News Archive 2014

December 2014

Village clubs display their harvest skills

Brownies

For this year’s Harvest Festival village clubs and societies were invited to decorate the church with their own harvest displays.

Many organisations rose to the challenge providing imaginative and appropriate displays. They included the Brownies, whose contribution is pictured here. Also taking part were the WI, the bellringers, the football club, the badminton club, the Valentines, the choral society, players and SAVA. The Cricket Club’s contribution particularly caught the eye with a wicket made from carrots and leeks and tomatoes for balls.

The Allotment Association filled the porch with seasonal produce. A choir from Dr Radcliffe’s School sung at the service on Sunday, 29th September, and the Pre-School Children displayed their paintings. Food gifts were donated to Banbury Foodbank.

The service followed Harvest Supper in the Village Hall on Saturday night where the food was provided by the bellringers and entertainment by magician Jonny Oxford.

To see more photos of the harvest displays, please go to Church website, www.sntchurch.com and click on News.


November 2014

Neighbourhood Area plan up for consultation

An application to group Steeple and Middle Aston with nearby villages as a Neighbourhood Area for local planning purposes is up for consultation. It is hoped that the inclusion in the group of the Heyford Park developers, the Dorchester Group, may help to divert housing development away from the village to the brownfield site at the former airbase.

Residents who object to the application must make their views known to Cherwell District Council by Thursday, 23rd October,

Parish Council Vice Chairman Richard Preston explains:

“Cherwell District Council has received an application for the designation of the following parishes as a Neighbourhood Area to be known as ‘Mid-Cherwell’: They are Kirtlington, Duns Tew, Lower Heyford, Middleton Stoney, Somerton, Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, North Aston, Ardley with Fewcott, Fritwell and Upper Heyford Parish.

“To explain in very brief and simple terms, A Local Neighbourhood Development Plan (LNDP) will assist in the making of sensible and sustainable decisions by the various tiers of government and authorities on such issues as housing, local health care, local education, transport and community requirements.

“As most of you probably know there is considerable pressure being placed upon Oxfordshire to build thousands of new homes by 2031 and along with expansion of Banbury and Bicester, Heyford Park, the old air-base, has been picked out as a site for potential new housing over and above that already committed.

“Rural areas such as Steeple Aston, which is a category A village, supposedly capable of taking a considerable number of additional homes, could be subject to applications for extensive development and a LNDP has the potential to place some of that development away from the village and onto Heyford Park. It is not just about housing and we can be instrumental in making suggestions on other matters that could have an impact on our village and its residents.

“The Parish Council are in the very early stages of this process but we will keep you in touch with developments as they happen, so watch this space! Now for the official bit:-

“The application has been made by Ardley with Fewcott Parish Council as lead parish for a consortium of parish councils, the Dorchester Group and Heyford Park Residents Association, under Regulation 5 of The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012. The application can be viewed on-line at: www.cherwell.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplanning/ or at the District Council’s offices at Bodicote House, Banbury. The application is advertised for representations as to whether there is any reason why the District Council should not make the area designation. Representations can be made in writing to the Head of Strategic Planning and the Economy, Cherwell District Council, Bodicote House, Banbury, OX15 4AA, or by email to planning.policy@cherwell-dc.gov.uk no later than 23 October 2014. The application is the first formal step in preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan and seeks designation of a group of parishes as the Neighbourhood Area. A Neighbourhood Development Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. The Plan must comply with European and national legislation, have appropriate regard to national policy and be in general conformity with strategic local planning policy. The Plan will be subject to an independent examination and a referendum. Upon completion, the Neighbourhood Development Plan will become part of the statutory development plan for the area.”


Marian’s resignation brings another council vacancy

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The search is on to find a new member of Steeple Aston Parish Council following the resignation of Marian Trinder after more than five years’ service.

Marian, pictured here, joined the council in 2009 when she was working part-time at Dr Radcliffe’s School. She was welcomed on to the council as someone who could provide a link with the school and with young families in the village.

Now as her family have grown she has taken on a full-time job in Cowley, so spends much less time in the village. Throughout she has also continued to be busy as a leader with 1st Deddington Guides. With both these commitments she says she just doesn’t have the time to devote to council work anymore.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time on the council” she said, “Margaret, Richard, John and the others have all been lovely to work with. They’ve all put so much time and effort in to it, especially during my time with the affordable housing. I hope I’ve managed to play some small part in that achievement

“I hope others will now be able to provide a link with the young families in the village, and maybe in the future when I have more time, I will come back to it.”

Marian has agreed to stay on into next year if necessary until a replacement can be found. Meanwhile, the vacancy is being advertised as follows:

Steeple Aston Parish Council has a vacancy for a parish councillor. If you are interested in joining the Parish Council and making a difference within your community, please contact me by 30th October, and I will be pleased to give you more information.

Applications from previous applicants are welcome.

Cathy Fleet
Parish Clerk
Email: parishclerk.steepleaston@gmail.com
Tel: 01869 347000
Mobile: 07989398838


Summer Show carries on despite downpours

Prize-giving

This year’s Summer Show was blighted by rain for the first time in over 30 years. But everyone involved got stuck in and carried on regardless.

Show organiser Julia Whybrew said: “The Show was damp but great fun. There were lots of entries, fantastic teas and many new entrants. So a huge thank you to the committee, their friends, the judges, the sponsors, those who entered and those who came to the Show on such a wet day.”

The Dog Show was a very damp occasion but dogs and their owners braved the elements and speeded through the classes. Ikiru owned by Molly was judged the Dog of the Day – and was the star in the Dog with Talent category.

Fortunately, the entries were sheltered in the marquee and the Village Hall. The Sport and Recreation Centre was also open to provide shelter.

Hannah McLoone , pictured above receiving her cup from Horticultural Society Edwina Kinch, was a convincing winner in the children’s classes. She shared both the Junior and Senior Cups, and won the Children’s Photography prize. The standard of the children’s entries was particularly high with lots of youngsters trying their hand for the first time.

As always the veterans Richard and Daphne Preston and Julia Whybrew won a number of cups in the adult sections, with Daphne being this year’s Show Champion. But there were plenty of other trophy winners including Stan Nelson , Victoria Clifton, Hanny Nicholson, Janet Coley, Sheila Ballard, Pauline Chessum, Caroline Edwards and Jon Silverside.

For the full results, please click here.

For more photos, please click here


October 2014

Allotment Rose is third new councillor

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Steeple Aston Parish Council has chosen Rose McCready, Chair of the local allotment association, to fill the vacancy left at the election earlier this year.

Rose, who was selected from the four candidates who put their names forward, will attend her first meeting in September. She said: “I’m very much looking forward to it. I love living in Steeple Aston and feel that I would like to make more of a contribution to the community as a whole.”

Originally from Berkshire, Rose has lived in villages all her life. She moved to Steeple Aston in 2003 and lives in Lawrence Fields with her husband Nigel, a chartered surveyor based in Leamington Spa, and their two cats. She took early retirement last September after 35 years in education, spending the last 23 years in the demanding role of head teacher in Church of England primary schools, most recently in Adderbury.

Now she has time to explore other avenues and particularly to develop her strong love of horticulture. She plans to take an RHS qualification and to continue her involvement with Steeple Aston Church Allotments Association, of which she has been Chair for the last two years. She has had an allotment for eight years, and loves the peaceful environment of the allotments as well as the hard work. She’s excited about the development of the site and the recent introduction of bee-keeping there.

Naturally Rose is also a member of the village Garden Club and the Horticultural Society. In addition, she has recently started to help out with the refreshments at the Valentine Club, enjoying getting know some of our senior citizens.

Rose hopes that her interest in ecology and the environment, as well as her background in education, will help in her work for the parish council.

She said: “My strong link with the Allotment Association and our plans for the development of the site, I think would benefit the environment and embrace ecological issues that many people and children feel strongly about. If, by becoming a parish councillor, I might have some influence with decisions regarding the environment I see that of benefit to all.”


Coneygar Fields now occupied despite controversy

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Residents have moved in to the new affordable houses at Coneygar Fields, despite continuing anger and concern about the allocation process used by Cherwell District Council. And despite strong representations from councillors and others, the district council looks unlikely to change its policy in the future.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley explains the current situation:

“Myself and Richard Preston attended the Cherwell DC Parish Liaison Meeting on 18th June to put forward our and villagers’ views very forcefully on what has happened. Essentially the law changed in 2013, so that new 3-band criteria applied from January 2014. This had the effect of disenfranchising a group of people including from this village who were in the previous 5-band system.

“Cherwell had to change to comply with the new law, but we feel that they took an inflexible approach with projects (such as Coneygar Fields) which were under way under the old scheme.

“I’m afraid that, despite all the representations we have made, including handing CDC Regeneration and Housing a draft Rural Housing Policy based on other lawful English District Council ones, CDC have proved intractable and will not be altering their policies in the near future, if at all.

“Because Coneygar Fields is an “Exception Site” (one which would not normally have planning permission) special rules apply not only now, but whenever in perpetuity there is a vacancy. Tenancy offers will have to be made from those who qualify within the village, or from nearby villages, before offers are made to those without connections. But, of course, if the current 3-bands still apply, the result could well be as it is now.”

There was much discussion of the issues at the June Parish Council meeting. It was emphasised that this was not the fault of those who now live at Coneygar Fields and who had already been welcomed personally to the village, by Chair John Coley.

The council was told that the allocation to locals so far is three 3-bedroomed properties to Steeple Aston; two ground-floor maisonettes to Upper Heyford; one 4-bedroomed to Upper Heyford; and of the four rental properties – two are on offer to Steeple Aston; one to Lower Heyford and one to a family with no connection to Cherwell. There are also two 2-bedroomed houses in Shepherds Hill which need re-allocation.

The original 2011 Housing Survey identified 26 couples/families (seven in Steeple Aston) who qualified for affordable housing within the five-band system. Then in December 2013 when Coneygar Fields was half-built and the law changed, the bottom two bands were removed and 50 per cent of the original list no longer qualified.

Cherwell District Council is acting within the law. However the ‘transitional arrangements’ (as one new councillor succinctly expressed it) have been called into question. Did they realise the outcome of the new regulations well before they came into operation?

Also, there have been complaints about their strict adherence to the age of children on allocation day – i.e. if you have two children of different sexes and one reaches ten years old, they are allocated separate bedrooms, but if one child is nine years and eleven months on allocation day, they get to share.

John Coley has investigated other councils’ housing policies and has discovered some councils are more flexible with Rural Exception policies. But this seems to have been ignored by CDC.

There are a number of further issues to do with the sale of the land, which are being taken up with CDC lawyers, so it may be that this controversy will run and run.


Jubilee Sycamore Stone finally installed and blessed

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Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Sycamore Stone is now installed in the churchyard and was blessed by the Rector, Revd Marcus Green at the beginning of July.

The stone, carved out of Cumbrian green slate, thought to be 400 million years old, has three functions. It is a memorial to the enormous sycamore tree that dominated the west end of the churchyard through the last three centuries, a pointer to the young oak that has been planted in its place (as a gift from a generous family who are long-standing members of the village) and a commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee..

The front of the stone shows acorns and oak leaves at the top with the inscription: “This oak planted near the site of one of the longest-lived and largest sycamore trees in England commemorates the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II” The Crown Insignia sits beneath of the inscription.

On the reverse there is a design of sycamore leaves with the name of the old sycamore tree and its dates: “Acer Pseudoplatanus planted C18th died 2012

David Kewley the former parish councillor responsible (with former council chairman Margaret Mason) for the Sycamore Stone project tells the story of this unique memorial:

“The great sycamore (acer pseudoplatanus) was probably planted as a group of three young saplings around 1700, at a time when it was horticulturally fashionable (if that is the right description) to experiment with growing huge trees by planting them in small groups to grow together (there are other examples in Windsor Great Park). Over the succeeding decades and centuries the three young saplings grew up and merged into a single trunk, slowly becoming one tree (if you look at the remaining trunk you can see how the signs of this process remain).

“That tree probably reached its maturity at the end of the eighteenth century and remained a significant landmark in the village (and was almost certainly the largest tree in Oxfordshire, if not the south of England) for another 200 years until the early years of this twenty-first century, when it first showed signs of dying back.

“The tree was extensively pruned, cutback and dead limbs removed in 2007-8 but by 2011 it was clearly dying and by 2012 the last flicker of life in the form of a green shoot had gone. Later in that year the limbs were cut down and the logs removed, leaving the enormous stump that remains as a landmark.

“Margaret Mason, then Chair of the Parish Council, had the idea that the village should commemorate the great tree, and at the same time a village family offered to give a young oak to replace the sycamore. It seemed a great idea to combine a recognition of the old and the new trees with a tribute to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which also occurred during 2012….and so the idea for the Jubilee Sycamore Stone came into being.

“The Parish Council wanted a commemorative memorial which would be distinctive, beautiful, interesting to look at and which told something of the story of the three events. After considerable discussion, it was decided to see if we could find a sculptor to create a sculpted and carved standing stone to be placed in the churchyard. After some searching we found Bernard Johnson, a stone carving and letter cutting Craft Scholar with a studio in the Old Pig Sty at Park Farm, Kiddington.

“Bernard immediately responded to the idea of the project and volunteered to search for a suitable stone slab among the country’s quarries – particularly those which quarried contrasting coloured and different stone to that to be found in the Cotswolds.

“In the late summer of 2013 he visited a quarry in the Lake District and found a piece of Elterwater slate which matched our ideas and expectations. He negotiated a price for us and had it shipped down to his studio, so that he could study the stone and plan the decoration (front and back).

“At the same time (early autumn 2013) the Steeple Aston Churchwardens started the process of gaining the permission of the diocese for the installation of something which was a memorial but was not a gravestone – a process which was to take many months..

“By the spring of 2014 permission was granted and Bernard had space in his schedule to start the work – the beautiful carving of falling sycamore leaves which decorate the north face of the stone and the more formal lettering which explains the commemorative purpose of the stone on the south face.

“By the end of June all was (just) completed and Bernard with three helpers was able, on July 3, to install the stone on a concrete base set 18” below the soil level at a site chosen by the Churchwardens and the Vicar equidistant from the old sycamore and the new oak. On Sunday July 6 the stone was blessed by the Vicar at a ceremony after the 11am service – and there it now stands, as we hope and expect it will do, for the life of the new oak tree (at least).

“One part of the story has not yet been told – and that is how this has all been paid for. It has not been a charge to Steeple Aston parish funds, nor to the Church. It has been paid for entirely through the generosity of members of the village – through funds raised for and at the Jubilee Party in the summer of 2012 and from individual donations over the past two years.

“On behalf of the Parish Council and I hope the whole village – thank you all for your generous contributions to this impressive and beautiful memorial.”

To see lots more photos of the stone being carved, installed and finally blessed, please click here.


Retiring Chairman’s report hails building projects

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Retiring Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason’s last Annual Report congratulated the builders and developers at Coneygar Fields – the second affordable housing site built under her chairmanship.

She wrote: “Carter’s and Sovereign have completed Steeple Aston’s second affordable housing site on time and have delivered a development which I think the village can be very proud of. There are issues concerning the allocation process and the unique status of Rural Development Sites which the PC will need to continue to work on with CDC but it is very good to see the site completed and I congratulate Sovereign and Carters on a job well done.”

Mrs Mason also reported on the successful completion of the Village History Centre and looked forward to the reconstruction of the Rifle Plank Bridge and the installation of the Jubilee Sycamore Stone this summer.

She looked forward to cooperation between local villages and the Upper Heyford developers, writing, “The proposal by Dorchester Living to work with the local villages in forming a Neighbourhood Plan for this area of North Oxfordshire will keep councillors busy for some months. The hope is that it will protect the villages from unwanted development and concentrate the Government’s requirements for new housing stock on the old USAF base rather than piecemeal around the villages. It may well deliver other benefits but the potential for increased traffic in the area is a threat which will need to be addressed.”

Mrs Mason’s report also includes a look back over her 20 years as Parish Council Chairman, and all that has been achieved in that time. She concluded, “I have been very proud to be a member of this Parish Council, and to be its Chairman for such a long time. The Councillors have worked together so successfully and I think made a positive and lasting contribution to Steeple Aston. I wish them all well, including the new councillors, for the future. There is always a lot to do, some of it tedious, some important and rewarding but it all contributes to the wellbeing of the village. I’m sure that the new Chairman and the PC will continue to work toward making Steeple Aston a wonderful place to live.”

To read the full report, please click here.


September 2014

Sealed bids required for Summer Show auction

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We’re all used to the auction of fruit, veg and flowers at the end of the Steeple Aston Summer Show on Bank Holiday Monday. Pictured here is Horticultural Society Chairman Richard Preston in his usual auctioneer’s role at the end of last year’s show.

But in a new departure for the first time this year, there will be an auction by sealed bid. It will be for a special treat for Formula 1 fans – a tour for two people of the technical centre at LOTUS FI team’s Enstone headquarters.

Sealed bids will be accepted and opened just prior to the auction which will take place at the show at approximately 4.15pm. Bids should go to Richard Preston, Primrose Garden, North Side, Steeple Aston in a sealed envelope marked LOTUS F1.

There will be plenty to see and do before the auction though at the popular show, which is in its 123rd year. Proceedings start at 2.00pm when there will be a chance to see all the entries, and the judges’ choices in the marquee on Robinsons Close.

This year they will be welcoming back a favourite children’s entertainer, Tamsin, plus all the usual sideshows and entertainments on the field.

The Fun Fog show, sponsored by The Hart Veterinary Centre, starts at 2.30pm. You can enter your dog for “Dogs got Talent”, “Musical Sit”, “Dressing up Race” and “Dog with the Best Coat” with a special prize for Bad Hair Day and The Dog of the Day trophy.

Refreshments will be provided in the Village Hall and hot dogs on the showground.

There are plenty of classes to enter for adults and children alike with classes in photography, handicrafts and cooking as well as fruit, veg and flowers.

And this year the Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society, which runs the show, is offering a deal to entrants whereby they will receive free entrance onto the show ground during the afternoon of the show if they enter five classes or more saving you £2!

Schedules are available on this website or at the village shop or by calling Richard on 01869 340512 or Julia on 01869 347850. There are classes for everyone so don’t miss out. For more details call Richard on 340512 or email richard.preston5@btopenworld.com

To see the schedule and entrance form, please click here.


August 2014

Whit Racers have to brave the rain

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The theme for this year’s Whit Races was Samba and Scots, reflecting the Football World Cup in Brazil and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Entrants for the Fancy Dress Parade came as Fabulous Footballers, Amazing Athletes and Dancing Queens.

Unfortunately the weather was more Scottish the Brazilian, but plenty of local families braved the rain and took part as Organiser Anna Thatcher reports:

“After a week of poor weather forecasts the morning of the Whit Races dawned with driving rain, so with some trepidation Sue Tyler and I met on Robinsons Close and started to get ready.

“Alan Peckham had already very kindly sprayed the relevant lines on the field for us and so we waited for the Scouts to come and set up the marquees. After about 45 minutes we started to get worried but then Colin drove in cheerfully explaining he was early – we all looked a bit confused and then checked our notes – Colin was right – he was on time – we had got our timings wrong and could have had another hour in bed – we will remember next year!

“Once the marquees were up, with help and a gazebo from Jose Lluna we started properly setting up and hoped that people would come despite the rain. We had Bob and Sarah Wilkins and Andy manning the candy floss, Hannah McLoone selling homemade lemonade, Fiona McLoone on ice creams, Ted and Julia Whybrew on hot drinks and the Scouts with the BBQ and Tombola – now all we needed were customers!

“Luckily for us lots of families braved the weather and signed up for the races. As we started the Fancy Dress Parade the rain stopped and the winner was chosen. It was another McLoone, Rececca pictured above, who took home the Jan Lester George Memorial Trophy!

“Next year’s theme will be encouraging more home made outfits. The PA system was not that keen on the rain so I shouted my way through the races and a huge thank you to Alan Peckham and Rob Cooper for manning the football goal for the penalty shoot out. The rain came down again so the traditional Tug of War was abandoned and prize giving was zoomed through.

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“The Adrian Kinch Memorial Shield for participation was won by Tamsin Thatcher, pictured here, (not a fix I promise) and the relay trophy was not awarded this year (again due to lack of entries). We are looking to add some more races for ages 5 to 9 next year as these seem the most enthusiastic participants and any ideas would be welcomed.

“A lot of work went into the day and a huge thank you to all the people who helped us deliver the races by volunteering to hold the finishing tape – Fiona, Sarah , Silvana and Sam, those who manned stalls and Cathy Fleet and Helen Taylor who manned the sign in and results table – any mistakes in the attached results is mine not theirs!

“We raised nearly £200 for the Sports and Rec centre, Brownies made a small profit from lemonade and ice cream (which amazingly sold out despite the weather) and the Scouts made around £200 also. This is of course down on last year when we had a fantastic day for it but nevertheless a fun day was had and money was raised for village youth charities.

“Sue designed the brilliant posters, door drop, flyers and certificates and generally ran round on the day doing lots of jobs to make the races run smoothly. As Steve Boote has retired from the organising committee it would be great if one more person (or more) would like to join the organising committee as I would like to add other attractions on the day. The work in the run up is simple and fun – we meet in the pub and twist Alan’s arm to do all the work for us! But seriously another committee member would be very welcome.

Next year’s theme will be announced soon! Thanks very much for coming and participating”

To see the full results, please click here.


Rose homeward bound across the Atlantic

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Steeple Aston resident Rose Todd is on her way home across the Atlantic on the final leg of her journey of a lifetime as part of the crew of a yacht taking part in a Round the World race sailing from San Francisco to London.

She flew out to San Francisco to join the crew aboard the ocean-going racing yacht ‘Jamaica’ in April to take part in the last third of the Clipper Round the World 2013-14 Yacht Race.

Rose sailed from San Francisco travelling to Panama, Jamaica and New York. On the way there was plenty of varied weather to contend with and a variety of wildlife to see including squid, flying fish, a manta ray, boobies, sea turtles and some wonderful dolphins.

There was a memorable week in New York where Rose did some sightseeing. But the highlight was the day the crew were invited by local firefighters to their training department, where they were certainly put through their paces as you can see from the photo.

Then the Jamaica, currently running third in the race, set sail across the Atlantic. Before they set off, Rose recorded her hopes and fears for the Atlantic crossing in her blog. She wrote: “I have been both looking forward to this race and fearing it – after all sailing the Atlantic is no jaunt on the local pond.

“Last night I just couldn’t sleep – a really bad attack of pre-race nerves believe it or not. At 4 this morning with first light dawning and an elevated heart rate I lay there thinking something along the lines of ‘I hope you know what you have let yourself in for’. We sail through the iceberg field which this year is further south than usual and we will find ourselves in Perfect Storm and Titanic territory. The profound observation of ‘Oo-er’ came to mind.”

The Jamaica’s next stop with be Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland, followed by Holland and England. She will arrive at St Katherine’s Dock next to the Tower of London on 12th July and Rose hopes that some of her Steeple Aston friends might be there to meet her.

She is raising money for four local charities that played an important role in the life of her son Harry, who sadly died in 2012, aged only 18. The charities are Helen and Douglas House, KEEN, Oxford Mencap and Frank Wise School.

Before she set off Rose said, “I have never done anything like this before and so I shall be keeping a blog of my adventures and hopefully at the same time raise money for local charities who support young people with disability.

“I would like to invite everybody to follow me on my blog and help contribute to my fundraising targets.”

To follow Rose’s progress and to find out how to donate to her charities, go to her blog: wavingnotdrowningwithclipper.wordpress.com/


New parish councillors get to work

Two new parish councillors have taken office following the resignations of Margaret Mason, Clare McKinley and David Kewley. Martin Lipson and Helen Wright were the only two people nominated to the three vacancies so there was no need for an election.

The Parish Council has the power to co-opt someone to fill the third vacancy and will probably do so at their next meeting. Meanwhile, here are two short profiles of the new council members:

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Helen Wright moved to Steeple Aston in March 2012 with her husband Dan, a neurosurgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital. They have three children: Charlie, age four, goes to Dr Radcliffe’s School, Hattie, three, attends Steeple Aston Pre-School and Edward (aka Woodie), who is just five months old, enjoys the local Babies and Toddlers Group.

The Wrights brought the former White Lion pub, and, after receiving planning permission have converted it into a family home. Despite the controversy over the future of the pub, Helen says the family was welcomed to the village, which was lovely.

She has thrown herself in to village life joining the Pre-School and Horticultural Society committees and a local book group. She says “Because I use a lot of the village facilities the work of the Parish Council has a real effect on my life and the lives of my children.

“The council has a grass roots impact, for example in looking after the play area. I want to be a part of that and help maintain the excellent facilities in this wonderful village.”

Helen comes originally from Colchester in Essex. After studying history at Durham University, where she met her husband, she spent some time in China teaching English. On her return she did a postgraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University.

Before she became a full-time Mum, Helen worked for several broadcasting organisations, including the BBC in Manchester, where she was a news producer and then for Central TV as a news reporter. She also did some media training.

Because of her husband’s job the family were constantly on the move, living in five different houses in the first two years of Charlie’s life. They were determined to find a permanent home in a village with a good school where they could settle down as a family. In Steeple Aston they feel they have found the right place.

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Martin Lipson moved to West Grange in Steeple Aston in 1999 with his wife Caroline Langridge. Originally from London, they had spent the previous eight years in Colchester where Martin was an Assistant Director in Essex County Council. Caroline worked in the NHS and still maintains an interest in local health issues, for example as Chairman of Oxford Young Hearts, an organisation which supports children with heart problems and their families.

A registered architect, Martin has a particular interest in conservation. He gained valuable insight in to conservation issues locally when he built an extension garden room to his house, which is a listed building.

He has been Chairman of Steeple Aston Village Archive Trust management committee since 2007 and recently designed and project-managed the Village Hall extension to house new Village History Centre.

He has also recently advised the Parish Council on the Steeple Aston Conservation Area Appraisal with some success. And he is currently helping the council to identify ‘local heritage assets’, structures in the village that should be highlighted as being of significance to local people.

Martin says: “My particular interest in becoming a parish councillor is to be able to use my knowledge of the history of the village and its buildings to help maintain the character of the village and its natural environment. I am also keen to support and develop in a variety of ways the well-being of the local community.”

Martin spent most of his working life as an architect in local government for London Boroughs before moving to Essex. He worked for the Local Government Association from 1997 to 2009 as an adviser to local councils nationally on project procurement best practice, and on national school building programmes in England and Wales, before retiring in 2012. He also has experience of working with various voluntary bodies.

He has an interest in computers, photography and documentary film-making and recently put some of his skills to use when he became one of the two people providing the artwork for Steeple Aston Life. His other interests include wood-carving, music (he’s currently learning to play the saxophone) and the study of old buildings. He also has a very useful knowledge of fungi.


Council Chairman bows out with plaudits and presents

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Margaret Mason has retired as Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council after 20 years’ service to a chorus of praise and appreciation from all who’d worked with her. She is pictured here receiving congratulations and farewell gifts from her Vice Chairman Richard Preston.

The Annual Parish Meeting on Wednesday, May 28th was the last to be chaired by Margaret. She was joined by many friends and colleagues in the Sports and Recreation Building where, at the end of formal business, Richard praised Margaret’s contribution to making Steeple Aston “a wonderful place to live”.

Under her leadership, he said, the parish council had brought many improvements to the village, not least the building of the affordable housing and the children’s play facilities. This has contributed, he said, to making Steeple Aston Parish Council one of the most respected in Oxfordshire. He particularly praised Margaret’s hard work behind the scenes and her achievements over the years in helping the village take control of its own facilities and its future.

Richard’s sentiments were echoed in a letter from local MP Tony Baldry who described Margaret as an outstanding chairman with a considerable record of achievement. He wrote; “The whole community owes a debt of gratitude to Margaret for her service over the years.”

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Margaret was presented with a large bunch of flowers by Barbara Brewer, as pictured here.

And Richard showed her pictures of the gifts which she will receive as a result of a leaving collection among friends and colleagues, many of whom were at the meeting.

He claimed that the elegant bird table and the Magnolia Stellata tree were too heavy to bring to the meeting, but said they would be delivered to her along with £50 in garden tokens very soon.

Surprised and visibly moved by the tributes and the gifts, Margaret said she had been very proud to chair the council for such a long time, and thanked her colleagues and the several parish clerks she had worked with over the years as well as those who had contributed towards her gifts. In total she served on the council for 24 years, 20 of them as chairman.

John Coley was elected Chairman in her place, and immediately acknowledged she will be a very hard act to follow. Richard Preston was re-elected as Vice-Chairman.


July 2014

Date set for Sycamore Stone blessing

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Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Sycamore Stone will be installed in the churchyard during the first week in July. The Rector, Revd Marcus Green, will bless the stone after the 11.00am service on Sunday, July 6th.

The stone, pictured here being carved by Bernard Johnson, will bear the inscription: “This oak planted near the site of one of the longest-lived and largest sycamore trees in England commemorates the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II”. The Crown Insignia will sit beneath the inscription.

The reverse is already completed, and has a design of sycamore leaves with the name of the old sycamore tree and its dates: “Acer Pseudoplatanus planted C18th died 2012”

The green slate for the stone comes from the Elterwater Quarry in Cumbria, where it has lain for the last 400 million years. It was delivered to Stone Carver Bernard Johnson’s workshop in nearby Kiddington, where he has been working on it for several weeks.

It will take several strong people to help install the stone in the churchyard, where the Diocese has given permission for it to be erected between the stump of the ancient sycamore and the newly planted oak.

The stone was commissioned by the Parish Council, and villagers have contributed towards the cost.

When it was commissioned 18 months ago, the then Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason wrote: “The extraordinary year of 2012 is drawing to its close. It has been a year of celebration and surprises. The amazing Olympics and Paralympics made us feel better about ourselves despite the financial horrors and the punishing weather. They followed on from the celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, a bit on the wet side, but spirits couldn’t be dampened when celebrating something only once achieved before, 60 years on the throne

“2012 has also been the final year for a village landmark: the great sycamore in the churchyard (the largest and oldest in Oxfordshire) has finally come down after watching over the village for more than 300 years.

“It seems appropriate to mark these two significant events together. A new young oak tree has been planted in the churchyard. It will take a long time to reach the size of the sycamore, but, from small acorns…..”

To see more photos of the stone and the design, please click here.

To find out more about Bernard Johnson’s work, go to www.bernardjohnson.co.uk


Poppy seeds planted for WW1 commemoration

Steeple Aston’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War got under way on May Day with the planting of poppy seeds.

Pictured here are The Bishop of Dorchester, Rt Revd Colin Fletcher and the Rector, Revd Marcus Green with 34 children from Dr Radcliffe’s School. They were planting poppy seeds in the village churchyard as part of a national commemoration to mark the anniversary of the start of the war.

About 12 members of the congregation and a photographer from the Church Times (also pictured) were present to witness the event.

It is hoped the poppies will grow quickly, and that Steeple Aston’s own little Field of Remembrance will be in full bloom for the Vigil Service to be held in the church on Monday, August 4th – 100 years to the day from when Britain entered the war.


June 2014

Carving started on Sycamore Stone, but installation delayed

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Carving of the Jubilee Sycamore Stone is under way, but it will not be installed in the churchyard until July.

Pictured here is the Stone Carver Bernard Johnson working on the piece of green slate from Elterwater Quarry, Cumbria in his workshop in Kiddington. Former Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason is looking on.

The stone will commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the demise of the ancient sycamore in the churchyard in the same year. It was commissioned by the Parish Council and villagers have contributed towards the cost.

The Diocese has given permission for the stone to be erected in the churchyard, between the stump of the ancient sycamore and the newly planted oak.

It was hoped that the stone would be ready for erecting in the churchyard during the week before the Church Fete and Patronal Festival on June 28th /29th. The plan was to have the placing of the stone celebrated on Sunday, 29th with a dedication by the Rector, Rev. Marcus Green. But because of the delay the stone won’t be installed until July.

Bernard has started working on the reverse side of the stone which has a design of sycamore leaves with the name of the old sycamore tree and its dates: “Acer Pseudoplatanus planted C18th died 2012”.

The design for the front of the stone shows acorns and oak leaves at the top with the inscription: “This oak planted near the site of one of the longest-lived and largest sycamore trees in England commemorates the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II” The Crown Insignia sits beneath of the inscription.

To see more photos of the stone being carved, please click here.

To find out more about Bernard Johnson’s work, go to www.bernardjohnson.co.uk


Children’s Drama School about to open

The North Oxfordshire School of Drama is to hold its first classes in the Village Hall, starting on Wednesday, April 23rd.

The school is being set up by local resident Jenny Stewart and will offer classes for primary school age children in two sessions: Stage One is for ages 5 – 7 (3.15pm – 4.15pm) and Stage Two, for ages 8 – 11 (4.20pm – 5.20pm).

Jenny has over 15 years’ experience working as an actor, teacher and workshop leader in the performing arts industry. She says: “I moved to the village last July and have two boys attending Dr Radcliffe’s School. I have been running workshops for children for the last ten years in schools and youth centres in London, Edinburgh and Manchester and have seen time and again how great drama can be for kids. I still work for the National Theatre and in the West End describing theatre for the visually impaired and the blind.

“After getting to know a few people in the village it seemed that children here and in the surrounding villages are a really talented bunch who would love to have somewhere to grow their skills and perform. So here I am giving it a go and hoping to make a difference to the community along the way.”

The classes are suitable for all abilities from beginners to those with more experience. For the first six weeks, the classes will concentrate on basic drama skills including voice, stagecraft and improvisation. The emphasis will be on fun and confidence building.

For information about fees and booking contact principlenosd@gmail.com or visit the website www.northoxfordshireschoolofdrama.org


Sycamore Stone waiting to be carved

The slate for Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Sycamore Stone has come down from Cumbria, where it has lain for the last 400 million years, and is now waiting for its inscription to be carved.

Pictured here is the Stone Carver Bernard Johnson with the piece of green slate from Elterwater Quarry that has now been delivered to his workshop in Kiddington.

He will be starting the carving very soon. His design for the front of the stone shows acorns and oak leaves at the top with the inscription: “This oak planted near the site of one of the longest-lived and largest sycamore trees in England commemorates the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II” The Crown Insignia sits beneath of the inscription.

On the reverse there will be a design of sycamore leaves with the name of the old sycamore tree and its dates: “Acer Pseudoplatanus planted C18th died 2012”

The Stone is expected to be on show in the churchyard by the end of June. It was commissioned by the Parish Council and villagers have contributed towards the cost.

Margaret Mason, the Parish Council Chairman writes: “Things are moving at last. The Diocese has approved the design for the stone and granted a ‘Faculty’ which means that the stone can be erected in the chosen position, between the stump of the ancient sycamore and the newly planted oak, in the churchyard. Our thanks to Graham Clifton who steered the Faculty through. Also, the funds for the work are now in hand, and we are grateful to all of you who have contributed to this.

“Bernard Johnson, the sculptor, is exhibiting in Oxfordshire Artweeks (www.artweeks.org) (No. 170 in the Artweeks brochure). Between 10th and 18th. May his studio at Kiddingtopn near Woodstock will be open from 12 noon until 6.00p.m. He may be working on our stone during the week and would welcome anyone who would like to visit to see the work in progress.

“We are hoping that the stone will be ready for erecting in the churchyard during the week before the Church Fete and Patronal Festival on June 28th /29th. The plan is to have the placing of the stone celebrated on Sunday, 29th with a dedication by the Rector, Rev. Marcus Green. More of this next month when plans can be finalised.”

To see more photos of the stone and the design, please click here.

To find out more about Bernard Johnson’s work, go to www.bernardjohnson.co.uk


Support Rose in her great sailing adventure

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Steeple Aston resident Rose Todd is about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime. With almost no sailing experience, she is joining the crew of a yacht taking part in a Round the World race sailing from San Francisco to London.

Rose explains: “Last summer I learnt to sail and at the beginning of April I am about to fly out to San Francisco to join my crew aboard the ocean-going racing yacht ‘Jamaica’ to take part in the last third of the Clipper Round the World 2013-14 Yacht Race.

“I have never done anything like this before and so I shall be keeping a blog of my adventures and hopefully at the same time raise money for local charities who support young people with disability.

“I would like to invite everybody to follow me on my blog and help contribute to my fundraising targets.”

Rose will be sailing from San Francisco on 18th April, travelling via Panama, Jamaica, New York, Northern Ireland and Holland. She will arrive at St Katherine’s Dock next to the Tower of London on 12th July and hopes that some of her Steeple Aston friends might be there to meet her.

She is raising money for four local charities that played an important role in the life of her son Harry, who sadly died in 2012, aged only 18. The charities are Helen and Douglas House, KEEN, Oxford Mencap and Frank Wise School.

To follow Rose’s progress and to find out how to donate to her charities, go to her blog: http://wavingnotdrowningwithclipper.wordpress.com/


Affordable housing allocation to follow drop in event

A drop in event is to be held for people to come and discuss the ‘affordable housing’ at the Coneygar Fields site in Fenway. Allocation of the homes will follow on soon after the event as they are expected to be ready for occupation by mid-May.

The event will be held in the Village Hall Committee Room on Tuesday, 1st April between 4.00 and 7.00pm. Several Cherwell District Council housing officers will be there along with a number of representatives from Sovereign, the housing association responsible for the site.

The houses will then be advertised for one week starting 16th April through the district council’s Choice Based Lettings scheme. People who qualify by being on the housing register will be able to bid for the property they want during that week.

The homes will be allocated soon afterwards. As the building work is slightly ahead of schedule it is expected that people will be able to move in late in May.

Parish Councillors have been worried that changes in the eligibility rules for getting on the Housing Register would mean that some of the houses might not go to people with local connections as intended. The Coneygar development is on a “rural exception site” specifically designed to provide affordable housing for those with connections to the village.

Parish Councillors recently met with leaders of Cherwell’s Housing Department to express their concern. They have also drafted a suggestion for changes in the allocations policy in future. But they have been assured that the Housing Allocations Team will be “quite thorough” in checking the local connections of applicants.

For example they will check the electoral register; contact the person they say they have a local connection with; get permission to the check benefit records; check length of residency through council tax records.

Of the 12 homes on the Coneygar site, ten will be available to rent and two are offered for shared ownership.

For more information call 01295 221663.


No election needed for Parish Council but.

There will be no election for parish councillors in Steeple Aston on May 22nd as there have only been six nominations for the seven places available. But villagers will be able to vote for a Cherwell district councillor and in the European elections.

The nominations to the Parish Council include four existing councillors: John Coley, Stuart Ferguson, Richard Preston and Marian Trinder. The two newcomers are Martin Lipson, who will be known to many villagers as Chairman of Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA) and Helen Wright, who moved into the former White Lion pub in 2012.

The new Parish Council will be able to co-opt a further member to bring the total up to seven if they can find someone willing to take on the job.

There will be an election this year for one of our two district councillors. Conservative James Macnamara will be defending his Astons and Heyfords seat against four opponents. They are: Dickie Bird from Upper Heyford (UKIP); John Innes from Launton (Liberal Democrat); Annette Murphy from Deddington (Labour) and Jenny Tamblyn from Lower Heyford (Green Party).

The European elections will also take place on the same day. For more information on these, please go to the Cherwell District Council website: www.cherwell.gov.uk

Voting will take place in Steeple Aston Village Hall on Thursday, 22nd May between 7.00am and 10.00pm. If you have not received your Poll Card or have any other queries, phone the Helpline on 01295 227005 or email elections@cherwellandsouthnorthants.gov.uk.


May 2014

Coneygar houses should be completed in May

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Work on the Coneygar affordable housing site on Fenway should be completed by late May according to the latest estimates.

The builders E G Carter report: “With the improved weather conditions, works to the external aspects of the site are progressing well.

“You will remember the Play Area photo from last month. Happily it looks now looks like this. And in the not too distant future children will be able to play on the slide, etc.

“All houses are in the “Finishes Stages” internally, and in particular, “Second Fix Trades”consisting of Plumber, Carpenter and Electrician are installing Fixtures/Fittings/Equipment now that Plastering is nearing completion.

“Shortly, when we are happy with the quality, we will be presenting the first plots to Sovereign for an inspection or “Snag” as we call it, to commence the Handover/Completion process.

“Externally, Carports are being constructed as scaffold has been removed to the main houseblocks, and soon Drive/Footpaths/Gardens/Fences can be finalised.

“Completion is currently under review with Sovereign Housing Association, but we arehoping for the latter part of May 2014 for a completion, which considering some of theweather problems encountered during the project is felt to be pretty good.”


Sycamore Stone nearly ready to be erected

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Steeple Aston’s Jubilee Sycamore Stone is expected to be on show in the churchyard by the end of June. The stone will commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the demise of the ancient sycamore in the churchyard (pictured here) in the same year. It was commissioned by the Parish Council and villagers have contributed towards the cost.

Margaret Mason, the Parish Council Chairman writes: “Things are moving at last. The Diocese has approved the design for the stone and granted a ‘Faculty’ which means that the stone can be erected in the chosen position, between the stump of the ancient sycamore and the newly planted oak, in the churchyard. Our thanks to Graham Clifton who steered the Faculty through. Also, the funds for the work are now in hand, and we are grateful to all of you who have contributed to this.

“Bernard Johnson, the sculptor, is exhibiting in Oxfordshire Artweeks (www.artweeks.org) (No. 170 in the Artweeks brochure). Between 10th and 18th. May his studio at Kiddingtopn near Woodstock will be open from 12 noon until 6.00p.m. He will be working on our stone during the week and would welcome anyone who would like to visit to see the work in progress. It is really fascinating to see him at work, and to see Steeple Aston’s Sycamore Jubilee stone coming to life.

“We are hoping that the stone will be ready for erecting in the churchyard during the week before the Church Fete and Patronal Festival on June 28th /29th. The plan is to have the placing of the stone celebrated on Sunday, 29th with a dedication by the Rector, Rev. Marcus Green. More of this next month when plans can be finalised.”


Local author’s Cherwell book finally published

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Steeple Aston’s Jean Stone is delighted that at last her book on the River Cherwell has been published. It has been a long time coming, as she recently told members in a talk to the Valentine Club.

The 96-page book with lots of colour photos follows the River Cherwell on its journey from its Northamptonshire origins through the Oxfordshire countryside until it flows into the River Thames. It shows how the river, and later the canal, rail and road have influenced the development of towns and villages on the way.

The origins of human habitation in the Cherwell Valley go back at least to Roman times – and before that there were dinosaurs here. This area was also very important in the Civil War. So there are plenty of stories to be told about local people and their activities over the years.

Jean Stone has lived in Steeple Aston since 1979. She has written three books about the village. A Century of Changes: Steeple Aston 1900 – 2000, A Stroll through Steeple Aston and the Steeple Aston War Memorial are all still available in the village shop.

It was after A Century of Changes was published in 2007 that Jean thought of spreading her wings and writing more widely about the Cherwell Valley. There was much research to be done as the book covers all the towns and villages in the valley from its beginnings north of Cropredy until it joins the Thames (or Isis) in Oxford.

She enlisted the assistance of many local history societies, visited museums and archives and talked to experts. She also had help from Lord and Lady Saye and Sele at Broughton Castle and the archivist to the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim. She interviewed people living on and near the river, notably Rose Skinner of the famous canal family (pictured on the back cover. And she spent many happy hours visiting and photographing the river and its surroundings.

Jean was delighted when the book was accepted for publication by local history publishers Phillimore on the basis of her first few chapters. But soon after they had signed a contract with her the company was reorganised and publication was put on hold. After many frustrating months waiting to hear what would happen, Phillimore told her they didn’t want to publish her book after all.

So in 2013 Jean approached another publisher, Amberley Publishing, with her finished manuscript. They publish a number of books on British rivers and were immediately keen to add the Cherwell to their collection.

It was quite a rush to get the book ready for publication over the recent Christmas period. But the book called simply “River Cherwell” was eventually published on 28th February 2014, and is available (as they say) from all good bookshops and online. The cover price is £14.99, although some retailers are offering discounts.


Three new Parish Councillors needed quickly

Steeple Aston is to lose three of its seven Parish Councillors at the end of May and volunteers to take their places need to be found as soon as possible. Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason announced her retirement some months ago, but with two other councillors also standing down it will be quite a task to fill the vacancies that will arise.

Margaret Mason explains: “On 22nd May the local elections will be held. Three of your local Parish Councillors, Clare McKinley, David Kewley and myself will not be standing for re-election. This means that there will be three vacancies for Parish Councillors.

“It is quite a while since the Steeple Aston Parish Council had such a turnover of councillors and it is important to make sure that everybody knows the election is coming and has time to think about whether they would like to be a Parish Councillor.

“Being a Parish Councillor is (mostly!) a rewarding job, and surprisingly interesting. You can make a real difference to your village and its future. If you think things are pretty good at the moment, we need people to continue the good work. If you don’t, here is your chance to have a voice.

“The Parish Council holds ten meetings a year, on Monday evenings at 7.30pm, usually the third Monday of the month. The remit is very various, from village maintenance to, at the moment, joining with other local parishes and the Dorchester Group who own ex -RAF Upper Heyford to form a Neighborhood Development Plan for the area. We hold the leases of the Village Hall and Sport and Recreation Centre and also the Play Area, which we manage. So, from potholes to MUGA’s, from Planning to Affordable Housing, there is quite a lot to interest you.

“There is a set process to an election, and much information is given on www.cherwell.gov.uk/parish The Electoral Commission, www.electoralcommission.org.ukalso has information, particularly about whether you would qualify to stand.

“The Parish Clerk will be posting notices of election in the village by 14th April, she will also have the Nomination Papers or they can be obtained at Cherwell District Council. There is quite a short turn around as Nomination Papers have to be returned to Cherwell District Council no later than 4.00pm on Thursday, 24th April. You will need two sponsors to sign your Nomination Papers as well.

“The remaining councillors will need to put themselves up for re-election too. Steeple Aston has seven Parish Councillors. If seven or fewer nominations are received these seven people will automatically become councillors. If more than seven are received, there will be an election on the 22nd May. If fewer, the councillors who have been nominated are required to co-opt a willing person to the Parish Council to make up the number of councillors to seven.

“Please, if you think you have something you can contribute to the village and have a bit of time to do it, put your name forward. Having an election is the most democratic way to appoint your councillors and it only happens every four years so, even if you don’t wish to stand for election, come the 22nd, don’t forget to vote!”

To find out more about Steeple Aston Parish Council, please click here.


Youth Club reopens and appeals for helpers

Steeple Aston Youth Club is to start up again after an absence of over a year. The three new organisers are being supported by the Oxfordshire Association for Young People, but are also appealing for more villagers to come and help out.

They write: “A new club is starting in Steeple Aston for young people aged 11-16. There are lots of ideas for how it might look and feel. Much of this will depend on the children that come and how they would like it to be. Some of it will depend on finances, health and safety and so on! Initially it will be weekly, on a Thursday evening, 7.00pm to 8.30pm in the Sports and Recreation Centre, next to the Village Hall. In the longer term we hope to have sessions at other times too and also to organise trips out, events with other youth clubs and so on.

“Hilary Magee has provided the impetus for starting the club and is joined by Paul Thatcher and Rachel Carlisle in helping organise it. However we are very keen for more adults to get involved. You may wish to come and help out at club sessions with the children or perhaps you’d prefer to help ‘behind the scenes’. You don’t need to have children coming to the club in order to get involved.

“The first club session is on Thursday, February 27th, the first Thursday after half-term. At that session we will start making plans with the children for how the club will be, including the activities they may like to have, an agreement on acceptable behaviour, what to call the club etc. We will also have lots of fun activities on offer that night – probably table tennis, pool and ball games, perhaps some creative activities or whatever else we can dream up in the meantime!

All are welcome to come and it would be great to see as many people as possible on that first night so that everyone can be involved in shaping the club from an early stage.

“Ideally let us know if you are coming, or if you would like to be involved but can’t make the 27th we’d love to hear from you. To parents/carers specifically, if you plan to leave your child that first night can you please ensure you speak to one of us on the night and complete a registration form.

“Thanks to the Oxfordshire Association for Young People for helping us get this far and we look forward to hearing from you or to seeing you on Thursday, February 27th at 7.00pm.”
Hilary Magee: hilarymagee@icloud.com 01869 340577
Paul Thatcher: paul.thatcher@searcys.co.uk 07765 121812
Rachel Carlisle: steeplepeople99@yahoo.co.uk 01869 340386


Local teens perform in Oxford’s Guys and Dolls

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Three former pupils of Dr Radcliffe’s School in Steeple Aston are to appear in a musical at the Oxford Playhouse. And the show’s director is very well known to them – he’s the deputy headmaster at their old school.

Teenagers Jacob Henney, Eleanor O’Connor and Immy Parsons will be performing in the Musical Youth Company of Oxford’s production of Guys and Dolls in April. The show will be directed and choreographed by Guy Brigg, who teaches at Dr Radcliffe’s.

Guys and Dolls features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. The show premiered on Broadway in 1950 where it ran for 1200 performances and won five Tony Awards including Best Musical. It has since had several Broadway and London revivals, as well as a 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra.

The show is set in New York and is packed full of old favourites including Luck Be A Lady, Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat, If I Were A Bell and A Bushel and a Peck performed by a cast of gamblers, gals and gangsters.

Director Guy Brigg said: “I am thrilled to be directing such an iconic show – finding a fresh take on an all-time classic has been an exciting challenge and one which the company, as always, have met with their usual enthusiasm and skill. Guys and Dolls is a gift for any director and choreographer, and with a cast as talented as MYCO I think our audiences are in for a night to remember.”

The Musical Youth Company of Oxford (MYCO) is a teenage musical theatre group with 46 members from all over Oxfordshire. MYCO celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013 and was awarded the NODA Flame award for “The Inspirational Contribution for the Pursuit of Excellence in Theatre” that same year.

There are five performances of Guys and Dolls (Wednesday, 9th – Saturday, 7.30pm plus Sat mat 2.30pm) at the Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW. Tickets cost £11 – £19 via the Box Office, call 01865 305305 or go to www.oxfordplayhouse.com


Mums propose skate park for teenagers

Local mothers Anna Thatcher and Helen Taylor want a skate park in Steeple Aston for their teenage children to use. And they are asking for comments and feedback from other villagers on their plan.

They write: “We have decided (at the request of our teenage children) to revisit the possibility of building a skate park suitable for skateboards, rollerblades, scooters and bmx bikes within the village. We have identified a possible location on Robinsons Close that would not interfere with the cricket nets or football pitch.

“We are going to present a proposal to the Recreational Trust who lease Robinsons Close from the Dr Radcliffe’s Trust. If we gain approval from the Recreational Trust, we would then need approval from the Dr Radcliffe’s Trust also. At that point we would look for grants to cover the approximately £30,000 cost and to the Parish Council for their support and assistance.

“We are at the very early stages of this and would welcome feedback or comments from the village. Please email any comments to annawhybrew35@hotmail.co.uk or steeplehelen@yahoo.co.uk or via the website forum.

“Here’s hoping we can finally provide a facility the village youth have been requesting for some time.”

The Parish Council has rejected several requests from teenagers for a skate park in the past because of concerns about finding a suitable site, the cost of installation and maintenance and worries about noise pollution and expensive insurance. But a request from parents may carry more weight if a suitable site can be identified and there’s shown to be support from other villagers.


There’s still time to apply for ‘affordable’ housing

Negotiations between Steeple Aston Parish Council and Cherwell District have delayed the allocation of the ‘affordable’ housing at the new Coneygar site. But those with close ties to the village are being urged to apply, even if they’ve been removed from the housing register.

As a result of the Government’s Localism Bill 2011, Cherwell recently altered their policy on the register and effectively wiped off the two lower bands, 4-5, leaving only applicants who have enough points to be within the top 1-3 bands still on the register. The Parish Council are fighting for a change in villages where affordable housing has been built on “rural exception sites” specifically for those with local connections.

Parish Council Chairman, Margaret Mason writes: “It is still possible to apply for affordable housing in Steeple Aston, rented or shared ownership.

“You may know that the Parish Council has been battling for a change to the CDC Affordable Housing Allocations Policy which would take into account the different planning status, and purpose, of Rural Exception sites. Talks are continuing at Cherwell District Council and we hope that a shift in position, in effect an Exception Policy for Rural Exception sites, will be agreed.

“Meanwhile, the allocation process is halted whilst this is decided and it is still possible to apply.

“At the Parish Council Meeting on 20th January, both our District Councillors were present to give us an up to date report. They stressed that nothing was yet firmly decided, they were optimistic that CDC would agree to an alteration in the policy which would reflect the specific needs of the villages and the need to recognise the hopefully longer term occupancy of the houses.

“Steeple Aston is the priority village for the Coneygar and Shepherd’s Hill houses. If nobody can be found who qualifies with the CDC nomination provisions in Steeple Aston, only then the circle widens to Middle Aston, Duns Tew, Lower Heyford and Upper Heyford. Applicants would still need to fulfill the nomination provisions. It is still possible to be accepted for a house if you have a strong local connection, also, there is still one shared ownership property currently available.

Do not be put off because you think you won’t qualify, even if you were in bands 4-5 and have been removed from the Housing Register. Contact the CDC Housing Team. If you live in, or have a strong connection with Steeple or Middle Aston, you still have a chance. It is worth while.”


Coneygar building hit by weather

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The outside building work on the affordable housing site on Fenway has been slowed down by recent weather conditions, but progress continues on the internal works.

The builders E G Carter report: “Whilst the recent weather conditions have clearly been appalling – the high winds are as disruptive as the rain, preventing work at height (off scaffolding) or cranage (lifting), the site is progressing where it has been able.

“The weather outlook is better and so we are hoping we can finalise roofing and stone works to enable all of the scaffolding to be removed as soon as possible, so roads, gardens and fencing can commence, and the site generally take shape.

“Just before the main weather front hit we had started work to form the Play Area, but as the photo above shows this is not looking too good today! Hopefully, we can start to drain this shortly and work can re-commence.

“Internally, things are going pretty well. Once the felt and battens are on the roof and the windows fixed we can make a start on the finishes inside.

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“The least advanced home is currently being “First Fixed”, when all the hidden electrical cabling and plumbing is installed prior to plasterboard being applied to the walls. The most advanced home is being “Second Fixed”, which means that the internal walls are plastered and fittings such as Kitchens/Radiators/Sanitary Ware can proceed.

“The photo of a kitchen above shows the units/worktop, the boiler and space for a washing machine. (The kitchen sink is stainless steel – the blue colour is the plastic protection).

 

 

 

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“The next photo is of a bathroom showing the bath, wc and wash hand basin.

 

 

 

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“This photo shows an airing cupboard, with the hot water cylinder and the hot water/heating pipework.

“The colour on the wall is reasonably indicative of the colour of the finished walls, although at this stage we only give the walls a “thin” or “Mist” Coat to help us to look at the quality of the plastering.

“Wall tiling and vinyl flooring to the kitchen and bathrooms is yet to be fixed, flooring only being fitted in the last days before handover.”

 

 

 


Decision on gypsy site postponed

A decision on the planning application for a gypsy site in nearby Caulcott has been postponed to to allow the developer to address concerns about flood protection. This means that villagers can still submit comments on the application to Cherwell District Council.

Steeple Aston Parish Council has already objected to the planning application for a gypsy site beside the B4030 at Caulcott just three miles from the village.

Several local villagers along with residents of Caulcott and Lower Heyford have also registered their objections to the application for a change of use for the field to the north of the layby on Lower Heyford Road, Caulcott just before you reach the Horse and Groom pub.

The application is for the change of use of the land to five ‘Romani Gypsy’ pitches and associated works including five day rooms, five septic tanks and the laying of hard standing.

The Parish Council has commented to the planning authorities as follows: “One reason for our interest is that Dr Radcliffe’s school is quoted as being in reasonable proximity to the site. We do not consider three miles to be ‘reasonable proximity’ as no transport is likely to be provided. Caulcott is outside the catchment area of Dr Radcliffe’s school.

“There are a number of factors which argue against granting this application – a sustainability issue, distance from necessary facilities, greenfield development and lack of services.

“The proposed site is on greenfield land isolated from Caulcott by the B4030. The proposed access is at the east end of a lay-by, with poor sight lines onto the B4030.

“The village of Caulcott has no commercial facilities, other than an Estate Agent, and no community facilities. The nearest shop is in Steeple Aston, other than a small shop and café at the Heyford canal boat yard. Bicester is the nearest commercial destination, five and a half miles distant.

“Previous development applications have been refused for this site. The present application would, if allowed, put very much more pressure on services and impact the surrounding area much more negatively than the previous refused application.

“We understood that CDC has fulfilled, or has identified its present statutory quota for traveller pitches.

“Steeple Aston PC would not support the present application. ”

Objections to Cherwell District Council’s planning department are only allowed on ‘planning grounds’. Additional points made by other objectors, including Middleton Stoney Parish Council, have included:

  • That the development is not in character and conflicts with the neighbouring settlements; Caulcott is restricted to agricultural barns and barn development
  • There will be an environmental impact on the community; trees should not be sacrificed and the openness of the land should be maintained
  • That the land is prone to flooding and drainage may be a problem
  • That schools and doctors are far away and there could be an impact on these services
  • That the B4030 is an increasingly busy road and will become more so with developments at Upper Heyford and Bicester

Objectors have also written to the local MP Sir Tony Baldry and local councillors who have passed on their comments to the planners.

The application is due to be discussed by Lower Heyford Parish Council on Thursday, 16th January at 7.00pm in Lower Heyford Church. Everyone is welcome to attend. Steeple Aston Parish Councillor John Coley will be there as an observer, and report back to his colleagues on the discussion.

The application is expected to go before Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, 6th February.

To view the application, and make a comment, please click here. Then enter the application reference number and click on Search. The reference number is 13/01802/F.

To view the application, and make a comment, please click here. Then enter the application reference number and click on Search. The reference number is 13/01802/F.


Two homes kept for shared ownership

While 10 of the “affordable” homes currently under construction in Fenway, Steeple Aston will be available to rent, two of them will be reserved for shared ownership. They will become available later this year when the building work at the Coneygar Fields development is completed.

The developers, Sovereign Living, are asking prospective buyers to contact them now for more information. But as many people aren’t aware of what shared ownership is and how it can help them buy their own home, they have provided this explanation along with a description of the houses available.

They write: “We have two two-bedroom houses available for shared ownership. Applicants for these two houses must have a local connection to Steeple Aston to ensure they are owned by local people. There is also an 80 per cent staircasing restriction, which means that homeowners can only buy 80 per cent of their home. This restriction ensures that affordable housing remains in the village.

“Shared ownership is part of the Help to Buy scheme. You buy an initial share in your home and pay a discounted rent on the rest. Then, as your finances allow, you can purchase further shares in your home as and when you choose. Shares start at £86,000 for a 40 per cent share, with a monthly rent of £268.75. Just a low deposit of five per cent is needed for these lovely semi-detached properties too.

“Each new home comes complete with:

  • modern fitted kitchen with oven, hob and extractor
  • stylish white bathroom suite with shower
  • ground floor cloakroom
  • fitted wardrobes in both bedrooms
  • carport/allocated parking
  • enclosed rear garden with shed.

“People who are interested in these shared ownership homes can contact Sovereign Living on 0300 330 0718 or living@sovereign.org.uk, or visit www.sovereignliving.org.uk”.


Coneygar builders complete wall and roof work

Passing villagers can see that rapid progress is being made at the “affordable” housing site, Coneygar Fields in Fenway, Steeple Aston. Fortunately, Oxfordshire County Council also managed to deal with the flooding opposite the site before the recent heavy rain.

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Here is the monthly report by the builders E G Carter on developments in January:

“Work on site still continues to progress well despite the gales and often cold weather.

“As can be seen from the photographs the roof coverings and stonework are coming to an end, and with this work has commenced internally.

“As the roof completes so chimneys are fitted, where applicable. These are a design feature and will not work.

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“Care has to be taken whilst walking on the scaffolding as shown by this photograph of the scaffold boards, covered with frost. This has to be cleared prior to work commencing.

“However, as the stonework and roofs complete, scaffolding will be dismantled and the external works comprising gardens, roads, footpaths and drainage can re-commence.

“Whilst all wet trades – particularly plastering and decoration – are affected by low temperatures, now the plots are “covered in” we hope to be able to maintain a regular programme. But we never know what the British weather is going to throw at us next, and we hope that whatever comes our way over the next month doesn’t delay the external works!

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“The photograph showing plasterboard is to the first kitchen in Plot 10 with electrical, plumbing and ventilation services already installed.

“Once again we would like to thank everyone for their continued assistance and hope that we are not causing too much inconvenience.”

For more photos, please click here.


February 2014

Parish Council rejects cutbacks to conservation area

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Steeple Aston Parish Council has rejected the proposals from district planners to cut back on the village’s Conservation Area. Instead it has suggested that the area be extended to include Sixtyfoot.

Cherwell District Council is legally obliged to carry out an appraisal of all Conservation Areas. In October 2013 a draft appraisal was published by the council. A small exhibition and a public meeting were held and villagers were asked to make their views known to the planners. Steeple Aston Parish Council has now made its response to the draft document.

The main changes proposed were outlined by the Conservation Officer, Clare Sutton-Abbott at the public meeting, and are shown in this map. She proposed to exclude three small areas of roads which she considers “have heritage value considerably below that of the rest of the village”. These areas are three of the approaches to the village – Fir Lane, Heyford Road and Fenway.

In its formal response to the draft appraisal document, the Parish Council rejects these proposed exclusions and suggests a further extension of the Conservation Area to include the whole of Sixtyfoot.

The Parish Council document says: “We would like to see the Conservation.Area extended to the A4230, to include the width between the hedges. Reason- this is named Sixtyfoot as it represents a legacy of the village Enclosures of 1767 and was laid out at the time at 60 foot wide. Presently it has a fine avenue of mainly Lime trees and presents an imposing entrance to the village.”

The Council also suggests some further small extensions to the Conservation Area, including in Fenway, the wall to the south of the roadway and the agricultural buildings on the corner opposite Coneygar Fields; the walls at Bradshaw Close, between the development and Southside and also on the opposite side of Southside; the house and surrounding garden of Grange Lea, once the coach house and stables of the Grange and possibly an earlier farmhouse. They also agree with the planners’ suggestion that Whitsun House and its garden should be included.

The council’s response also includes suggestions for the extension of tree preservation orders to a number of trees both within and outside the Conservation Area, and concerns about the preservation of ancient walls, roads and footpaths.

This document and individual responses from villagers, along with a proposed list of buildings to be designated of local interest (drawn up with the help of SAVA)is now being considered by the Cherwell planners.

To read the draft appraisal report, please click here.

To read the Parish Council’s response, please click here.


Two self-build homes with interest-free deposit on offer

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Planning permission is to be sought to build two bungalows in Steeple Aston for sale with an interest-free loan to cover most of the deposit. The proposal from Cherwell District Council would give buyers the option of reducing the purchase price by doing some of the work themselves.

The council, through its Build! ® Programme, is offering this new “self-build” option as a way of making housing more accessible and affordable to local people. The council would complete the building to the waterproof shell stage and the owners would complete the fitting out themselves.

The proposal is for two two-bedroomed semi-detached bungalows to be built on the area pictured here in the middle of The Crescent, which currently occupied by garages. The council has already written to all the residents in the Crescent about their proposals, and has written to the people who it is believed currently rent the garages from the council with a view to negotiations.

It has also given the draft plans to the Parish Council, which is considering its response. The council will be asked formally for it comments as part of the planning process.

At October’s meeting parish councillors were in agreement with the principle, but had several concerns about the design, allocations and the ownership of the garages. They have since raised some constructive feedback which was well received by the Council’s Build! ® Team, and the suggestions made are being incorporated into the final design.

The bungalows will be for sale with an equity loan. This means that the district council will lend the buyers 20 per cent of the cost of the house interest free for five years. The owners will have to finance the rest of the purchase costs through a mortgage for which they will need a five per cent deposit.

There is currently a provisional open market value of £195,000 for a fully completed bungalow, but this could be revised if the plans are changed. Buyers who purchase the property as a waterproof shell and do the fitting out themselves will see the price considerably reduced.

The plans will be submitted for approval in November. If they are approved, work will start in 2014 and the aim is for the bungalows to be completed by March 2015. The work needs to be finished by then as it is being financed by a government grant which requires delivery by that date.

Fiona Brown of the Build! ® Team at Cherwell District Council is keen to hear from anyone who has a local connection with the Steeple Aston area and is interested in these proposals. She would be very happy to talk through the options with anyone who is interested on 01295 221615.


January 2014

“Fantastic response” to apple press purchase

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The purchase of an apple press for Steeple Aston has been declared a great success as its first year of operation draws to an end. The final Apple Pressing Day of the year, pictured here, was held in the Village Hall on the last Sunday in October and once again proved popular with villagers.

Organiser Jen Cawood said, “We have had a fantastic response for our first year and much apple juice has been pressed and enjoyed by the village – so much more sustainable than leaving it to rot! We have even had a number of pigs feeding off the spent apples just to complete the full sustainable process. It has been a lot of fun and it has been a great opportunity for apple enthusiasts to get together and enjoy some communal pressing. We’ll be back next year.”

For all enquiries about apple press bookings, please contact Steve Bradley by email at steepleastonapplepress@gmail.com


Affordable housing applicants should check with CDC

A change in the rules on applying for affordable housing means that anyone who is interested in a home at Coneygar Fields or Shepherds Hill should check with Cherwell District Council that their details are correct on the Housing Register and they will be eligible to apply.

Parish Council Chairman Margaret Mason writes: “Anyone who has walked round the village recently will see that building on Coneygar Fields is going ahead rapidly, we are hopeful that the houses will be finished in May.

“It is a good moment to remind anyone who is interested in one of these houses that you MUST be on Cherwell District Council’s Housing Register and, if you are, you need to keep your application up to date.

“As a result of the Government’s Localism Bill 2011, Cherwell has recently altered their policy on the register and effectively wiped off the two lower bands, 4-5, leaving only applicants who have enough points to be within the top 1-3 bands still on the register.

“We are not sure whether this will apply to Rural Exception sites, which both Shepherds Hill and Coneygar Fields are, or whether it will be a blanket policy across the District. We have been talking to councillors and officers at CDC to urge them to consider the importance of local connections in the rural villages and review the policy.

Meanwhile, if you think you are on the register, check, make sure that you qualify within the bands 1-3 and, if you are interested in applying for a house in either Shepherds Hill or Coneygar Fields, PLEASE DO talk to the Housing Services Team at CDC and make sure you have registered.”

Mrs Mason was recently interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford about affordable housing and the parish council’s experiences in providing it. To hear her interview, please click here.


Good progress reported at Fenway despite weather

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Work on the affordable housing site, Coneygar Fields, on Fenway is progressing rapidly with the houses now beginning to take shape. And the county council has at last started to deal with the flooding on the other side of the road.

Here is the monthly report by the builders E G Carter on their progress during November:

“We are pleased to report another productive month despite poor weather on occasions. The timber frame erection to Plots 7 – 10 is nearing completion with trusses being erected at time of writing. The timber frame erection team will then move onto Plots 4 – 6 flats).

“The roof coverings will follow their completion. This provides a load onto the timber frame walls to commence the settling process, and makes the “shells” reasonably water proof so that we commence work inside.

“Keeping ahead of timber frame team, our groundworks crew will complete all ground floor slabs by 22nd November 2013.

“Shortly, the external stonework of Plots 7 – 10 will be commenced by our bricklayers and the homes will really start to take shape.

“No further news regarding the footpath, but we note that there has been much activity regarding the drainage to the road, with a Highway crew rodding and clearing a drain from the road gully. We believe that this has made a marked improvement to the drainage of the road.”

In fact, as Gordon Kelman, Oxfordshire County Council’s senior drainage engineer explains, work is now under way to get to the root of the flooding problem.

He wrote on 12th November: “Regarding the on-going issue of the flooded road at Fenway, we are currently hard at work on the Westfield Farm land carrying out investigations and making repairs to the existing system and also making improvements for future access for maintenance. We are also tracing the pipe towards the water course. There is another blockage we need to dig onto in the lower field which should be carried out by the end of this week.”


Brownies feast on the fruits of their labours

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Steeple Aston Brownies have been learning the joys of growing their own vegetables. At their recent meeting, they enjoyed a feast of buttery corn on the cob that they helped to plant earlier in the year.

Back in May the Brownies visited North Aston Organics for a highly interactive evening of sewing, transplanting, weeding, thinning, watering and composting. Mark Stay, the owner, and his team very kindly organised a fun program to earn the Brownies their gardening badge.

Brown Owl Fiona McLoone took photos of the girls planting the sweetcorn seeds, transplanting basil seedlings, weeding carrots, clearing a poly tunnel of bolted lettuce for composting, and climbing the compost heap. She says, “As you can see, they were really focused on their tasks, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.”

Some weeks later Mark came to inspect the basil seedlings which the Brownies had taken home to nurture and to give the Brownies an update on developments at North Aston Organics since their visit. He also presented the girls with their gardening badges.

Then in mid-September the girls were rewarded for all their hard work, when North Aston Organics delivered a box of corn on the cob for them to strip, cook and eat – which they did, all with obvious enjoyment.

Steeple Aston Brownies have a busy programme ahead. They are now starting work on their fire safety badge, which will be completed at a visit to Deddington Fire Station. And then they are going to learn how to make apple juice with the Steeple Aston apple press.

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The Brownie pack which was launched two years ago has proved to be very popular. At the moment it is full with 24 girls attending each week. But they do have a waiting list, and girls do leave to join Guides or Scouts at the age of ten.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Brownies, please click here.

To see lots more photos of them gardening and enjoying their sweetcorn, please click here.


Revd Marcus Green starts work as new Rector

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The Parish Church of St Nicholas, Tackley, was full to overflowing with people on Wednesday evening, September 11th, to welcome the Revd Marcus Green. The occasion was his Institution, Induction and Installation as Rector of the Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley by the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester.

The evening began with singing by children from the local primary schools, and members from the church choirs joined with the congregation to sing during the service. Revd Marcus Green himself wrote the words of the processional hymn and the words and music of the second hymn.

The new Rector’s first service in the Benefice was on Sunday, September 15th, a United Benefice Holy Communion held at the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Steeple Aston.

Revd Green grew up in Accrington, Lancashire before heading to Oxford where he studied History at Merton College. He worked in St Aldate’s for a while before studying Theology at Wycliffe Hall. He was ordained into the Church in Wales in 1994 and served two curacies before becoming vicar of St Catherine’s Pontypridd in 2000.

His interests include jazz, opera, theatre, cinema, Manchester United, skiing and walking.

For the past two years he has lived and worked in Leeds, at the university and in the parish of Claverley. But he is delighted to be returning to parochial life, especially in this part of the world. On the Order of Service for his induction he wrote that coming back to Oxfordshire feels more like coming home than he can express


Villagers asked to respond to Conservation Area plans

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Steeple Aston residents are requested to respond to proposed changes in the Conservation Area by the middle of November. A public exhibition and meeting were held to discuss the plans and other matters relating to the Conservation Area.

The following report comes from Martin Lipson, Chairman of Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA):

Cherwell Council has published a review of Steeple Aston’s Conservation Area, which was first designated in 1988 and last reviewed in 1996. The review is currently in draft and the Council is seeking comments from local residents, a process which started with a small exhibition and public meeting on October 23rd 2013. Leaflets about the review had also been distributed. The closing date for comments is November 15th 2013.

Councillor Michael Gibbard, lead member for Planning at Cherwell, told the meeting of about 30 local people that ours is one of 60 Conservation Areas in the District and that there is a rolling programme of reviews under way. These “appraisals” are a legal requirement and are designed to make sure that the information is up to date and that the Conservation Area can remain effective in achieving its purposes.

The Conservation Officer, Clare Sutton-Abbott, proposes to exclude three small areas of roads which she considers “have heritage value considerably below that of the rest of the village”. These areas are three of the approaches to the village – Fir Lane, Heyford Road and Fenway – considered by many at the meeting to be very important to protect from undesirable change which could spoil the character of the village. When asked why these three areas had been included in the first place, Clare said she did not know, but felt that it was important to now have a clear rationale for their inclusion. Many people attending the meeting made it clear that they did not support the exclusion, as the retention of verges, walls and trees on these approaches were important. Clare was receptive to these views, but said she would need to identify their physical or historical qualities to justify their retention. There are some other minor alterations proposed to the boundary of the Conservation Area, and local residents suggested a few further additions which will now be considered.

The discussion then moved on to more general issues about conservation. It emerged that planning permission is required for the removal of any wall within the Area over one metre high – something which few people knew. Education of residents as to the value of conservation and the nature of the restrictions imposed by the Area was seen as important, but Clare said that unfortunately experience has shown that this can not be relied upon to ensure that damage is not done by some people, either unwittingly or (more rarely) wilfully. These problems typically occur when a new resident moves into a historic house.

It might be necessary, she said, to impose an Article 4 Direction on buildings or groups of buildings, if there was enough support to justify this. Such Directions remove the permitted rights for development from those buildings, and require that any significant change be approved with planning permission (for which, in this case, no charge is made). Such a measure would hopefully stop the proliferation of, for example, replacement of historic timber windows with UPVC ones, that often spoilt the character of buildings. No decision had yet been taken on this possibly controversial measure for our village, although 5 such areas have already been designated in the District.

The discussion ranged across solar panels and satellite aerials (for which no permission is required) and then moved on finally to a discussion about the creation of a list of buildings of local interest. These would be any structure or space, not necessarily in the Conservation Area, deemed worthy of inclusion in a published list because of its historical, social, or architectural importance. While not being sufficiently worthy to be “Listed”, and receiving no actual legal protection, buildings on such a list would nevertheless be highlighted as contributing to the local character. Clare added that their inclusion on a local list could also be helpful in any planning appeal for refusal against undesirable change. (Note: SAVA and the Parish Council are collaborating to produce a proposed list).

The meeting ended with a positive feeling that Cherwell have the best interests of the village at heart, and while not wishing to stifle natural evolutionary change in the village, are prepared to listen to local people’s views on possible changes to the Conservation Area. We were all encouraged to make our views known by the closing date. The final document will be published early in the New Year.

The draft document is available here, and comments should go to design.conservation@cherwell-dc.gov.uk