

For a full list of the results, please click here.
And for lots more photos, please click here.


October 2010

Parishioners say a sad farewell to Rector

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Over 150 people came to Steeple Aston church on the last Sunday in July to say goodbye to the Rector, Revd Stephen M’Caw and his family.

All of the M’Caw family were involved in his final service as Rector in the United Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley. His wife Caroline read a lesson and sons Benedict and Sebastian both played instruments.

Revd M’Caw is leaving Steeple Aston after eight years to become Team Rector in the Keynsham Team Ministry in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

The service was followed by a leaving party in the Sport and Recreation building, where a large array of food was provided by many parishioners from within the benefice.

The M’Caws were thanked by many people and presented with gifts. Kildare Bourke-Burrows from North Aston formally thanked Stephen on behalf of everyone and presented him with a cheque from money collected within the three parishes.

Silvia Reddington from Tackley gave him a stole made by two ladies in the village, and Beryl Greenwood of North Aston presented copies of the Common Worship prayer book. Malcolm Hensher presented a framed print of Steeple Aston church and Rebecca Hoare gave Caroline some theatre gift tokens.

Tower Captain, Graham Clifton then thanked Ben and Seb for becoming church and handbell ringers and all the help they had given. They were presented with a bellringing computer game and book.

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Graham said: “It was a very emotional time for many having to say goodbye to good friends. We all wish them well in their new home in Keynsham.

“Stephen will be inducted as team Rector on Thursday 14th October and I know he would love to see Steeple Aston people there.”

The lengthy process of finding a new Rector has begun, but it is thought that this could take up to 18 months. Meanwhile services will continue as normal with the help of retired clergy, notably Revd Geoff Hunter, and others.

Until a new Rector is appointed, if you want to arrange a service, such as a baptism, wedding or funeral (or ask about another matter), your first point of contact should be Malcolm Hensher, churchwarden, on 01869 340873 or email MalcomHensher@aol.com.


September 2010

Allotments and gardens open to public

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The church allotments in Steeple Aston and five private gardens were opened to the public on Sunday, 18th July to raise money for the Recreational Trust and the Allotment Society.

The visitors, who largely came from outside the village, seemed delighted with the allotments and gardens. Many of them were just as interested in the vegetables as the flowers.

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In one garden the owner listened avidly to their tips on how to get runner beans to set (mist in the evening, every evening) and how to grow enormous onions (fortnightly feed with seaweed).

The allotments are in Fir Lane, opposite the churchyard, and the gardens that opened were:

  • 2 Nizewell Head
  • Willow Cottage, Dickredge
  • Primrose Cottage, Northside
  • Kralingen, Fenway
  • Grangelea, Grange Park.

Barbara Brewer, with lots of donated cakes and her team of helpers, run a profitable café in the Sports and Recreation Centre.

Ted Whybrew, who organised the event, said “I would like to give a big thank you to the owners of the allotments and gardens and to those who served the teas and donated cakes. Between us we made £331 and this has been split between the Recreation Trust and the Allotment Society who were delighted with the outcome.”

The Recreation Trust needs help to pay for the upkeep of Robinsons Close and the Allotment Society will use their share towards the provision of water on the allotment site.

To see more photos of the gardens and allotments, please click here.


Village postcards go on sale

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Three local postcards are now on sale at the shop and elsewhere in the village. The three cards show a view across the village to the church, and photos of the Eyecatcher and the Victorian postbox on Northside.

The production of the cards has been organised by the website committee, with financial help from the Parish Council.

There hasn’t been a Steeple Aston postcard for some time. Raj in the village shop says he has lots of requests from visitors who would like to buy them, so we hope they’ll be very popular.

The cards will be sold for 50p each, with profits going to local charities. The fund to raise money for a defibrillator will be the first to benefit.

The website committee would like to thank Merrill Bayley, Dave Trinder and Peter Bell for their help in producing these postcards.

 

 


Affordable housing exhibition attracts much interest

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The exhibition of plans for the proposed affordable housing in Sixtyfoot, Steeple Aston attracted plenty of attention from villagers on Wednesday 7th July. The Parish Council had invited comments on the plans before planning permission is sought from Cherwell District Council.

To see the plans in detail, please click here.

The small committee room at the Village Hall became quite crowded as villagers arrived to discuss the plans with representatives from the housing association, Sovereign, the architect who designed the site and housing officers. Parish councillors were also there to answer questions and assess the response of visitors.

Julia Whybrew reports: “When I went there were lots of visitors, and all the ones I asked seemed favourably impressed by the plans, pleased that the site is well set back and especially interested in a safe footpath by the Red Lion car park. There was widespread recognition that the houses would enable local people to stay in the community.

“The plans show the site with green areas, trees, play space for children, quite spacious accommodation and plenty of parking, which has been increased following a request from the Parish Council. The homes will all have either garages with doors or open carports.

“In addition, and this will be a great benefit for everyone in the village, the plans include a footpath alongside the Red Lion car park. The road by the Red Lion was identified as particularly dangerous in the Parish Plan so it is not surprising that a footpath here was welcomed.”

The plans show 12 houses: 5 two-bed houses, 4 three-bed houses, 2 two-bed bungalows and 1 four-bed house. Each one has two parking spaces and in addition there are four extra spaces for visitors. Three of the houses are for shared ownership and the rest are for rent.

The houses have been designed to be as versatile as possible. Two of them (numbers 5 and 6) which currently have two bedrooms can be extended into the roof space to make three bedrooms if the owners decide to do this at a later date. Also the downstairs bathrooms can be easily converted to shower and wet room because the necessary gully will be built in to the bathroom floor.

If you have further questions about the plans, please contact Stuart Roberts, the Regional Head of Development at Sovereign Housing Group, email stuart.roberts@sovereign.org.uk.


Unexpected resignation leaves council vacancy

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The search is on to find a new parish councillor for Steeple Aston after the unexpected resignation of Dorothy Willatt for personal reasons.

Dorothy, who also runs the White Lion pub in the village with her family, had been a councillor for six years. She was recently reappointed to office along with all the other councillors after no one stood against them in the May elections.

The Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “Dorothy has brought huge energy and enthusiasm to the council. Her thoughts are always for the individual, helping and doing all she can to make things better for people.

“She also brought a wicked sense of humour and a fantastic singing voice, which the council did not have enough opportunities to appreciate! We will miss her and her care for the village very much and wish her well for the future.”

Dorothy’s resignation means that there is a vacancy to be filled on the Parish Council. This has to be formally notified to Cherwell District Council who advertise it in the village.

The notices announcing a vacancy have already been put up on village noticeboards. They say that if 10 electors request a poll a by-election will be called, with same rules as an ordinary election. Electors have to do this within 14 working days of the notices going up, which in this case is by 21st July.

If a poll has not been requested by 21st July, the Parish Council will fill the vacancy by co-option as soon as is practicable. The council makes the decision about who to co-opt, and if more than one name is suggested they will vote on the candidates.

If you are interested in becoming a parish councillor, you should have an informal chat with Margaret Mason or one of the other councillors about what is involved. You should also contact the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet.

To read the text of the official notice, please click here


Council requests views on Good Neighbour Scheme

Steeple Aston Parish Council is asking for comments on whether a formal Good Neighbour scheme is required in the village. Potential users of the scheme along with possible volunteers are asked to contact the Parish Clerk with their views.

Councillors recently received details of a Good Neighbour Scheme which is currently set up in Kidlington, Bicester and other villages throughout North Oxfordshire.

This aim of this scheme is to provide support for anyone in the village who may need help with small tasks, such as shopping, prescription collection, dog walking or minor household tasks like light bulb changing, gardening etc. or maybe just a bit of company.

This scheme would be set up with help from Oxfordshire County Council and any villager who would be interested in joining the scheme would be partnered with a volunteer to help with their tasks. Setting up this scheme will obviously be quite time consuming and fairly costly, although a grant is available from OCC, and therefore before the council goes ahead it needs to know if there is sufficient interest in the village for such a scheme.

The Parish Council would welcome your comments as to whether you consider the Village needs such a scheme and if you would be interested in participating, either because you would like a helping hand sometimes, or as a volunteer helper.

Please let the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet, know your views. She can be contacted on 01869 347000, at Westfield Farm Cottage or by email at parishclerk.steepleaston@fsmail.net


August 2010

Pre-School gets go ahead for extension

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Steeple Aston Pre-School has been given the go ahead to build a much-needed two- storey extension at the back of the building.

The building, which is owned by Dr Radcliffe’s Trust is leased to the Pre-School on a peppercorn rent. Proposals for an extension have been in the pipeline for a while as the Fir Lane building (the former Steeple Aston Primary School) is cramped and outdated by modern standards.

Now Cherwell District Council have granted planning permission for the extension and Dr Radcliffe’s Trust have agreed to pay £160,000 for the building work. The Pre-School staff and parents have raised a further £40,000, which will be spent on fixtures and fittings and contingencies.

The project is still subject to building regulation approval and the signing of an official lease for the building. As long as those two hurdles are cleared soon, work on the extension will start during the May half term. The Pre-School will be housed temporarily in the Village Hall and the Sport and Recreation Centre, probably until the end of Autumn half term.

The Pre-School Manager, Louise Mohajeri said, “We are very excited by the extension, it will give the Pre-School the new lease of life it desperately needs. We are so grateful to all the parents past and present who have supported the Pre-School and have enabled us to raise the additional funds needed for this build.

“Throughout the build ourpriority is to ensure that the children continue to have a safe, secure and happy environment. Using the village amenities will enable myself and the staffto ensure that we have continuity of care and that we maintain the high standards now expected from us by all of the community.”

Steeple Aston Pre-School cares for 67 under-fives, but can only take 25 children per session. The building work will not increase the number of children who can be accommodated, but it will free up useful play space, and opens up the possibility of running before and after school clubs in the future.

The 2008 OFSTED report described the Pre-School as “outstanding” in helping children achieve well and enjoy what they do. The report said, “Allchildren receive a very high level of attention and consequently settle exceptionally well, rapidly becoming fully engrossed in the activities. The staff accurately assess individual needs when children start at the setting, and they provide precisely the correct level of support to help them become fullyincluded as welcome members of the pre-school community.”

For more information about the Pre-School, and a link to the full OFSTED report, please click here.


July 2010

Rector to leave Steeple Aston this summer

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The Rector of Steeple Aston, Revd Stephen M’Caw is to leave the village after eight years – and it may take up to a year to find a replacement for him.

Revd M’Caw is responsible for the United Benefice which includes Tackley and North Aston as well as Steeple Aston. He will take his last service here at the end of July. He said, “The last eight years have been very full for all of us as a family, and we look back on a good many happy and lasting memories.”

At the end of May, Revd M’Caw was offered and accepted the post of Team Rector in the Keynsham Team Ministry in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. Keynsham is a town of about 18,000 people, most recently in the news for the planned closure of the former Cadbury factory by Kraft in 2011.

The team of five churches includes the large town centre church at the top of the high street, and five smaller ones, three of which are in the surrounding villages of Burnett, Chewton Keynsham and Queen Charlton. There is a team of several clergy, and Revd M’Caw will be the leader.

Writing his final message in Steeple Aston Life, he explains: “The last service I will be taking here is at 6.00pm on 25th July in St. Peter & St. Paul, Steeple Aston, and I understand it will be followed by refreshments.

“We as a family would also like to invite you to call in for a cup of tea and goodbye natter at the Rectory, any time between 3.00 to 7.00pm on the day before (i.e. Saturday 24th July). It’s open house for any who wish to call!

“We expect to move in late August, but as the house we are due to be moving into has yet to be purchased by the Diocese of Bath and Wells, timing at this stage is still uncertain.”

The appointment process for his successor is likely to take up to a year, but local retired clergy, including the Revd Geoff Hunter, will be on hand to help out in the meantime.

From the end of July, if you want to arrange a service, such as a baptism, wedding or funeral (or ask about another matter), your first point of contact should be Malcolm Hensher, churchwarden, on 01869 340873 or email MalcomHensher@aol.com.


Football club rewards its stars

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Steeple Aston’s best footballers were presented with trophies at the SAFC Annual Presentation Evening held in the Village Hall on Saturday, 15th May.

The happy winners are pictured here. They are, in the back row (l to r) Jonny Ions, Daniel Munson, Adam Peckham, Jason Arlett, Jake Freeman, Lee Rogers; and in the front Row (l to r) Alex Damm, Ben Davis, Colin Rigby.

The prizes were presented by the first team manager, Neil Brewer, to the first team, and by the reserves manager, Martin McPhee,to the reserve team. Chris Desforges and Alan Peckham made closing speeches.

By all accounts, it was a very good evening starting with drinks, then a delicious two course meal prepared by S&J Cuisine.

The full list of SAFC 2009/2010 Trophy Winners is below.

1st Team
Footballer of the Season – Ben Phipps
Sportsman of the Season – Daniel Munson
Supporters’ Player of the Season – Ben Phipps
Top Goalscorer – Alex Damm (11)
Manager’ Player – Jake Freeman

2nd Team
Footballer of the Season – Lee Rogers
Sportsman of the Season – Jonathan Ions
Most Improved – Carl Rogers
Top Goalscorer – Ben Davis (8)
Manager’s Player – Colin Rigby

Most MoM awards – Adam Peckham

10 Consecutive Playing Seasons – Jason Arlett.

For more information about Steeple Aston Football Club, please click here.


Traditional Whit Races with a difference

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All the usual fun of the Steeple Aston Whit Races was to be had outside the White Lion on Bank Holiday Monday. But this year the aim was to raise funds not only for the Scouts, but also towards the £2,000 needed for a defibrillator for the village.

South Central Ambulance Service and their team of local Community Responders attended the races with an ambulance and ambulance car for everyone to explore and to find out more about how the equipment works and how it can save lives in the village.

The Scouts’ tent was full of donated bottles, tins and jars for the tombola; inside the White Lion, home-made cakes were on sale. Races were so oversubscribed that heats had to be organised, and later in the day there was an Aunt Sally.

To increase energy levels, the White Lion supplied breakfast beforehand and a pig roast after the races. At the end of the day, the Red Lion put on a BBQ for all.

Thanks go to all the organisers and helpers including the Scouts, the Willatt family at the White Lion, Jan Lester-George and her family for organising the races, Roger Bradley for holding the tape at the finishing line, and Sarah and Mel at the Red Lion.

And the funds raised towards the defibrillator? A total of £93.30.

To see more photos, please click here.


Villagers urged to view Affordable Housing plans

Villagers are invited to give their views on the plans for the 12 “affordable” homes to be built at Sixtyfoot, Steeple Aston before planning permission is sought.

An exhibition of the plans by the Sovereign Housing Association will be held on Wednesday 7th July in the Village Hall committee room between 2.30 and 8.00pm.

Announcing the exhibition, Steeple Aston Parish Council says: “This, at last, will be an opportunity for everybody to see, and comment on, the plans prepared by Sovereign’s architect for the Affordable Housing scheme, before the plans are submitted to Cherwell District Council for planning approval.

Representatives from Sovereign, Oxford Rural Community Council’s Rural Housing Enabler and Parish Councillors will be on hand to discuss the plans and answer questions. Please take the opportunity to call in and see the plans.”

There has been some controversy about the plans in recent months with concerns raised by at least two villagers. The publication of an anonymous letter in Steeple Aston Life questioning the suitability of the site and pointing out worries over road safety if the development goes ahead drew a strong defence of the plans by two named correspondents.

Recent surveys in the village have identified demand from local people for more affordable homes, both for rent and shared ownership, and for the elderly as well as families.


Council advertises for Village Steward

Steeple Aston Parish Council is looking for a part-time Village Steward to keep the village clean, tidy and looking good.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason explains: “For some time the Parish Council has been looking at the possibility of a Village Steward. There are an ever increasing number of jobs that need doing in a village of this size, many of which have up until now been taken on by Parish Councillors or have been done for free by good hearted people, such as those who pick up litter regularly.

“As the scope has grown so have the demands on those willing few. There is no doubt that the success of the Millennium Play Area has increased the workload there considerably and the necessary weekly inspections of the equipment now take longer.

”Last November we asked in Steeple Aston Life what people thought of the idea, as we only had one reply we assumed that there were no great objections, particularly as we can afford it within the present precept.

”So, the Parish Council is now looking for someone who would like to take on the role of Village Steward. We think it will need about four hours each week through the year, with an extra hour to an hour-and-a- half between April and October when things are growing and there will be more gardening work at the Millennium Park.

”The Steward’s role will be to ensure that the village is kept in good and tidy order and to report damage or any problems immediately to the Parish Clerk, also to maintain the Millennium Park in good and tidy order with the safety of the public in mind and the general attractive appearance of the area.

”Contact the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet on parishclerk.steepleaston@fsmail.net or 01869 347000 for a full job description. If you are interested, you could also speak to one of the Councillors to get a more detailed idea of what the post entails.

“We would like to find someone to begin soon so hope someone out there may like the idea of a few hours a week keeping the village looking good.”

For the full text of the advertisement, please click here.


June 2010

Good Neighbour scheme proposed for village

Steeple Aston Parish Council is to consider whether to set up a Good Neighbour Scheme in the village with help from Oxfordshire County Council.

Graham Ablett, from the County’s Development Team attended May’s Parish Council meeting to explain how he could help set up such a scheme in Steeple Aston.

He said the County Council is trying to support such schemes, both existing and new, which are aimed at helping vulnerable people, especially the elderly, to retain a healthy independence, living in their own homes and staying outside the “social services net”.

Volunteers under such a scheme would undertake to do small tasks on a regular basis for elderly or disabled people, such as collecting prescriptions, mowing grass, changing light bulbs or walking dogs. Jobs like painting and decorating would not be included. In some cases a volunteer’s “task” might be simply to befriend a lonely person.

Users would typically be offered help for one hour a week. This might be long-term assistance or just temporary, perhaps to help someone recovering from a fall or similar setback. But each scheme was different, and designed to meet local needs. The council was told of one case where the volunteers formed a team to help all the residents in a sheltered housing scheme on a particular day.

Mr Ablett said the key figure in any Good Neighbour Scheme is the co-ordinator, whose job it is to match volunteers and users. The co-ordinator would need to be appointed at an early stage, to start the process off and to keep proper records of what voluntary work was done. A co-ordinator running a large town scheme might receive some payment, but a village scheme would be purely voluntary.

Mr Ablett gave councillors a description of schemes already operating or under development in other places including Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington and Bodicote. He said one-off grants were currently available – up to £5,000 for the larger schemes to go towards the costs of equipment, insurance, identity cards and so on. Help with the bidding process was also on offer, and printed guidelines were available.

Councillors discussed whether such a scheme, in a village like Steeple Aston, would include offers of transport to hospitals or supermarkets. Also in question was whether it was better to look for volunteers first, and then see who needed help, or the other way round. Kidlington, it seems, held an open meeting in the public library and recruited 73 volunteers, well outnumbering the 23 users identified so far.

Mr Ablett said he would email literature about the scheme to the Parish Clerk for distribution to councillors. They will then consider if such a scheme would be of benefit to the village. The chairman, Margaret Mason, said the Parish Council would evaluate the idea; it might be willing to get a scheme started, but would then seek to pass it on to volunteers.


Café at play area attracts the crowds

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A new café at Steeple Aston play area has opened on Friday afternoons. And in the April sunshine children and parents rushed to sample the drinks and icecreams on offer from the brand new Lolly Stop.

The Lolly Stop is the brainchild of Jacqueline Elliot, a former BA cabin crew member who lives in the village. She says, “I suppose you could say I’ve gone from being a trolley dolly to selling lollies!”

icecreams

It was lucky for Jacqueline that the first day of official opening turned out to be a sunny one. She said, “The atmosphere was fabulous. I couldn’t believe the queue, and the kids were just lovely.”

Jacqueline says the Lolly Stop is more a community service than a way of making money. “It’s just a nice way to start the weekend for parents and children.” She says. She has invested in a freezer, which she is being allowed to keep in the Sports and Recreation building.

At the moment, she is just serving icecreams and soft drinks. When she experimented with tea she found very few takers. She also has a table with magazines for swapping, and as a qualified first aider she keeps her kit on hand to deal with any cuts and bruises that occur.

She has lots of ideas for other services which could be provided among them a children’s hairdresser and the sale of local cards. She may also open the Lolly Stop on extra days if there is a demand for it.

There are likely to be plenty of customers most of the time as the new play area is attracting record numbers of parents and children to the village. A recent headcount found that the use had at least doubled since the new facilities were provided. Visitors are not just coming in from other villages, but from as far away as Brackley, Banbury and Bicester.

The zip wire, in particular, is holding up well despite its heavy use by adults as well as children. An indication of the extra use is the current need to empty the rubbish bins twice a week, whereas before once a month had been sufficient.

However the popularity of the playground has intensified the need for toilet facilities in the vicinity. The Parish Council’s plan is to put in a unisex lavatory, with disabled access and baby changing facilities, using stainless steel fittings as they are easier to clean and are more vandal proof. But clearly it will take time for the work to be done. The Parish Council has just started getting quotes for preparing a planning application.

But on Friday’s at least when the Lolly Stop is open, visitors have access to the toilet facilities in the Sport and Recreation building.


Concerns about affordable housing site addressed

Concerns about the proposed development of affordable housing on Sixtyfoot were addressed at April’s Parish Council meeting when they were raised by a member of the public. This followed the publication of an anonymous letter in Steeple Aston Life questioning the suitability of the site and pointing out worries over road safety if the development goes ahead.

Julia Whybrew, who was at the meeting as the SAL reporter, explains: “There is always a section in the meeting when the public can contribute ideas or ask questions so I asked about the issues raised by the letter. The letter writer said that Sixtyfoot was not a suitable site so I asked about any alternatives within Steeple Aston.

“I was told that Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC) had identified nine sites in the village. These were sent to the planners at Cherwell District Council to see whether planning approval might be forthcoming. The planners rejected six of the sites because they were away from any other housing or there was no reasonable access. That left three possibilities. The owners of the three sites were all approached to ask if they would agree in principle to sell some of their land for affordable housing. Two of the owners refused. So there is only one possible site for affordable housing in the village, for the time being at any rate.

“The letter writer also said the road by the Red Lion is dangerous and that a development on Sixtyfoot was therefore not sensible. I explained that I thought the draft proposals given to the Parish Councillors last month by Sovereign Housing Association would make the road by the Red Lion safer, and I asked if I had understood the preliminary proposals correctly. I said I thought that pedestrians would be safer because of a pavement along Sixtyfoot from the entrance of the potential new development to the top of Water Lane. Car drivers would be safer because a pavement would give more visibility than currently allowed by the hedge around the Red Lion car park. And finally the sight lines required for the entrance of the affordable housing would probably result in the current dangerous turning into Hill House being improved.

“The bend and hill at the Red Lion means that it can never be a really safe corner, but I think these proposals would make it better. The Parish Councillors could not give me a definite answer on this as the Highways Department has not said what it will do if the affordable housing goes ahead, and ‘it is difficult to get anything out of them’.

“I asked whether the Parish Council might push for these safety measures anyway and was told that we did not have any chance of getting them in the current economic climate unless the project materialises. So, as I understand it, the proposed affordable housing could well result in the road by the Red Lion being a bit safer for all of us.”

Later in the meeting, it was reported that there are no details yet of the progress of the discussion between the brewery and the Red Lion landlord on how to put a pavement beside the car park but the Councillors were hopeful that a solution would be agreed. Sovereign Housing Association has got some more detailed plans for the look of the houses and these will be sent to the Councillors shortly. The Councillors think that Sovereign has taken on board the need for some play space for children and they believe that the plans now include four or five more parking spaces than were in the initial proposal. Everyone is keen that there should be no temptation to park on Sixtyfoot.

Once all the details of the proposals are agreed there will be an exhibition of the plans in the Village Hall, probably in the second week of June. This will allow comments to be made to Sovereign before any planning application is submitted. The Councillors are keen that villagers come along and share their ideas and concerns as past experience shows comments will not be wasted. When the Lawrence Fields development was being considered the comments influenced the location of some houses and the closeness to the road of the buildings.

There was also discussion about what happens if the current affordable housing proposals do not go ahead or the recent housing survey shows there is demand for more than the proposed 12 homes. The answer is that the Cherwell planners are highly unlikely to give approval for any other housing at the present time.

The Councillors agreed they would ‘do their damnest to make it an attractive site’, achieving this with lots of planting. This is currently the only potential site and the Councillors made it clear they are determined to do what they can to mitigate the effect of the development for the immediate neighbours.


Plans for affordable housing are revisited

The developers of the proposed affordable housing in Steeple Aston are reconsidering their plans in the light of comments at last month’s Parish Council meeting and a new survey of villagers’ requirements. Oxfordshire County Council is also looking at the road safety implications of the development.

In an update for villagers the Parish Council says:

“Following feedback at the Parish Council meeting in March, the Housing Association who may buy and develop the land at Sixty Foot are having further discussions with the planners at Cherwell. They are looking again at the proposed layout of the site and also considering the recent update of the register of interest. This is to ensure that the original number of houses, twelve, is right and the mix of sizes meets the current needs of the village.

Making the road safe near the site and past the Red Lion is obviously important – Oxfordshire County Highways are aware of this and are considering footpath proposals and whether other alterations are necessary. Clearly improvements to road safety would benefit not only any new development but also the whole village.

The revised plans and the alterations to the highway should be on view by the end of May or early June at the Village Hall for everyone to see and to give their views to the planning department at Cherwell. If major revisions are needed to the proposed plans, we may have to wait still longer. We’ll keep you updated through SAL and the website.”

The draft site plan for the new affordable housing development was shown to councillors and others before the March Parish Council meeting. The developers, Sovereign, had asked to come and discuss the plans of the initial site layout to ensure that local knowledge was fed into the plans at an early stage.

The councillors thought the initial plans for the general layout looked attractive, and they asked about lots of the details. Attention focussed on the proposed layout for the area and the 12 houses, with councillors concerned that there would be sufficient parking spaces for residents and visitors, and that there would be space for children to play.

There was also discussion of whether the mix of two and three bedroomed houses and bungalows was right. Following the meeting a new Register of Interest Survey was commissioned, in order to be sure of the best mix of housing for the needs of the village.


Parish costs reduced ‘a bit’ for coming year

The amount of council tax which will come to Steeple Aston Parish Council to spend on the village in the next financial year will be slightly less than it was last year, despite the recession.

In January the Parish Council set the budget for the village for the next financial year. The figures are sent to Cherwell District Council and a portion of your council tax, known as the precept, comes back to the council to be spent in the village.

The precept for 2010/2011 is set at £19,990, a small reduction on last year’s figure of £20,600, and works out at just under £50 a year for a Band D property. You can view the full figures by clicking on the link at the bottom of this story, on the village notice boards or you can ask the Parish Clerk for a copy. These figures don’t apply to Middle Aston as they have a Parish Meeting not a Parish Council and do not set a precept.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason said, “With the pretty miserable financial situation nationally at the moment the council are pleased to have been able to reduce the amount a bit.”

She went on to explain what your money is used for: “The greatest amounts, over £3,000 each, are insurance, loan repayment (on the loan the council took out to partnership fund the grant money which paid for the major re-development of the Sport and Recreation Centre and Robinsons Close), the Clerk’s wages and expenses and a village steward.

We are hoping to put together all the maintenance jobs in the village which we have had done on an individual basis so far, and employ a part-time village steward who will have responsibility for these and for keeping the village in good order. This will not include the grass cutting, the next significant expenditure, which will be done again by our excellent contractor and for which we do get a proportional Council grant. This is somewhat experimental this year but by re-allocating items under the heading of village steward we will be able to do this without any extra expenditure.

Last year we were putting aside funds for the final phase of re-furbishment at the play area and Millennium Park. This is now complete and is about to have its Grand Opening. In all this, project has cost £77,000, which is pretty good for what has been achieved, but amazingly it has only cost Steeple Aston £3,500, the rest having been obtained as grants, a tribute to Richard Preston’s remarkable fund raising abilities.

Grants to the PCC towards churchyard maintenance, and to SAL, S.A.V.A. and the website also are made from the precept. We have an annual audit fee of around £500 and this year are likely to have to pay £750 for an election. As we are responsible for the external maintenance of the Village Hall, the S&R Centre and the adjacent play spaces and car park we continue to build our reserves to ensure that these are well looked after. The 2010/11 precept works out at about £49 for a band D property. I hope you think that it represents good value for Steeple Aston.”

Mrs Mason added, “The Parish Plan has now been completed, and congratulations to the Editor and her committee who have done a remarkable job collecting, collating and publishing the results. The Parish Council will be holding a special meeting shortly to consider how best to implement the Plan’s findings. We will also have the Parish Council AGM in May and of course every Parish Council meeting is open to the public -look on the noticeboards or on this website for the agenda. You will be welcomed warmly if you would like to come and give us your views or just to see what your Parish Councillors do. Luckily they cost the Parish Council nothing.”

To see the full breakdown of the figures, please click here.


May 2010

No parish election, but vote for district councillor

There will be no election for Steeple Aston Parish Council this year, as only the seven councillors currently serving have been nominated. These seven therefore are elected unopposed and will come in to office on Monday, May 10th . .

The seven councillors are: John Coley, Stuart Ferguson, Margaret Mason, Clare McKinley,Richard Preston, Marian Trinder and Dorothy Willatt. To find out more about the Parish Council and for the councillor’s contact details, please click here.

But May 6th will still be a busy election day, with local elections being held for 17 district councillors to serve on Cherwell District Council as well as the General Election. As long as you are registered, you can cast your vote at Steeple Aston Village Hall between 7.00am and 10.00pm.

The district council elections are for one councillor in each ward. The Astons and Heyford ward, which includes Steeple Aston, has two candidates standing: James Macnamara, the current incumbent, for the Conservatives and David Shakespeare for the Liberal Democrats.

And in the General Election Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP for Banbury for the last 27 years is standing once again. Five other candidates are runnning against him.. They are: Lucy Dale (Green), David Fairweather (UKIP), David Rundle (Liberal Democrat) Les Sibley (Labour) and Roseanne Edwards (Independent).


Many flowers bloom at show despite late Spring

This year’s Spring Show received a lot of good flower entries and, rather surprisingly considering the weather, more entries in the horticultural classes than last year.

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The winner of the Mead Vase for the most points in the show was Daphne Preston, who also won theDuncan Cup for the Horticultural Classes and the Flower Club Silver Trophy.

The cookery classes were hard fought, as usual, with ginger cake and marmalade being the most competitive classes. The winner of the WI Cup for Cookery classes was Vicky Clifton.

The floral art and handicraft sections had fewer entries than last year.The winner of the Handicraft Cup was Janet Coley, and Sheila Ballard won the visitor’s choice of the most charming flower arrangement.

As usual the limerick had more entrants than any other class, and the winning entry from Thomas White was:

There was a young girl called Maisie…
The towns-people thought she was lazy;
So she bought a new bike.
Rode up Scafell Pike…
And now they all think that she’s crazy!

There was new cup this year, the Bedding Family Trophy, which was given for the best entry in the children’s classes, irrespective of age. It was won by Alfie Thatcher for his sponge cake, decoratedas an Easter cake.

For the full results, please click here.


Village Emergency Response Plan published

Steeple Aston now has its own Emergency Response Plan to deal with emergencies in the village until the emergency services arrive. Examples of emergencies are a major road traffic accident, gas explosion, a severe snowfall, someone suffering a heart attack – anything which might endanger life.

Although many people in the village offer help and know who to ask when in trouble, the Parish Council, with support from Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council, decided it would be useful to have a list of volunteers and resources to be called on in such emergencies.

The list will be updated regularly. If you know of any changes of names or contact details on the list, please tell the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet on 01869 347000 or email parishclerk.steepleaston@fsmail.net. The Parish Council will also be arranging training in first aid for volunteers in the Plan (and anyone else interested) and in the use of defibrillators.

Copies of the Emergency Plan are held in Harris’ Stores, Dr Radcliffe’s School, the Red Lion, the White Lion and the Church. Copies are also held by all members of the Parish Council, Rector Stephen M’Caw and Roger Needle, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator.

The Plan is also on the website Noticeboard. To view it, please click here.


April 2010

Children have fun opening their own play area

There was a bit of a mystery as to who was going to cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening of the new Steeple Aston play area on Friday, 19th March. There was some talk of a celebrity – or even more than one – coming to perform the ceremony.

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But as it turned, the children themselves were the special guests at the Grand Opening. And they didn’t need any celebrities to help them cut the ribbon and declare the play area officially open with a cheer.

The ribbon was cut by Amy and Maddie Boote and Thomas,Benjamin and Daniel Stacey. Their parents were on the play area working party, which had made the whole thing possible. They were supported by lots of their friends from Dr Radcliffe’s School who joined in the cheers

Before the ceremony, many of those involved in the project were invited to a buffet lunch in the Village Hall, and they were joined by local MP Tony Baldry who came along to have a look at the play area, and even (it is rumoured) had a try on the zip wire.

Others at the lunch included Fiona Danks from the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, Kate Hartley from Cherwell District Council , Howie Watkins, the OCC Playbuilder Development Officer, Sarah Wallace from the Let’s Play Project in Banbury, Lynne Hayward of Friends of the Frank Wise School in Banbury, three pupils from the same school and their tutor.

Trevor Stewart who was responsible for the building work was there along with Bob and Brenda Bickley who are in charge of equipment storage. There were also representatives from the Parish Council, Dr. Radcliffe’s Trust, Viridor, the Baby and Toddler Group and Frances Brown, the Headteacher at Dr. Radcliffe’s School.

They had lunch with the members of the play area working party led by Richard Preston, Vice Chairman of the Parish Council. They are Steve and Lisa Boote, Les and Lynne Stacey and Janet Coley.

Janet had made a photographic record of the project from start to finish, which was on display in the Village Hall. After lunch, there was entertainment from the choir of Dr Radcliffe’s School who sang two songs as a thank you for the new play area.

Then the action moved outdoors for the official opening ceremony. Despite the drizzle there was an excited atmosphere as Richard Preston was stopped mid-speech. by Margaret Mason, Chairman of the Parish Council. She thanked all involved especially Richard, and presented him with a plum tree as a token of their gratitude.

Then the children cut the ribbon, there was a big cheer and they all rushed off to play on the equipment where the rain did not seem to spoil their fun at all. But there was a wonderful supply of cakes on offer in the Village Hall, so children and parents alike were soon tempted inside to enjoy them while they dried off.

The play area is already proving extremely popular with children from the village and further afield. The total cost of the project was £77,000, of which the Parish Council paid only four per cent. The rest of the funding was provided Oxfordshire County Council’s Playbuilder Fund (£45,000), the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (£9,000) and Cherwell District Council (£9,727).

A £10,000 grant came from OCC’s Aiming High Fund for improving access and the quality of the play experience for children with disabilities. This paid for the reorganisation of the paths to make them accessible, and the installation of a small trampoline at ground level, which can take a wheelchair. This makes Steeple Aston’s play area one of the very few which allows disabled children to play alongside their friends and family, and means it attracts visitors from a very wide area.

For lots more photos, please click here.


Upper Heyford development gets go ahead

Plans for the development of the former US air force base at Upper Heyford have been approved by the government after an inquiry.

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The wrangle over the future of the site, across the Cherwell Valley from Steeple Aston, lasted more than a decade as the former owners, the North Oxfordshire Consortium, argued with Cherwell District Council over its fate.

The Consortium, which involves house builders Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes, wanted to build 1,075 homes, a primary school and a number of retail and business units at Heyford Park, as the site is now known.

Conservation issues were raised by English Heritage, which sees the site as one of historical significance because of the role it played during the Cold War.

The site is now owned by Dorchester Group, which welcomed the decision by Communities Secretary, John Denham, saying it would safeguard hundreds of jobs at the site in businesses located in former military buildings.

A spokesman for the council said: “Cherwell District Council is disappointed by the decision and has maintained a consistent position to ensure the long-term conservation of the nation’s Cold War heritage, in line with guidance provided by English Heritage, while balancing the delivery of sustainable economic and housing growth.”

The decision was in line with the recommendation of an inquiry inspector.

Mr Denham concluded that “the proposals strike a sustainable and reasonable balance between securing the long-term future of the appeal site and retaining its built and natural heritage”.

He was satisfied that “the proposal will achieve a high quality of design and provide a level of employment that is appropriate and proportionate within the context of the site’s location and its limited access to services”.

Margaret Mason, Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council commented. “We have always backed Cherwell District Council over the future plans for Upper Heyford. We believed that the 1,000 houses and 1,500 jobs within the framework set out by Cherwell provided a good solution for the site. Times and national policies have changed very considerably over the last decade and a huge amount of energy has been spent progressing plans for the former USAF Base. The opinions of English Heritage became dominant in attempting to achieve a practical solution to the site’s future.

“Now it’s all change again with the Secretary of State supporting the granting of planning permission to the NOC. We will have to await the response from the new owners, the Dorchester Group, who will undoubtedly wish to see a rather different plan implemented.

“The Parish Council has always supported the opportunities for employment that Upper Heyford gives but had real concerns over pressure of traffic on rural road networks and the links across the Cherwell Valley. We were also keen to see the dominant water towers, the fence and unsightly redundant buildings removed. Given its position on the edge of the rural Cherwell Valley and the close proximity of Bicester, where plans for substantial housing development are being progressed, we believe that the future growth of the site should be limited to no more than the original numbers but that the final solution should be agreed soon, to end the uncertainty for those who already live or work on the site.”


Draft plans for new affordable houses shown to Parish Council

The draft site plan for the new affordable housing development proposed for an exception site on Sixtyfoot was shown to councillors and others before the March meeting of Steeple Aston Parish Council.

The Housing Association Sovereign had asked to come and discuss the plans of the initial site layout with the Parish Councillors. The meeting was held to ensure that local knowledge was fed into the plans at an early stage.

The Rural Housing Enabler from the Oxfordshire Association of Local Cuncils (OALC)and Cherwell District Council’s Strategic Housing Officer came along as well, an opportunity to make sure that plans were progressing positively and any alterations agreed could be fed in at this stage.

Sovereign Housing will use the comments from the meeting to inform detailed proposals which they will present at a public exhibition in the village, towards the end of May. They will also keep in touch with the Parish Council as the plans develop. This public exhibition will be held before the planning application is submitted to the district council.

The councillors thought the initial plans for the general layout looked attractive, and they asked about lots of the details. Much of the detail was not yet evident as elevations have still to be prepared.

Attention focussed on the proposed layout for the area and the 12 houses, with councillors concerned that there would be sufficient parking spaces for residents and visitors, and that there would be space for children to play.

There was also discussion of whether the mix of two and three bedroomed houses and bungalows was right. The original Register of Interest Survey was carried out by OALC in 2008, and in order to be sure of the best mix of housing for the needs of the village now it was agreed that a second survey should be quickly arranged and carried out.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason said, “OALC will again prepare the survey and it will be delivered to every house in the village in the next week. If you, or anyone you know wishes to register an interest PLEASE try to post it back to OALC as soon as you can, it will be crucial in deciding what sizes of houses are built.”

There is still much discussion about the exact position of the footpath, OCC Highways are working on the plans for this and will also be consulted on the possibility of traffic calming on Sixtyfoot.

Don’t forget, if you are interested in one of the affordable houses when they are built, you must be on the Cherwell District Council’s housing waiting list in order to be considered.


Nominations required for May Parish Council election

Steeple Aston Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet, has just received the Notice of Election and Election Nomination Papers for the Steeple Aston Parish Council election, scheduled to take place on Thursday May 6th.

Anybody who is nominated and seconded by local government electors in the Parish (i.e. people on the Electoral Role) and fulfils the criteria on the Nomination Form may stand for election provided that their Nomination Papers are received by the Returning Officer at Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, no later than noon on Thursday, April 8th.

If the election is uncontested all councillors standing again would be re-appointed. If it is contested, i.e. if other candidates put themselves forward, and there are more than seven nominations altogether, the election will take place on the 6th May, or a later date of 27th May, should a Parliamentary General Election be called for 6th May. If that happens, a further Notice of Election will be published and there will be an additional nomination period.

If you wish to stand for election it is very important that the nomination papers are properly filled in and returned to Bodicote House before noon on Thursday 8th April.

Nomination Papers are available from:

Cathy Fleet, Parish Clerk
Westfield Farm Cottage,
Fenway,
Steeple Aston
OX25 4SS
Tel: 01869 347000
Email: parishclerk.steepleaston@fsmail.net

or from:

The Returning Officer,
Bodicote House,
Bodicote,
Banbury,
OX15 4AA


March 2010

Mrs Smith dies soon after 100th birthday

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Sadly, we have to report that Mrs Daphne Smith died on Tuesday, 2nd February, just a few weeks after celebrating her 100th birthday. She died peacefully in Horton General Hospital after a very short illness. Her funeral will be held at Steeple Aston Church on Monday, 15th February at 2.00pm.

Mrs Smith who lived in Steeple Aston right up until the last few months of her life, was 100 years old on Wednesday, 23 December 2009. Steeple Aston Bellringers marked the occasion by ringing a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples. .

Like her parents and their parents before them, Mrs Smith was born and bred in Steeple Aston. Just before her birthday, she reminisced about her long life in the village with Julia Whybrew who wrote:

“Mrs Smith was the daughter of the village postman and one of seven children, among whom she was the only girl. She says her brothers were very kind to her and played with her and she was “always happy”.

Her brothers had some games in which she did not take part, and their favourite was “fox and hounds” which involved chasing each other all over the village. Also they loved the snow but she didn’t, finding “it too cold”.

She left school at fourteen and helped her mother with the household jobs. Although she did odd jobs for others in the village she did not go out to work regularly. Her mother had been in service, initially at Rousham and then at Blenheim. She had had a very happy time at Blenheim and “the food had been wonderful”.

Mrs Smith was a ‘Kings Messenger’. This was a system whereby the girls in the village went to two houses to knit or sew one afternoon a week between 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Their output was mainly socks and nighties which were then sold and the proceeds given to support missionaries.

She remembers going to the Horticultural Show in the Bradshaw’s garden at The Grange. She described the Bradshaws as “looking after” Northside, and Miss Bowyers “looked after” Southside.

Mrs Smith’s family lived near the top of the Dickredge and the household water came from a well in the garden. The wells around Southside never dried up, whereas on Northside they were much less reliable. She could remember the Rectory well running dry and water having to be brought to the school from Banbury when its well was empty.

The steepness of the Dickredge has always been a problem. When it snowed in December 1928 the car taking her to the church for her wedding had great trouble getting up the slope. Her mother was married on 26 December and she wanted to get married on Boxing Day as well. But someone else had already booked the church for that day, so she got married on 27 December instead.

She met her husband when he was working in the village putting in the water pipes for the Crescent and she was outside cleaning the windows. But he was no stranger as he was a Steeple Aston man and his parents had been at the village school at the same time as her mother. He was a wonderful gardener and grew both vegetables and flowers very well.

They had two sons and one of them, Mel Smith, is still living in the village while the other brother is not far away. So her family’s close connection with the village continues.”


New measures to help with future village snowfalls

More grit bins – and even perhaps a special snow plough for the village – were among the measures discussed by the Parish Council to help minimise disruption in case of future serious snowfalls in Steeple Aston.

The council agreed at its meeting on Monday 18th January to provide additional grit bins at four new sites. They are: by the Village Hall opposite the vehicle entrance to the school; at the east end of The Crescent; at the top of Jubilee Close; and on the corner of Fenway by the old riding school.

The bins will cost £150 plus VAT each and will be installed and filled by the Oxfordshire County Council.

Councillors congratulated Tim Taylor, of Rectory Farm, for his efforts using an agricultural vehicle to clear snow from the roads during this year’s big freeze.Tim has been asked to investigate the cost of a second-hand snow plough which might be attached to the front of such a vehicle and do the job more effectively in future.

There was some concern that cars, especially on Southside, might get snowed in rather than released by a snow plough, but it was thought a plough would be very helpful on Sixty Foot and Fenway.


Mystery guests to officially open play area

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Some mystery guests have been invited to cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening ceremony of Steeple Aston’s new play area on Friday, 19th March at 3.00pm.

The opening ceremony has been timed to coincide with the end of the school day, so there should be plenty of children and parents there to join in the celebrations and find out who the mystery guests are.

Before the ceremony, there will be a lunchtime reception in the Village Hall for all those who have helped with the project.

Village children – and many visitors from further afield – have been enjoying the new facilities for a couple of months now, and their reaction has been very positive.

One problem that has arisen is the scuffing of the bark under swings. Fortunately a local company, based Upper Heyford, has been developing a gel that will hold the bark together to make a sort of scuff mat. They are going to run a free trial of their product under the basket swing.

Some further planting around the play area will take place in the next few months, but otherwise the works are now complete.

The construction of the play area, which has taken over five months, came in on budget and cost £77,000. The Parish Council only had to find four per cent of that amount. The rest of the funding came from Oxfordshire County Council’s “Playbuilder” fund, Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) and Cherwell District Council. A grant of £10,000 was also received from Oxfordshire County Council’s ‘Aiming High Capital Grant’ for improving access and the quality of the play experience for children with disabilities.


Concerns raised over proposed site for affordable

Some residents are worried about the choice of the proposed site for more affordable housing by the telephone exchange on Sixtyfoot in Steeple Aston. They attended the recent Parish Council meeting to raise their concerns.

Parish councillors explained that initially some six to nine potential sites had been identified, but most of them had been quickly rejected as unsuitable by the planners at Cherwell District Council. Others were ruled out because the landowner did not wish to sell. Just one possibility had remained: the site on Sixtyfoot.

The Parish Council and Cherwell District Council have not yet been shown plans by the housing association, Sovereign, so the proposals have not yet got planning approval from the district council or approval from Oxfordshire Highways Department. The vital route for a footpath to the houses has not yet been announced either.

Local residents raised several concerns including the danger from traffic on the Red Lion corner, the school being oversubscribed and the housing being far out of the village.

On the other hand it was reported that the Parish Plan and a previous housing survey had identified demand from local people for more affordable homes, both for rent and shared ownership, and for the elderly as well as families. If the Sixtyfoot site is rejected the Parish Council will continue to look for an alternative site.

Sovereign Housing intends to hold an open meeting and exhibition in the village to show their plans of the plans for 12 housing units of various sizes. At that stage villagers will be free to put their comments to the Cherwell District Council planners.


February 2010

New play area open to all

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Children in Steeple Aston are already enjoying their new play area in Fir Lane, which is now officially open, having passed its final safety inspection on Christmas Eve.

Latein the afternoon on December 24th, the ROSPA play area inspector gave his approval of the play area and was pleased to pass it on all aspects.

There is a little work remaining to complete the water play feature and some minor landscaping to be done when the ground thaws out sufficiently. During the early Spring there will be some additional planting, but apart from that all is complete.

A team of volunteersare in place to carry out a weekly visual inspection, with a more in-depth inspection on a less frequent basis. As the area settles down and the grass begins to grow again the plastic matting that looks a bit like black honeycomb will green over and provide a safe and stable surface around some of the equipment.

Richard Preston, the Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council, who has led the project said, “It is hoped to organise an official opening sometimeduring the next few months but for now join in with the fun that is being experienced by all those youngsters and young at heart.A senior citizen has been spotted on the zip-wire! Please be aware of low-flying baby boomers!”

The construction of the new play area, which has taken over five months, cost close on £70,000. It was made possible thanks to funding from Oxfordshire County Council’s “Playbuilder” fund, Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE) and Cherwell District Council. A grant of £10,000 was also received from Oxfordshire County Council’s ‘Aiming High Capital Grant’ for improving access and the quality of the play experience for children with disabilities.

For further information, contact Richard on 01869 340512.

And if you’d like to give your verdict on the new play area by joining in the discussion on the website’s Village Forum, please click here.


Parish action plan distributed to all households

An action plan for the villages of Steeple and Middle Aston has been devised in response to a survey of villagers’ views last summer.

The Parish Plan, which describes the survey findings and gives action points for the future, is currently being delivered to all residents.

The survey, which had a 58 per cent response rate, found that villagers like living here. They are most concerned that there should be no major changes to either Steeple or Middle Aston. They want the size of the villages, the shop, the school, the pubs, the friendliness and the community spirit to be maintained.

There was majority support for a small amount of housing development, especially affordable housing, but villagers were divided on whether traffic calming measures should be introduced.

The action plan makes a wide range of recommendations for the Parish Council and others to consider. They include pressing for more information and action on a range of green issues and improvements to the bus service. There are also practical suggestions like lowering the sink in the village hall and the provision of an outside toilet there, as well as a wish for improvement in broadband speeds and mobile phone reception.

The plan will be on sale in the village shop in due course at a cost of £1 per copy. To read a summary of the findings and the action plan please click here.


Villagers and visitors pay tribute to Iris Murdoch

An enthusiastic crowd gathered in Steeple Aston to honour one of its most famous residents, the author and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch, and raise £3,500 for charity.

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This year marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Dame Iris, and the tenth anniversary of her death. She lived in Cedar Lodge on Northside with her husband Professor John Bayley between 1956 and 1986.

The celebrations on Saturday, 21st November started with a reception in a packed Village Hall, with food and drink donated by various companies and individuals in and around the village. Professor Gordon Wilcock, founding member and Vice President of the Alzheimer’s Society gave an address.

An auction and raffle (with prizes generously donated locally), sale of Irisobilia and private donations, further helped raise money for the Society and for Vale House, the Botley Alzheimer’s Home, where Iris was nursed.
he church was packed for the concert which followed. ‘Iris Murdoch in Words and Music’, was devised by Nicholas Cleobury. He said, “Commentaries and readings were superbly delivered by Simon Woods, the Choir of Somerville College sang wonderfully under the direction of David Crown, Colin Chambers and friends gave a fine performance of Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D and Dorothy Willatt and Stefan Roberts distinguished themselves in their contributions – from Purcell to the Beatles!

“It was a pleasure to welcome people from the Alzheimer’s Society, Iris Murdoch Society and others from further afield, alongside a wonderful village turnout! There was a great deal of hard work by many from the village who worked tirelessly to ensure the great success of the event. It made £1,225 each for the Alzheimer’s Society and Vale House and £1,050 for the church.”

A number of stories about Iris Murdoch were collected in anticipation of the concert and not all of them were used. To read these reminiscences, please click here.


Handbell Ringers go visiting and wassailing

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Steeple Aston’s Handbell Ringers have been out and about bringing Christmas cheer to the village and raising money for charity. They also entertained wassailers having their annual get-together in the Village Hall.

Pictured here wrapped up warm on a chilly night are some of the younger ringers, Sebastian and Benedict M’Caw and Rona Graham, with Mrs Diana Gardiner.

Candlelight, mulled wine and mince pies set the scene for the annual Wassail Evening in the Village Hall on Sunday, December 13th. Forty or so wassailers sang the old favourite carols, some attempting the descants and all leaping to their feet for the actions of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.

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Roderick Nicholson was Master of Ceremonies, Nicholas Cleobury provided professional piano accompaniment and Barbara Brewer organised the refreshments. Just when everyone had sung themselves hoarse, the Handbell Ringers arrived and the mellow notes of the bells rounded off the evening.

A collection was made for the Handbell Ringers’ charities for this year: the County Air Ambulance Trust and The National Society for Epilepsy.


January 2010

New village site found for a dozen affordable homes

After a “frustrating” two years, a new site has been found to build more affordable housing in Steeple Aston. An exhibition of the plans for 12 housing units of various sizes will allow villagers to have their say before planning permission is sought.

The land is on Sixtyfoot, on the left as you leave the village, after the last house and before the telephone exchange. It will be developed by Sovereign Housing who administer the existing affordable housing on Shepherds Hill.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason says, “The owner of the land has come to an agreement with Sovereign Housing to develop the site and that agreement has the blessing of Cherwell District Council.

“There will probably be 12 units of varying size. The Parish Council, the landowner, Sovereign Housing and Cherwell District Council are all committed to achieving a development that will be a credit to the village and sit well in its rural setting.”

For the last two years, following the Housing Needs Survey,which the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council carried out in February 2008, the Parish Council has been working towards achieving a second development of affordable housing in the village.

The first development, Shepherds Hill, was completed in 2003, and has been regarded as a success, enabling mostly young people with real roots in the village to remain here and to raise families.

Mrs Mason said, “We want to see that possibility continuing, with some larger houses, appropriate for growing families, some more starter accommodation and, hopefully, some accommodation which would be suitable for older villagers. The last two years have been frustrating in the slowness of progress but, at last, now things are looking much better.

”The prospective site for the new development is an exception site. That means that it is land only available for development of affordable housing. As with the Shepherds Hill houses, occupancy of the new development will be limited to people who have established connections with Steeple Aston or, failing that, with one of the nearby villages. Anybody who may be interested should first get in touch with Cherwell District Council and make sure that they are on the Housing List.”

Plans are at present being prepared by Sovereign Housing, and these will have to be submitted for planning approval to Cherwell District Council. When the draft plans are available, probably in early Spring, the Parish Council and Sovereign will put them on display in the village for everybody to view. This will be before the planning application is made. It will be an opportunity for all to see, and comment on, what is planned.


Police warn of burglars who phone to make an appointment

Villagers are warned to look out for burglars who use a number of underhand methods to get into peoples’ homes – the latest being a phone call beforehand claiming they are from the water board.

There has been a spate recently of “distraction burglaries” in the area, where thieves use accomplices to distract householders while they look for items to steal. But in recent days there have also been reports of the thieves telephoning householders in advance to warn them officials from the water board will be calling – and so allaying their suspicions.

Police are asking villagers to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to them immediately. Elderly people living on their own are often the main victims of these crimes, so they should be made aware of this latest trick.

Local neighbourhood specialist WPC Caroline Brown of Thames Valley Police says: “There have been a number of distraction burglaries in the villages recently where elderly victims have been targeted. The offenders pose as water board officials in order to gain entry into homes, once inside they will search for items to steal whilst an accomplice distracts the resident.

“The offenders also use the excuse they have lost a ball in the garden to distract occupants and also that their child has thrown their inhaler into the garden, by doing so the hope is that you will go and check the garden and whilst doing so they will be in the house searching and stealing.

”If you know of any elderly neighbours or family members please can youmake them aware of this and advise them to ask any visitors for identification and to check it out the validity of the caller with the relevant company leaving the caller outside while this is done.”

Elderly people living alone who do not want to answer the door to strangers may refer callers to a friend or family member by putting a notice in their window. For more information on this Nominated Neighbourhood scheme, contact Roger Needle the village Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator on 01869 340028, or email l.needle@btinternet.com.

There have also been recent reports of carjackers using a new ploy to steal cars. They stick something to the back window, which the driver notices as he or she reverses out of a parking space. When the driver gets out of the car to remove the sticker from the back of the car, the thief jumps in to the car and drives off. Often, especially with women drivers, their handbag with keys, money and home address will still be inside the car.

Drivers are warned that if they see something stuck to their back windscreen, they should lock their car and drive away.

For the full text of WPC Caroline Brown’s November report, please click here.


Two steps forward, one snowy step back

Just as everything seemed to be getting back to normal, a further snowfall on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning brought much of the village to a standstill again.

Dr Radcliffe’s School, which had managed to open on Monday and Tuesday was closed once again on Wednesday for safety reasons, citing the treacherous roads as the main reason.

Village roads had been nearly cleared with some help from a council digger on Monday and Tuesday. But by Wednesday morning they were very slippery again, so few people ventured out in their cars.

Newspaper deliveries to the shop came to a halt once more, and there was no postal delivery. In fact there has only been one postal delivery to the village in more than a week.

Also there has been no rubbish collected from the village for over a week. Cherwell District Council says that villagers should leave their bins out for collection and they will come as soon as the roads are clear enough. All landfill and recycling sites in Oxfordshire are closed.

The 59 bus is still not coming through the village and is only using the A4260Oxford to Banbury road. Stagecoach say that passengers from the villages they are unable to serve should wait at a safe place on the A4260 and hail the bus.

No more snow is forecast for the next few days, and temperatures are expected to rise, so hopefully this second disruption will be shorter than the first one.


Slow improvement for villagers after heavy snow

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While life has not returned to normal after the heavy snow of Tuesday night, there have been deliveries of supplies to Steeple Aston, and more people have been able to get in and out of the village.

There have now been deliveries of milk, papers, bread and meat to the village shop. Prescriptions have also been delivered to the shop this week.

More drivers are managing to get out of the village. By Friday cars, not just four-wheel drives, were getting out of South Side and along Sixtyfoot to the main road. The main road was slushy but traffic was moving fine.

One of the week’s heroes was Tim Taylor, of Rectory Farm. Tim and his wife Jenny only returned from a holiday in France on Thursday night. They managed to drive from the channel port to Bicester in no time at all, but it took them two hours slipping and sliding their way from Bicester to Steeple Aston.

On Friday morning, Tim was out with a large farm vehicle doing emergency service as a snow plough. He managed to shift enough snow and ice to make it possible to escape the village from the church corner to the Banbury Road via Fenway – at least for a time.

It was also possible to catch a bus if you could walk to the main Oxford to Banbury road. Stagecoach were running their regular 59 service along the main road but not coming into villages. Customers can flag them down at any point along the main road.

Train services from Heyford Station to Oxford and Banbury were running to timetable. But Chiltern Railways were running a revised timetable, and no Bicester Taxibus services were operating. Bicester Village was only open for restricted hours.

Dr Radcliffe’s School remained closed, but class teachers posted work for the children to do on the school website http://www.dr-radcliffes.oxon.sch.uk.

Although there is no sign of the village roads being cleared, Oxfordshire County Council have refilled the grit bins, so there should be plenty available for the time being. Which may be just as well, as the very low temperatures are expected to continue and more snow is forecast for Sunday.


Snow brings Steeple Aston to a standstill

Heavy snow on Tuesday night left Steeple Aston looking like a traditional Christmas card. But on Wednesday morning the village was almost brought to a standstill with the school closed and hardly any traffic able to get in and out of the village.

With over 15 inches of snow falling in Oxfordshire overnight and through the morning, most villagers were unable to move their cars. Much of the snow had fallen after the roads had been gritted, making driving very hazardous. The train service was uncertain and there were no buses running through the village, so many people decided to stay at home.

There were no deliveries to the village shop. So there were no daily newspapers, and supplies of milk and bread quickly disappeared.

Dr Radcliffe’s School was closed, as were most other schools in the county. Families took advantage of the extra day’s holiday and got out their sledges and snowboards. Children had lots of fun in the deepest snow they’d ever seen in the village.

There were also many people out and about on foot taking photographs of the picturesque scene. If you have snowy photos you’d like to share, please email them to editor@steepleaston.org.uk.

To see the photos we have so far, please click here.

In need of help?

Oxfordshire County Council has a phone line for isolated elderly individuals to call if they need help during the cold weather. This is 0845 050 7666.

This is not an emergency number and it does not deal with transport or highways.

In an emergency, always ring 999.

The number to call for transport or highways issues is 0845 310 1111.


Villagers worry about anti-social behaviour and speeding

A survey in Steeple Aston has identified anti-social behaviour and speeding as the main concerns for villagers.

The survey, in which a representative sample of households were contacted, was conducted for the Neighbourhood Action Group, which includes the Thames Valley Police and other bodies along with local representatives.

The local NAG representative Roger Needle reports, “ The village would appear to have a worse anti-social behaviour problem than others in the Bicester Rural Area and will merit priority police attention in the immediate future.”

Local neighbourhood specialist office for the Thames Valley Police, WPC Caroline Brown, confirmed in her November report that the local team have already been at work on this and on the continuing problem of parking in the village.

She said, “Extra patrols have paid attention to these areas and we will continue to monitor and deal with any parking or anti-social behaviour issues identified.”

Roger Needle explained that it would be of help to the police to have more information on the extent of anti-social behaviour. He is planning to give every household in the village a form, which can be completed anonymously and forwarded directly to the police with details of any problem that has incurred or potentially could happen.

As far as speeding is concerned he says that what is needed is a Speed Detection Recorder to establish the extent of speeding at all times of the day and night. Several local villages are considering clubbing together to buy an SDR, and he is pursuing the possibility that Steeple Aston might want to contribute.

If you have concerns you want to pass on to the NAG, contact Roger on 01869 340028, or email l.needle@btinternet.com.

For the full text of WPC Caroline Brown’s report, please click here.


Welcome to the new Parish Clerk

Cathy Fleet has taken over as the Steeple Aston Parish Clerk. Cathy moved into the village a month ago and immediately applied for the post of Parish Clerk. She described it as coming in to the village “at the deep end.” However she seems remarkably cheerful about the prospect and has described her month here as “wonderfully friendly” and the village as “pretty and everything I have ever wanted”.

cathyfleet

Cathy has had a busy time recently, especially as she became a grandmother just before she moved house. Within a fortnight of arriving here she had unpacked completely and her interior design training is showing clearly. She is looking forward to taking part in village activities and has already joined the WI and is taking her dogs to the local agility class. In the future she would like to learn to ring the church bells and she “wants to do everything”.

Cathy likes dogs and horses, decorating, knitting and “generally making things”, including lace. She enjoys music and would like to learn to play the guitar. She would like to design her garden and “went mad in her first week” getting plants and putting in all the cuttings she has been given.

The village has clearly got a new Parish Clerk with a lot of energy and plenty of interests. In the past she learned to type and do shorthand which she is hoping will come back to her with a bit of practice. She is delighted by her welcome here and confident she can be a successful Parish Clerk.


Council seeks views on Village Steward

Steeple Aston Parish Council is asking villagers for their views on the appointment of a Village Steward to keep the village clean and tidy and take on many of the maintenance tasks currently done by volunteers.

The council estimates the cost of employing a Village Steward at around £4,000 a year. Though a proportion of the cost would be offset against what is regularly spent on repairs etc., there would need to be increase the precept to achieve this should the majority feel it was a good and worthwhile idea. As a guide £4,000 equates to an increase in a typical council tax, band D property, of £10 a year.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason explains, “We all like to see the village in good order and well maintained, and as a result there are a number of jobs in the village which need doing. Many, such as clearing litter or inspecting the play area are done at present by volunteers, often a parish councillor. Some, such as painting the bus shelter or repairing broken fences, we employ someone to do as the need arises.

“We already have a contractor to maintain the grassed areas of the village and control weeds on footpaths but the remaining duties come down to volunteers or are additional expenses. We are hugely grateful to those who do voluntarily do these jobs, but we feel that it is expecting a great deal for a very few to be doing so much for the rest of us.

”Many villages do employ a Village Steward, and a steward could undertake many necessary duties. These could include regular litter picking all around the village, cleaning the three bus shelters and the surrounds of the war memorial and also the pruning of shrubs and general maintenance of planting.

”One of the main jobs would be to carry out a weekly inspection of the enlarged play area and to ensure the paths within the Millennium Park, including the multi-use-games-area, are kept free of leaves and debris. The job would also include the regular weeding of the planted area around the Village Hall and pruning of the shrubs.”

The Parish Council has also had a number of requests for a toilet and baby changing facility near the play-area. They are considering this, but there are many implications, not least that it would be absolutely necessary for it to be checked and cleaned on a daily basis. They say it would not be easy to ask a volunteer to carry out this duty, but a Village Steward would make this possible.

The Parish Council would value your opinion on the appointment of a Village Steward. Leave a message with the Parish Clerk on 01869 34700 or email her at parishclerk.steepleaston@fsmail.net saying if you would support this or not, or drop a note in to any Parish Councillor. For a list of their names and addresses, please click here.