News Archive 2015

December 2015

Vote now for the Play Area to get an award

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Steeple Aston’s popular Play Area has been nominated for the title ‘UK’s Best Park’ from the Fields in Trust organisation, and villagers are urged to vote for it before the ballot closes on November 25th.

Fields in Trust is formerly the National Playing Fields Association. Its awards have been running since 2012, but this is the first time the public has had the chance to get involved and vote for its favourite park.

They say: “Your favourite park can be any local green space that is special to you. Whether it is a park, sports field or a playground, we want to hear why your local green space is worthy of the title of the UK’s Best Park.

If you and your family have enjoyed the Play Area, then please do support this nomination (and encourage others to do so). To vote you just need to by log on to www.fieldsintrust.org between 5th and 25th of November. For some reason, the village is included in the London and East of England category.


Frog Racing comes to Steeple Aston!

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Anna Thatcher writes:

Parents at Dr Radcliffe’s School are raising money any which way they can for a new Outdoor Adventure Playground for the school, so what better way to help raise money for the fund than with a Frog Racing evening!

Friday, 16th October saw the long awaited return of Frog Racing to the village, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The Cotswold Frog Racing Team descended on Dr Radcliffe’s school, bringing with them their much loved frogs (they weren’t real, don’t worry!).

A special thank you to local resident and parent Helen Wright, who kindly took on the role of auctioneer for the evening. Who knew people would pay so much to jockey a frog? Well Helen certainly did! We had mum jockeys, dad jockeys, lots of friends and family jockeys. We had budding jockeys, boozy jockeys, even those dressed up as frogs jockeys!

Kate and Selina from Fresh Start Catering provided a fantastic curry for all to enjoy in the interval before we got back to deciding the serious business of crowning the champion jockey – well done Graham Smith!

All in all lots of fun was had by all and a very heart felt thank you to everyone who came along and supported the event. A big thank you too to all the local businesses who were more than happy to support their local school by sponsoring each race, so that’s 9-2-3 jobs, The Hart Veterinary Centre, Kate Bradley Gardens, Nicholsons, The Red Lion, Steve Ward Autos Ltd & Tolly McRae. Thanks to all your generosity a staggering £1,200 was raised, thank you all very much indeed!

For more photos, please click here.


November 2015

Mid-Cherwell Planning Group needs administrator

A local public meeting on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) will be held early in the New Year, and a website is in preparation. But the group has failed to appoint an administrator and has put out an appeal to local residents in an attempt to fill the vacancy.

The MCNP is the largest neighbourhood plan in the country and consists of 11 parishes, the

Upper Heyford Residents Association and Dorchester Living, the developer at Heyford Park. Its aim is to map out housing development in the area through to 2031, and villagers will get a chance to vote in a referendum on its proposals.

Steeple Aston Parish Council is part of the Executive taking the lead on the Plan along with Upper Heyford, Middleton Stoney and the developer.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley reports on recent progress. He writes:

“There has been some positive progress this month. The Plan Forum hope to have a website up and running very soon where everyone will soon have access to the main pages. We have begun to shape a proper constitution, without which the Forum cannot have a legal entity, apply for funds or employ anyone.

“We hoped to have appointed an administrator by the end of the month; unfortunately she has found other paid work. So is anyone in Steeple Aston looking for an administration role? We are looking for someone who is at ease with Microsoft Word and Excel and would be capable of taking and circulating Minutes of meetings and updating a common website, amongst a number of other duties. Please contact either me (johnmwcoley@tiscali.co.uk) or Martin Lipson (martin.lipson@btinternet.com) if you’re interested.

“There has been agreement to begin a documented Neighbourhood Plan Process. Then everyone knows where we are heading, and can see what lies next for us. In the jargon we all like to use it’s called a Roadmap. As yet no diversions, forks in the road, not even an arrival time, but we will be trying to keep to a straight course in as quick a time as we can, proceeding with due care, avoiding pot holes, and not exceeding the proper speed limits.

“We have already passed three fingerposts (Getting Started, Having a Designated Neighbourhood Area, and putting together a Forum). There are seven signposts left plus something like one of those “Information” signs now on motorways which say “M4 27 miles; 23 minutes”. For the Neighbourhood Plan it says “Have you engaged and involved your community?” That sign will be placed at intervals all along the route to remind us that the Neighbourhood Plan must reflect what YOU want, not what the Parish Council THINKS you want.

“By early next year the Forum will have held meetings in all 11 parishes to ask residents what they are looking for in the Neighbourhood Plan. This will give everyone a proper direction on the journey. This should be the first of a number of community gatherings to make sure as many wishes as possible are featured in the final document.

“Well along the planned route will be a Referendum where everyone will have a vote, and it needs at least 50 per cent of all the voters to agree to the Plan before the Plan is complete.”


Superfast broadband arrives in Steeple Aston

The majority of homes in the village now have access to superfast broadband and should now contact their internet service provider if they want to take advantage of faster speeds. But there are still several homes that won’t have access until next year, or maybe later.

The fibre-enabled cabinet at Whitsun House on South Side is now sporting a large sticker saying “Fibre broadband is here”. This means that 282 homes and businesses in the parish will be able to request an upgrade to fibre-enabled broadband. In most cases, this means that residents can select a product offering download speeds above 24Mb/s following infrastructure upgrades made via the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme

The cabinet serves the following 18 postcodes:

OX25 4RP OX25 4SE OX25 4SN

OX25 4RR OX25 4SF OX25 4SQ

OX25 4RS OX25 4SG OX25 4ST

OX25 4RT OX25 4SH OX25 4SU

OX25 4RU OX25 4SJ OX25 4SW

OX25 4RZ OX25 4SL OX25 4SX

Better Broadband for Oxfordshire say “Please note that improved broadband services are not turned on automatically. To access fibre-enabled broadband, please contact your chosen ISP or use comparison sites to find available packages.

“If you contact an ISP, please state that you wish to order ‘fibre-enabled/superfast broadband,’ otherwise they may offer you a slower broadband service. Your chosen ISP should be able to offer any technical assistance to access fibre-enabled/superfast broadband.

“It is also important to note, that not all premises within a postcode area will be necessarily be able to order superfast speeds (above 24Mb/s). Premises will be able to access a range of speeds – some will get superfast broadband and others will be able to get anywhere between 2Mb/s and 24Mb/s, depending on distance from the cabinet.”

Parish Councillor Martin Lipson area writes “According to the map on the website www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/coverage-map nearly all of Steeple Aston is now ready for “super-fast” broadband. Officially, it says “by the end of September 2015” but we know that several people in South Side have already been connected, and are very happy with the results.

“However, there are five postcode areas that will not have this service available this year – OX25 4SP, 4SR and 4TH are scheduled for next year, although the actual words are “should be able to place orders by the end of December 2016”, so there must be some uncertainty about the timing for those of us unfortunate enough to be in those postcode areas. Not as unfortunate, though, as 4RX and 4RY – which are currently not scheduled at all. They are described as “requiring further funding”, which is a change from what we were previously told.

“Please remember, as we said previously, that availability is not the same as connectivity. You have to enter into a contract with the service provider, and then await a visit from an engineer.”

Better Broadband for Oxfordshire’s website gives more information on the options. It says “To get fibre broadband, you’ll need to place an order with broadband provider (sometimes called an Internet Service Provider or ISP). Even if you already have a contract with a broadband provider, if you would like to access faster speeds you will need to contact them, asking for a faster broadband service – this will not happen automatically. This is because fibre broadband uses a different technology and an engineer will need to visit your premises to install the necessary equipment.

“Fibre broadband is affordable, starting from around £16.50 per month for home users and £30 per month for businesses. Many customers take the opportunity to review their existing contract for telephone calls at the same time which may mean you end up paying only a little more, if anything at all.

“There are several broadband providers offering fibre broadband in Oxfordshire so you can shop around and choose the package that’s best for you. And if you choose not to upgrade to fibre broadband, you’ll be able to continue using your existing broadband service as normal.”

For more information, go to www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk


Locals given priority to buy Crescent homes

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Cherwell District Council has announced that villagers living in and around Steeple Aston are to be given first refusal on the pair of bungalows currently being built in The Crescent.

The Council’s announcement is as follows:

Earlier this year contractors Edgar Taylor arrived on site at The Crescent to begin building the two-bedroom semi-detached bungalows as part of Cherwell District Council’s award-winning Build! project.

The properties are nearing completion and expressions of interest are now being taken from people who live in the area who would like to purchase a bungalow on a shared ownership basis.

Cllr John Donaldson, Cherwell’s lead member for housing, said: “The Build! project has two primary aims; to transform brownfield sites and to create affordable housing opportunities. It’s no secret that buying a home in a rural location can be expensive and many people, especially first time buyers, are priced out of the market. Often, this means people who have been born and raised in a village are forced elsewhere when it comes to buying a home.

“We want to give locals the chance to remain close to their roots and their families by giving those with local connections first refusal on these two new properties. Furthermore, by giving them the choice to buy on a shared ownership basis we hope to make the process as affordable a possible.”

The semi-detached bungalows will each offer two bedrooms, a lounge-diner, separate kitchen, bathroom and separate toilet. Off road parking is provided and there will be gardens to the rear and side of each property.

Both will be completed to shell standards with a £15,000 discount available for the new owners to undertake the interior works themselves. The homes are expected to have a market value in the region of £260,000 so with the discount residents could pay £115,000 to purchase a 65 per cent share.

Priority will be given to those living in Steeple Aston and the surrounding area. For more information call 01295 221659 or email build@cherwell-dc.gov.uk Alternatively to register an interest visit www.cherwell.gov.uk/build


October 2015

Local views to be sought on development plan

Work is proceeding on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP), and villagers may soon be invited to a meeting to give their views on the future development of local transport, people, housing infrastructure and the environment.

An administrator is soon to be appointed, a website is being built and work is continuing on the first draft of a Plan.

The MCNP is the largest neighbourhood plan in the country and consists of 11 parishes, the

Upper Heyford Residents Association and Dorchester Living, the developer at Heyford Park. Its aim is to map out housing development in the area through to 2031, and villagers are likely to get a chance to vote in a referendum on its proposals, possibly next year.

Steeple Aston Parish Council is part of the Executive taking the lead on the Plan along with Upper Heyford, Middleton Stoney and the developer.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley reports that there has been a lot of “behind the scenes” activity over the last few weeks. He writes:

“Because we know that a great many administration tasks will need to be performed, the Forum is looking to employ an Administrator, and we have had some success in finding an interested person, who has met some of us to see what the job is about. We will need to set up a payments system and all the assorted legals that go with it.

“We are also looking at a whole range of other parishes who have been along the Neighbourhood Plan road in Oxfordshire or elsewhere, to see what they have done. Saves reinventing the wheel, thought, time, effort and money!

“There was a full Forum meeting of all parishes on 16th September. It was clear that some common themes are emerging – unwelcome development, over-development on unsuitable rural sites, traffic management, general infrastructure such as schools, medical facilities, and not least, leisure activities in the Plan area. The Forum Executive now has to put into words what the parishes want to achieve.

“This month we will begin to set down where we want to get to, and the techniques we can use to help us get there. We want to focus our efforts, rather than using a blunderbuss technique hoping we hit something that all the parishes need.”


Soggy Summer Show still packs a punch

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Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society’s Annual Show on Bank Holiday Monday is one of the highlights of the village year. But the organisers of this year’s show, the 124th, had to battle pouring rain when they were setting up in the morning. Fortunately the rain eased up in the afternoon, but it was still drizzling as the prizes were given out in the late afternoon.

Despite all however, there was a good turnout of entries, many from new entrants. Visitors arrived determined to enjoy themselves – and as always there was a stunning display of flowers, fruit and vegetables for them to enjoy. And when they got too wet they could go and dry off in the Village Hall where the variety of delicious cakes on sale was also a sight to behold.

Young Hannah McLoone was once again a prolific winner. She is pictured here receiving her trophies from the Society’s President Edwina Kinch. Hannah retained both the Senior and Junior Children’s Cups, which she won jointly last year. She also retained the Junior Photography Cup and shared the Jean Stone Cup for the best photograph in the show with Joanna Everett.

Sebastian Burt won the Under 8s cup, while the Under 5s Cup was shared between four little ones: Liam Keates, Samuel Martin, Gracie Preston and James Walker.

Among the adults there were some familiar names and some new ones. Daphne Preston was Show Champion once again, and also won the Wadham and Scott Cups, and the George Alder Memorial for the best dahlias in the show. Her husband Richard won the Robson and Rousham Cups.

Chris Cooper was a multiple winner too – taking the Hayter and Lee Cups and the Banksian Medal with his vegetables. Victoria Clifton won the Coronation Bowl for cookery, and Hanny Nicholson took the Rose Lilley Memorial Trophy with her foliage arrangement. Andrew Grimmett won the Doug Walton Tankard for his onions and May Woods the Fothergills Cup for the best flower exhibit in the show.

Another prize-winning couple were John Coley who won the Photography Cup and his wife Janet who shared the Gladys Stevens Memorial Cup with Immie Simmie. Caroline Edwards won the Lilley Cup for her roses, and Geof Rawnsley was awarded the Beehive Cup for the person who has gained most points in the show but not won a trophy.

Show Secretary 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.”

To see the full show results, please click here.

To see more photos, please click here.


Parish Council relaunches Neighbourhood Watch

Steeple Aston Parish Council is to launch a new version of Neighbourhood Watch, and is looking for volunteers to get involved in preventing crime in the village.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes:

Do you care about the community you live in? Thames Valley Police and your Parish Council want to help combat crime by sharing information about criminal activity in the village, helping to identify problems and working together to try to solve them.

We are re-launching a new and more functional version of Neighbourhood Watch as a way of helping you to become more actively involved at preventing crime in Steeple Aston. We would like to recruit new members. Would you like to be part of the scheme?

Neighbourhood Watch is now about looking out for each other, especially the more vulnerable members of the community. Getting to know who your neighbours are and working together as a group to help tackle local issues, including anti-social behaviour and criminal damage, can deter criminals and help to reduce crime.

Some of the advantages of joining a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme are:

  • Receiving FREE crime alerts from your local Police via emails or phone calls
  • Receiving FREE window stickers to deter opportunist criminals
  • Obtaining FREE crime reduction advice
  • Receiving monthly updates about local crime and other items of interest
  • Marking your own valuables with the postcode & house number/name, using UV pens
  • Promoting and using the Message in Bottle Scheme through Neighbourhood Watch
  • Making FREE door chains/bars available for the vulnerable and elderly via the Scheme
  • Many insurance companies will give a discount for residents within a Scheme

If you are interested and would like more details or information about Neighbourhood Watch or Thames Valley Alert, please contact Deborah Hextall on 01295 754611, or PCSO Chris Kidd from your local Neighbourhood Police Team on 101. Alternatively, return the slip below to Paines Cottage, Paines Hill, or email me at johnmwcoley@tiscali.co.uk, or to Richard Preston at Primrose Gardens, or any Parish Councillor.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Name _____________________________________

Address _________________________________________________________________

Telephone__________________________ Email _______________________________
I /We would be interested in joining the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme for Steeple Aston
I/We would be interested in helping run the Neighbourhood Scheme for Steeple Aston
I/We would be interested in receiving Thames Valley Alerts.


Villagers raise cash to replace vandalised school equipment

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A crowd-funding site has been set up to raise cash to replace the equipment destroyed by vandals at the school and pre-school in July.

Lisa and Shane Yates set up the site and already by early August they had raised £360 out of their £500 target.

Lisa explains: I live in the village of Steeple Aston and went to both of these schools! My children and lots of my friends children also attend these places and they don’t have the funds to be replacing things all the time, especially when mindless people destroy their things! I would like our community to show we care and to give something back if we can.”

Lisa Boote, Chair of the School Governors, posted her gratitude for the contributions. She wrote: On behalf of the school thank you so much for this generosity, something good coming out of something bad. We are all shocked by the damage and saddened by this senseless act, particularly as the shed only just had a makeover and the equipment is quite new. A horrid end to the school year! What a wonderful community we have.”

The vandalism took place in the early hours of Wednesday, 15th July. Dr Radcliffe’s School, Steeple Aston Pre-School and the playground were all targeted, as well as a number of parked cars in the Fir Lane area.

Having been alerted to the damage, staff at the Pre-School were on the scene by 6.30am. They were shocked and upset by what they found. Numerous ride-ons had been destroyed, the shed door had been ripped from its hinges and the contents smashed and strewn as far away as Dr Radcliffe’s. Staff worked hard to clear the debris before the children arrived for the day.

A similar scene of destruction greeted staff at Dr Radcliffe’s, with shed doors ripped from their hinges. While plants being grown by the Brownies had been torn up from the play area and stuffed down the playground toilet and sink. The soap dispenser and a bench were also damaged. Thankfully a few local volunteers were able to clean this all up before any children were hurt or distressed when coming to use the facilities.

Residents in the area also reported damage to their cars, with wing mirrors being smashed and paintwork scratched. One victim believed the damage to her car was done by an empty bottle of port, and has been told it will cost £550 to repair.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley condemned the actions of “this bunch of idiots”. He said that a group of youths were seen going towards the Village Hall and at about 2.00am on the morning of July 15th. A number of males came down Paines Hill, after which there was a very loud bang, and they ran off shouting with laughter.

Thames Valley Police are investigating. It is believed the culprits might be local, and anyone with any information is being urged to get in touch with them by dialling 101.

For more photos of the vandalism, please click here.

To donate to the fund, go to: crowdfunding.justgiving.com/lisa-bedding-2


Steeple Aston to take lead in neighbourhood planning

Steeple Aston Parish Council is to be part of the Executive taking the lead on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP). Other members of the Executive will be Upper Heyford and Middleton Stoney along with Dorchester Living, the developer at Heyford Park.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley explains how the MCNP will fit in to the district’s Local Plan, and the role that Steeple Aston will play in its development:

“Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan, Part 1 (covering the whole of Cherwell District) is now available

online for anyone to see. I have to warn you that your Parish Council found the paper copy to weigh about a kilo, so it won’t be easy reading on line. It may be on view at larger Public Libraries. It will have a powerful influence on the MCNP, which has to conform to the strategy of the Cherwell Local Plan.

Part 2 of the plan, which goes into even more detail, may take many months more to emerge. (Let’s hope it’s a butterfly.)

“The section on Policies (C5) is interesting as it gets away from Aspirational statements into more nitty gritty. In the policies specifically aimed at villages, there are comforting words about housing allocations (but much needs yet to change at CDC!). There is also a whole policy (Villages 5) which centres on Heyford Park, and which must have power over the MCNP. This includes local and area bus services, health care facilities, expansion of the Free School and also wildlife habitats. However the power of a District Council to put many of those matters into effect is very restricted, so without a subsidy of some kind, not much may happen.

“Your Parish Council has also received a very first exploratory note of what the structure of the MCNP might look like, giving us plenty of opportunities to articulate what we in Steeple Aston want as the foundations and scaffolding for the Plan. There is a lot more detail to be discussed, agreed and disagreed with all the other parishes. To help us in this the MCNP parishes have agreed to form a two-tier management: Steeple Aston, Upper Heyford, Middleton Stoney plus Dorchester Living will constitute an Executive; all the other parishes will constitute a General Committee. The Executive will take the lead, and will ensure there is consultation and dissemination of information to all participants in the MCNP.

“Some administrative support is needed, and this would be employed rather than volunteered. We anticipate that an administrator will provide support for the MCNP through organising meetings, distribution of agendas, taking and publication of minutes, and distribution of all these within a limited timeframe. This will almost certainly mean that all parishes have to contribute towards the salary of the administrator.”

To view Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan online, please click here.


Villagers to have their say in local housing plan

Steeple Aston is part of the largest Neighbourhood Plan in the country, an ambitious project to map out housing development in the area through to 2031. And villagers are likely to get a chance to vote in a referendum on its proposals in 2016.

John Coley, the Parish Council Chairman explains:

“Now that the Cherwell Local Plan (which covers all of Cherwell District) has been adopted, smaller Neighbourhood Plans can begin to move forward. Steeple Aston is included in the unique and extremely ambitious Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP). This is the largest Neighbourhood Plan in the UK, and takes in parishes from Fritwell to Duns Tew, a residents’ association and a developer, Dorchester Living.

“The Plan has come about because Cherwell District Council has had to sign up to build a very large number of new houses and infrastructure between now and 2031. The stipulations are that a proportion of these houses must be built in rural areas, and a set percentage of those will go to the larger parishes which (like ours) have more facilities. In Steeple Aston this means possibly up to 50 more.

“Under the rules of a Local Plan, parishes are not allowed to say that they do not want any new development at all. However, they are allowed to say where they would prefer the extra houses to be built. A Neighbourhood Plan carries good weight in helping to keep out unwanted development, and for this reason we have joined together with the Local Cherwell Plan, to get the best arrangement we can within it. A Neighbourhood Plan isn’t just about houses, it also includes local transport, inter-connected buses, community features such as surgeries or entertainment and education as well. We have only just started our journey, but every journey begins with a single step.

“We hope there will be lots of discussions and meetings along the way. At the end of the process, hopefully by the middle of 2016, the MCNP will be put to all villagers for a single referendum. If 50% of all those who vote in that referendum agree with what we have put forward, then the Plan will be put in place.

“I will be letting you know more as we work through the choices, so everyone will know what is going on. You will not be presented with something completely unseen and unfamiliar on the day of the referendum. Much, much more work has to be done yet.”


September 2015

Brownies get a visit from the police

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Steeple Aston Brownies had a visit from the local police in June. But (thank goodness) they hadn’t been behaving badly – they were all studying hard for their Crime Prevention Badge.

Bicester Neighbourhood police officer Caroline Brown joined the Brownies at their meeting in the Sport and Rec building to hear about the posters they had made about crime prevention.

She talked to them about home security and gave them some leaflets to pass on to their parents. She also showed them how to mark valuable property with a special pen only seen in ultra violet light, and suggested that might be able to arrange a bike marking session at the school..

Caroline explained about the special police alphabet and they had great fun working out their names and especially how to spell Brownies – Bravo, Romeo, Oscar, Whisky, November. India, Echo, Sierra!

But the highlight of the evening was a chance to see Caroline’s police car – and even to climb inside. Some of the girls were very keen to try a pair of handcuffs too. And even Brown Owl Fiona Mcloone was ‘cuffed’ to the Brownies great delight.

Fortunately Caroline was able to find the key so everyone went home happy – except the local rabbits, who really didn’t like the sound of the police siren!

For lots more photos, please click here.


August 2015

Evening bus services cut, but improvements for others

Changes to local bus timetables from the end of the month show the cancellation of two early evening services from Steeple Aston to Banbury as well as other changes. Passengers are advised to check the new timetables, see below.

Oxfordshire County Council will no longer be funding the 18.45 Banbury to Steeple Aston and 19.20 Steeple Aston to Banbury bus journeys. The last day for these trips is Friday 29 May. This means the last bus from Banbury to Steeple Aston will be the 17.50. Later buses will stop short at Deddington.

These cuts are part of timetable revisions from 31st May, which include major improvements to the S4 service which serves Steeple Aston. These changes involve faster, more direct services between Oxford and Banbury, and particularly more buses from Deddington to Banbury, But Steeple Aston loses these two early evening services, and nearby villages Duns Tew and Middle Barton will have a new minibus shuttle service to join the S4 at Deddington.

Stagecoach’s announcement says the changes include:

  • Faster, more direct buses between Banbury, Deddington and Oxford
  • More buses between Deddington and Banbury with new half-hourly service replacing the current hourly one
  • Timetable adjustments to improve punctuality
  • Brand new Stagecoach Gold single deck buses from August with more seats, more space, wifi, leather trim and other features.

S4 journeys which currently serve Duns Tew and Middle Barton will be replaced from Monday, 1st June with a minibus shuttle service connecting with the S4 service to Banbury and Oxford in Deddington Market Place. This new service, provided by Stagecoach under contract to Oxfordshire County Council, will offer an increased number of journeys to and from Deddington.

Oxford Airport is presently served by service 2C and 2D at peak periods and S4 between the peak periods. The through journeys on S4 between Oxford and Banbury will no longer serve Oxford Airport, and instead there will be an additional off-peak service on service S4 between Oxford City Centre and the Airport Monday to Friday.

There will also be a later departure from Banbury to Deddington departing Banbury at 1920.

View the timetable for S4C and S4 from 31 May here


Parish Council report describes a demanding year

Having completed a year as Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council, John Coley presented his first annual report to the Parish Annual Meeting on 19th May. He described a year of frustration for the council on many issues – planning, potholes and poor driving among them.

But he held out some hope that future development within the village could be controlled though the development of a Local Neighbourhood Plan. And he described good progress made this year for the allotments and for the Conservation Area.

Here is Mr Coley’s report in full:

This year we have had the year of the 4 “Ps”:

  • Planning
  • Potholes
  • Placement of tenants in Coneygar Fields
  • Poor driving and People speeding past the school

Planning – there have been a number of planning applications in the village which have triggered public comments, and we have had a dispute with Cherwell District Council where they have acknowledged that one of their senior planning officers mislead the Planning Committee on a point of planning law.

We now have the boundaries drawn up for a Local Neighbourhood Development Plan which is the largest of its kind in England involving eleven Cherwell villages and a developer. We are all aware of the need to build more houses (a) in order to lower prices and (b) to provide for those who want to own or rent their own homes. But there is a limit to how much development can take place in a small village such as ours, so we are seeking to limit large numbers of houses being built by speculative developers in Steeple Aston and other surrounding parishes. The Neighbourhood Plan needs much more work before we are ready to give more details and will have to go to a referendum of all the affected parishes before it can be put into effect.

Potholes – we have been plagued by an epidemic of different sized potholes and some have been outlined in different coloured paints, red, green and white. These seem to indicate the urgency of the repair needed and the order in which they are repaired with a shovelful of tarmac. It takes two lorries and up to four men to repair each hole, so no wonder they are slow to react. At least one person has had a serious accident after catching their foot in one of the holes. Oxfordshire County Council Highways are difficult to contact, difficult to pin down for a timetable and are perpetually short of money to effect repairs. Expect more potholes over the next year.

Placing people in social housing – we had a running battle with Cherwell District Council when Central Government changed the rules for who qualified for inclusion on local Housing Registers halfway through the building of Coneygar Fields. Under the old rules many people from Steeple Aston would have been included in the Housing Register and thus for the allocation system. The new rules were rigorously applied by Cherwell District Council compared with some other councils, so that many villagers were excluded from the Register, which in turn meant they could not be allocated any housing anywhere in Cherwell, let alone in this village. It just happened to reduce the Housing Waiting List at a stroke.

Cherwell promised to revisit the rules after everyone had been allocated. But a year later, the new proposals are, if anything even worse for villagers who cannot afford to buy a property in the village in which they live. Currently, we think possibly following our representations to District Council, many Cherwell villages have suspended plans to offer social housing in their parishes as locals are now much less likely to be allocated new social housing in their own village.

People speeding and poor driving past the school – “Complaints were heard at last month’s PC meeting about de-restriction signs, especially outside the School, where 60 infants cross the road several times each day.” “Oxfordshire County Council stated that the physical nature of the village itself restricts speed.” That was in 1974!

There has been a big push in the village recently to reinstate a School Crossing Patrol. Parents and parishioners have emailed Oxfordshire County Council urging them to bring back a “lollipop lady” before there is a really serious accident outside Dr Radcliffe’s School. Although it is not something within the responsibility of the Parish Council, it is something which affects us all. There have already been around three minor accidents this academic year. As none were reported to the police, in the eyes of Oxfordshire County Council, they don’t count. OCC have assessed the school, and in spite of counting 71 vehicles at drop off, said we did not meet the criteria for a Crossing Patrol as justified by the wonderful formula PV² where “P” is the number of Pedestrians and “V” is the number of vehicles.

Children’s safety should not be boiled down to a bureaucratic formula and we are urging them to reconsider, as we have two car parks, limited pavements and no visibility when crossing by the school bus. Apparently they are coming to assess us again one afternoon soon……

We have asked if we could fund our own lollipop person (a cost of around £2,500 a year) but was told this would not be possible as “the site did not meet the required minimum threshold”. So the service cannot even be privatised !

Those are the main themes which have run through the year. But that’s by no means all.

Last May Margaret Mason, who had been the Chairman for many years, and two other Parish Councillors, did not stand for re-election. We managed to fill the vacancies, but a few months later Marian Trinder also resigned because of her work commitments. In January we had the luxury of choosing from three candidates for the vacancy. Each was given an opportunity during a normal Parish Council Meeting to add to their résumés. Then, still in open session, a paper ballot of existing Councillors was carried out and Bridie Mulcahy-Hawes was co-opted as our newest Councillor. So compared with this time last year we have four new Councillors with a very different range of skills and experiences.

The Steeple Aston Church Allotment Association, which has a sub-lease from the Parish Council, carries on growing and developing and the committee continues to improve and secure the future of the allotments for everyone. They have a waiting list of villagers keen to acquire a plot.

There is now an apiary site, from which the allotmenteers produced, bottled and sold 16lbs of Allotment Honey. A grant was obtained from the Woodland Trust and 115 saplings (all fruiting varieties of species found in the UK) have been planted up and will form a natural screen for the apiary. One of the long term aims was to have a communal allotment shed, to provide storage, an allotment shop with a space for workshops and social events. Nicholsons’ generous donation of one of their unwanted garden buildings was a real bonus. Preparation work is being carried out to the site so the building can be delivered. As the PC is the main leaseholder, I would like to thank all those committee members for their efforts.

There has been a review by the Local Government Boundaries Commission of all the Council Wards in Cherwell to try to balance the number of voters in each Ward. This was not without controversy as one Cherwell parish was missed off the list completely and we found ourselves bundled in with a ward encompassing Deddington, The Barfords, and Hook Norton. We made a vigorous set of counter proposals based on the Commission’s own criteria about equality of numbers (which were out of kilter in their original proposals) and community connections, particularly the Neighbourhood Plan, to be a part of the Heyfords Ward. We heard last week that they have been rejected and we remain part of the Hook Norton Ward.

We now have a new map and boundaries for the Parish Conservation Area. Whilst we have no wish to preserve the parish in aspic forever, we are always mindful of our building heritage. If you live in the Conservation Area, we urge you to have a word with the Parish Council before you put in alteration plans as we should be able to help you to with a course of action which could save you time and money before sending your plans to Cherwell.

None of what we have achieved would have been possible without the huge amount of effort which Cathy Fleet has put into the last year. She has had to deal with a completely different style of Chairmanship, and co-options of new parish councillors. It looks as though she may have even more to do this next year as the Neighbourhood Plan progresses towards a referendum. I would also like to thank all of our parish councillors, who have moulded into a formidable team in a very short time. Thanks also to the Website Committee who are always looking to improve what they do.

Finally, we are trying to be as careful with your money as we can, and although our grants have been cut by about £2,000, we have restricted our spending increase for next year to only £128 in total, which represents about 30p per household extra, or 0.5per cent for the whole year to the end of March 2016. Here’s another quote from 1974 which shows that it isn’t always as easy to save money as you might think. “Street lights were turned off saving £6 on the electricity bill. Turning them off cost £14, and turning them on again cost another £14.”


Lollipop lady campaigners frustrated by council rejection

Campaigners for the reinstatement of a “lollipop lady” outside Dr Radcliffe’s School are disappointed and frustrated by the county council’s rejection of their case. They point out that this rejection is despite three accidents outside the school already this academic year.

Plans to continue the campaign will be discussed at the Annual Parish Meeting on Tuesday, May 19th at 7.30pm in the Village Hall. If you feel strongly about this issue, and have any ideas on how to take the campaign forward, please come along.

Parish Councillor Helen Wright explains what has happened so far:

“Thank you to everyone who took the time to email Oxfordshire County Council urging them to consider reinstating a lollipop lady in the village. The Council had so many emails they agreed to reassess us. This assessment took place one morning in January.

“In spite of counting 71 vehicles passing the school at drop off, they say they are unable to recommend us for a School Crossing Patrol. This is because we don’t have a high enough value according their formula: PV² (P = Pedestrians, V = Vehicles).

“I’ve pointed out that there have been at least three accidents outside the school this academic year, but because none were reported to the police, they are apparently not counted.

“I’ve also asked that they apply some common sense when assessing us, and don’t reduce our children’s safety to that of a fancy formula. I’ve pointed out that the location of Dr Radcliffe’s should be taken into account – ie. minimal pavements, three car parks feeding onto the road, a 60mph road just metres away and perhaps most importantly a complete lack of visibility when crossing to the playground after school because of the way the school bus has to park.

I have been assured that they will carry out another assessment one afternoon “to see if there are any other findings to be made”…

“I did ask whether we could fund our own lollipop person (a cost of around £2,500 a year) but was told this would not be possible as “the site did not meet the required minimum threshold”.

“I am not sure where to take the campaign next, and feel perhaps a letter to the newspapers is our only option. We are in the frustrating position where there is a very real chance a child will be hurt on the road outside our school – yet we are not eligible for a state funded school crossing patrol, nor are we permitted to fund one ourselves!!”


Vandalism shocks school staff and villagers

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Police are investigating considerable vandalism that took place in Steeple Aston in the early hours of Wednesday, 15th July. Dr Radcliffe’s School, Steeple Aston Pre-School and the playground were all targeted, as well as a number of parked cars in the Fir Lane area.

Having been alerted to the damage, staff at the Pre-School were on the scene by 6.30am. They were shocked and upset by what they found. Numerous ride-ons had been destroyed, the shed door had been ripped from its hinges and the contents smashed and strewn as far away as Dr Radcliffe’s. Staff worked hard to clear the debris before the children arrived for the day.

A similar scene of destruction greeted staff at Dr Radcliffe’s, with shed doors ripped from their hinges. While plants being grown by the Brownies had been torn up from the play area and stuffed down the playground toilet and sink. The soap dispenser and a bench were also damaged. Thankfully a few local volunteers were able to clean this all up before any children were hurt or distressed when coming to use the facilities.

Residents in the area also reported damage to their cars, with wing mirrors being smashed and paintwork scratched. One victim believed the damage to her car was done by an empty bottle of port, and has been told it will cost £550 to repair.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley condemned the actions of “this bunch of idiots”. He said that a group of youths were seen going towards the Village Hall and at about 2.00am on the morning of July 15th. A number of males came down Paines Hill, after which there was a very loud bang, and they ran off shouting with laughter.

Thames Valley Police are investigating. It is believed the culprits might be local, and anyone with any information is being urged to get in touch with them by dialling 101.

For more photos of the vandalism, please click here.


July 2015

New MP pictured in Steeple Aston

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Victoria Prentis, the newly-elected Tory MP for Banbury lives in nearby Somerton, so it was easy for her to visit Steeple Aston during her campaign.

She is pictured below at the Baby & Toddler Group where she talked to parents and carers as well as some small people too young to vote.

Earlier she had met villagers at the Red Lion as part of her pub tour of the constituency. It was there that local parish councillor Helen Wright invited her to visit the Baby & Toddler group which meets every Thursday morning in the Sport and Recreation Centre.

In the General Election on 7th May, Mrs Prentis was elected to the Banbury constituency with an 18,391 majority over her rivals and 53 per cent of the vote. She succeeds Sir Tony Baldry who retired this year after representing the constituency since 1983.

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A former Civil Service lawyer, Mrs Prentis was born in Banbury’s Horton Hospital and has lived locally all her life. She and her husband built the house in Somerton where they live with their two daughters.

Also on 7th May Conservative Mike Kerford-Byrnes was re-elected as district councillor for The Astons & Heyfords ward.

To see more photos of Victoria Prentis at the Toddler Group please click here.

For our new MP’s contact details, please click here.


SAL 500th Winners and Quiz Answers

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Congratulations to the winner of Steeple Aston Life’s 500th Edition Quirky Quiz, Shirley Palmer. She is pictured here receiving her £50 prize from SAL Editor, Cathy Lawday.

Joint efforts from Mary and Alex White, and from John and Janet Coley also scored well in the demanding and difficult quiz which kept several villagers busy over the Easter break (for the answers, see the link below).

Cathy said: “When I started to compile the quiz several months ago I thought it might be difficult to find 50 questions. I soon discovered that this was not the case; in fact I gathered over 70 questions. And then there were over 25 questions donated by other people! As I assembled questions, I discovered that there is a lot of interesting detail about Steeple Aston – it is not just a sleepy little place where nothing ever happens; I wanted readers who tried the quiz to share this discovery.

“I also hoped readers would become more aware of the wealth of information about the village that is easily available: on the website, at the SAVA centre, online and in print, on notices around the village, on plaques in the church, signs on buildings, notices in the shop, and so on. I was hoping that people wouldn’t just rely on what they already knew – they would also do research; and they did.

“I learned that Shirley, for one, used the SAVA Village History Centre to find out answers to some of the questions. I learned that several people found the answer to question 42: (How many addresses does the postman deliver to in Steeple Aston?) by using local reference facilities – they asked Simon the postman!

“I think that knowing about the place where you live helps you feel connected to it. Many residents have been in this village or in this area their whole lives. Their families have belonged here for many generations To give just one example, Tim Taylor’s family have been farming in this area for 200-300 years, and on the current farm since 1904. It used to be unthinkable that you would meet someone in the village and not know who they were. But times change and now there are more ‘non-local’ residents and recent arrivals in the village (like myself). I hope that the quiz has helped us to feel a bit more connected to the place, to feel that (one day!) we might belong here.”

To see the answers to the SAL Quirky Quiz, please click here.

Other competition winners were:

Children’s Colouring competition
Winners: Oliver Martin (aged 6) and Natalia Cox (10).
Runners-up: Julian Cox (8), Isaac Moran (7) and Samuel Martin (4).

Photo competition

Winners of the Horticultural Society Spring Show competition for a black & white photo, entitled “Steeple Aston Life”:
1st Janet Coley Bell Ringing
2nd John Coley The Village Quiz
Commended: Janet Coley Play Area


Building of ‘affordable’ bungalows under way

Work has started on the building of two bungalows in The Crescent, Steeple Aston which will be available to buy as ‘shells’ at a reduced price to reflect their unfinished state.

Contractors Edgar Taylor have begun to develop the vacant piece of land as part of Cherwell District Council’s Build! project. Each of the properties will have two bedrooms and will be available for sale to residents with a personal connection to the area.

Calvin Bell, Cherwell’s director of development, said: “Over the past 12 months the Build! project has really taken off and we now have contractors on site at a dozen different locations. The bungalows at Steeple Aston are the latest homes to begin construction and we are delighted to have been able to deliver this scheme with the support of the village.

“Wherever possible, the Build! project aims to utilise derelict buildings or wasteland to provide housing which is not at the expense of greenfield or open countryside. As such, a lot of our projects are central to Banbury and Bicester but we know there are people who would prefer to adopt a village lifestyle but are often priced out of the market in rural locations. In Steeple Aston we are making the prospect of living in the country more affordable and prioritising those with an existing connection so that the local homes go to local people.”

The semi-detached bungalows will each have two bedrooms, a lounge-diner, separate kitchen, bathroom and separate toilet. Off road parking is provided and there will be gardens at the back and side of each property.

The homes will be marketed for outright ownership later this year. Both will be completed to shell standards with a discount available for the new owners to undertake the interior works themselves.

For more information about the Build! Project, including details of how to register, visit www.cherwell.gov.uk/build


June 2015

SAL celebrates 500th issue

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Congratulations to Steeple Aston Life on the publication of its 500th issue in April 2015. To celebrate this milestone a special colour cover has been printed showing a map of the village in about 1867.

This bird’s eye view is by Joseph Wilkins and is held in the Bodleian library. Wilkins, a Deddington resident and artist, was commissioned to produce these imaginary-eye view maps of several local places. He lived in Gilkes Style at the south end of New Street, now known as The Stile.

Inside the magazine there’s an annotated version of the map, together with an article about what it shows by Martin Lipson, Chairman of Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA). The annotated map can also be found on their website www.steepleastonarchive.org.uk. The map is also available for sale from the Bodleian library. For further details please click here.

The special anniversary edition of the magazine, known to many as “The Life”, has eight extra pages with plenty of memories of editions stretching back to its beginnings in 1973. There are also examples of some old covers which many villagers will remember. More covers can be viewed on this website, see below.

There is also a £50 prize on offer for the winner of a quiz about the village and results of the Young Writers Competition. Details below.

There have been many changes over the years, in the magazine itself, its technology, appearance and length, and in the personnel. But Editor Cathy Lawday says “In essence it’s still the same, following the tradition of the last 500 issues – keeping people informed about what’s happening, where and when; supporting local enterprise, clubs, societies; passing on information about decisions made by Cherwell Council and the Parish Council. It’s still (I hope) doing what I said in my first editorial 20 months ago that I hoped to do: keeping up the job of helping Steeple Aston remain a village with a heart.”

The previous Editor, Edwina Kinch, retired in 2013 after more than 25 years in the post. She now chairs the SAL Committee, which meets monthly. She leads a team of around 30 people involved in contributing to the magazine, putting it together and delivering it.

Steeple Aston Life is delivered free to all homes in Steeple and Middle Aston, and more copies are available to buy in the village shop.

To see 20 more examples of covers over the years, please click here.


May 2015

Work to start on Mid Cherwell development plan

There has been initial approval for a plan to ensure that rural communities including Steeple Aston are protected from speculative and inappropriate development in future.

Cherwell District Council’s executive has approved the establishment of a Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Area comprising Steeple Aston and another 10 local villages. It will now start work on a development plan aimed at ensuring that the majority of new building in future is directed to Upper Heyford.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley gave a guarded welcome to the plan. He said “So far all we have is an outline of the scheme. There is a very great deal of detailed work to be done before we can see the fruits of what we wish for to be achieved.

“Ultimately the plan will have to have the approval, by a referendum, of the majority of all those in villages which are affected and be agreed by a Government Planning Inspector. So we have a long way to go and much detail to put in place before we can hope to gain the backing of all those involved. What suits one community may not suit another and compromises will inevitably have to be made on all sides.”

Cherwell District Council’s executive agreed to the area for which the plan would be developed at its meeting on April 7th. The Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Area will encompass Ardley with Fewcott, Kirtlington, Duns Tew, Lower Heyford, Middleton Stoney, Somerton, Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, North Aston, Fritwell and Upper Heyford.

The Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Area plan will aim to ensure that the majority of new development is directed to Upper Heyford and so protect the rural community from speculative and inappropriate development. The Dorchester Group, owners of the former RAF Upper Heyford site, is included in the group along with the parish councils .

District councillors were told that the former airfield, where development is already taking place, comprises brownfield land and the new settlement area there represents a substantial development within the proposed Neighbourhood Area. It is the only major development area within Cherwell District outside of Bicester and Banbury.

The next step will be to develop the neighbourhood plan itself, which needs to conform with the Cherwell Local Plan. It can then go to examination and subject to that, to a referendum prior to formal adoption.

Adrian Colwell, Cherwell District Council’s head of strategic planning and the economy, said: “Six parishes in the district have already been designated as Neighbourhood Areas -Adderbury, Hook Norton, Bloxham, Stratton Audley, Merton and Deddington. Each of these is at a different stage in preparing their neighbourhood plan. These are now set to be joined by the extra parishes.”


Winning young writers receive prizes

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Book tokens and certificates have been awarded to the winners of the Steeple Aston Life Young Writers Competition, held as part of the celebrations of the magazine’s 500th issue.

The overall winner with her story entitled “What’s wrong with this place?”, was 12-year-old Mia Grossi from Banbury. She received a £20 book token and this attractive certificate.

Editor Cathy Lawday reports: “The SAL Young Writers competition invited 10 to16 year-olds to enter a piece of original writing, not longer than 500 words. Almost all the entries came from secondary school students, mainly 11 to 12 years old with just one entry from a primary school student.

“The four judges (who are all writers) considered various features such as:
Is the story enjoyable to read?
Does it have a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end?
Is it well-written?
Does it have some original ideas?
Do the descriptions of places, situations, events and emotions hold the reader’s interest?
Does it make the reader curious to read on and see what happens?
Overall, they were looking for “A good story, well-told”?

“All of the stories had some good features and all were enjoyable to read. Three of the winning stories are published in this month’s SAL, and you can read the other winning entries next month.

“This month – an uneasy silence at a bus stop; a mysterious place with lifeless inhabitants; and a dangerous encounter on Paines Hill.”

The full list of winners is:
1 GOLD WINNER (£20 book token, certificate) Mia Grossi, aged 12, Banbury
2 SILVER WINNERS (£10 book token, certificate) Georgina Zilvetti, 12, Bicester
Hannah Price, 12, Cropredy
3 BRONZE WINNERS (£5 book token, certificate) Hattie Watkins, 10, Steeple Aston
Prabir Parimelalagar, 11, Steeple Aston
Abigail Smith, 11, Bicester
1 HIGHLY COMMENDED (certificate) Rachel Lawrence, 12, Bicester


Permission granted for new house on South Side

Planning permission has been granted for a new two-storey house on South Side despite strong objections from Steeple Aston Parish Council and our local district councillor.

The plan for a house almost opposite Greenacre on a former garden on the south of South Side was also opposed by at least 15 residents and the District Council’s Conservation Officer. However, Cherwell District Council’s planning committee voted to approve the application subject to a number of conditions at its February meeting.

Parish Councillor Martin Lipson and District Councillor James Macnamara both raised their objections at the meeting which followed a site visit by councillors and officials.

Councillor Macnamara described the proposed house as “too big, too far forward, too high and not the right design.”

Martin Lipson, himself an architect, spoke on behalf of the parish council and 15 of the residents who object to the plan. He described the site as a steep road embankment and said the house would be squeezed on to a difficult and inadequate site leading to a “sub-optimal development”. He emphasised the council’s concerns over road safety, the loss of privacy and light for Radley Cottage and the impact on the conservation area and nearby listed buildings.

Mr Bob Sutton, the owners’ agent, argued that the site was untidy and a stone cottage would blend in well with its surroundings and became an accepted addition to the scene. He said the proposal fits all the council’s planning criteria.

Council planning officers had recommended that the plans be approved subject to a number of conditions, and the planning committee eventually voted to accept their advice. The plans had been amended twice to meet some of the objections by removing a detached garage from the plans and lowering the ground level. Oxfordshire County Council Highways department, although initially concerned about road safety, had now said they were satisfied following amendments to the plans to increase the parking and turning area for vehicles..

You can see all the details of the proposal, the objections from the Parish Council and the officers’ report, as well as a live webcam of the meeting, on Cherwell District Council’s website www.cherwell.gov.uk/planning. Go to planning committee and then 19th February meeting.


Councillors object to proposed Deddington link

The Parish Council has raised strong objections to plans to move Steeple Aston in to a new local government ward with Deddington, and away from the Heyfords with which it has long been associated.

The proposals are part of a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. It has been examining the number of district councillors and the ward structure for Cherwell District Council. Its aim is to ensure that each Cherwell Councillor represents roughly the same number of voters, while ensuring that ward boundaries reflect the interests and identities of local communities.

Local residents are also encouraged to tell the Local Government Boundary Commission what they think of these proposals. But you need to be quick – the public consultation closes on 16 February. You can view the proposals and make a comment by visiting www.consultation.lgbce.org.uk.

Currently Steeple Aston, along with North and Middle Aston, is grouped with the Heyfords and there are two district councillors representing this Astons and Heyfords ward.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley explains: “They have made proposals which include moving parishes around within the new wards which has moved the Astons into a Deddington Ward which encompasses Hook Norton and away from the Heyfords with whom we have been traditionally associated. Tradition cuts no ice with the Commission, so I have drafted my response to attack their own criteria – equal numbers and close connections.”

Steeple Aston’s Consultation Submission first of all makes the point that the proposed Ward boundaries do not reflect the number of voters.

In the five new proposed rural wards are the numbers are:

Deddington (incl. Steeple Aston) 7323
Fringford/Heyfords 5893
Launton/Otmoor 6156
Cropredy/Wroxton, etc 6686
Adderbury/Bloxham 6956

It suggests that to represent “roughly the same number of voters”, Steeple Aston Parish, which has 779 voters currently, should be added to the proposed Fringford/Heyfords Ward. The number of voters in all five wards would then be roughly the same:

Deddington 6544
Fringford/Heyfords 6672
Launton/Otmoor 6156
Cropredy/Wroxton, etc 6686
Adderbury/Bloxham 6956

The Parish Council also challenges being placed in the new Deddington Ward on the grounds that a move to another ward would not reflect the interests and identities of the local communities.

The council argues that the historic connections between The Heyfords and villages to the east of Steeple Aston is far greater than that of Deddington, Hook Norton and villages to the North and West.

It also states, crucially, that future development of housing and facilities around Heyford Park require the village to be involved in every possible way with that more relevant ward of Cherwell District. Local plans reflect this, with Lower Heyford listed as a “satellite” of Steeple Aston, represents Lower Heyford’s common interest in our school, shop, pub and other village organisations.

In addition, there are no shared interests or identity with Deddington or any other communities in the proposed new ward apart from a main road and bus route towards Oxford or Banbury. Steeple Aston has no involvement with Deddington’s facilities other than their provision of a health centre, an offshoot of which, it is fully expected will be provided at Heyford Park.

To read the full text of the Parish Council’s submission, please click here.


Local tax increase will be minimal despite cuts

Steeple Aston Parish Council has kept the increase in its share of Council Tax to around 30p per household despite a reduction in grant income of over £2,000 for the next financial year.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “The next Financial Year will be a tough one for many of us, and that includes your Parish Council. Every year we have to set a Precept, the amount of Council Tax money we need to carry out all of our obligations to keep Steeple Aston a clean, vibrant and a good place to live in. The Parish Precept is included as part of the total amount which appears in your annual Council Tax bill, along with District Council, Police and County Council charges.

“We, like many other councils, are facing cuts in what we receive. For grasscutting our verges throughout the village the County Council grant has been halved (from £1,852 this year down to £925 next year). Cherwell District Council distributes a discretionary Grant for Council Tax Reduction, a mechanism for passing on to parishes some of the funds Central Government gives to the District Council. The grant for next year is down from the £1,811 we were expecting to £696. So the total reduction in our income is £2,042 for next year.

“This has made us look very carefully indeed into what we can afford to pay for, and at the same time keep the charge to villagers as low as we can. Last Financial Year (to 31st March 2015) we required £22,839. This year, despite the income cuts, we will be asking for £22,967, a total increase of £128, which represents about 30p per household extra, or 0.5%, for the whole year to the end of March 2016. You may have noticed that your Council Tax Demand for the next year shows Steeple Aston as having a 3.4% increase in their Council Tax, but whatever mathematic modelling they use, the true figures are as above.

We will continue to make sure that we do not allow this village to stagnate, and, with your support in helping us to keep it a clean, tidy and a good place to live, it should remain so for the next year and beyond. You can help to keep it like that, for example, by supporting our Annual Litter Pick on 12th April.”

A full copy of the Precept financial document is available from Cathy Fleet, our Parish Clerk, or you can just click here.


All village homes to get faster broadband

All homes in Steeple and Middle Aston will be connected to “fast broadband” by the end of 2017 at the latest, with the majority connected by the end of this year.

Additional funding from national and local government has now enabled all Steeple Aston postcodes to be included in the upgrade plans. Middle Aston was already assured of 100 per cent connection under the original plan.

It had been thought that only 95 per cent coverage in Steeple Aston was guaranteed, with four postcode areas excluded. But a contract extension has now been signed with BT, and Oxfordshire County Council has confirmed that all postcodes in the village will be connected, although a final timetable has yet to be announced.

It had already been announced that the majority of postcode areas in Steeple Aston will be connected this year. The plan is for the following postcodes to be connected by the end of June: OX25 4RP, RR, RS, RZ, SE, SF, SG, SH, SJ, SL, SN, SQ, ST, SU, SW, SX. Postcodes 4RT and RU will be connected by the end of December 2015. Middle Aston parish has 12 postcodes, 11 of which will be completed by June, with the remaining one completed by the end of the year.

The remaining Steeple Aston postcodes now included are 4RX, RY, SA, SB, SD, SP, SR, SS and TH. They will be connected by the end of 2017 at the latest.

These changes with the planned connection dates should be shown on the online map (www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/postcode-map) by the end of March.

Important note: coverage of fast broadband is not the same as delivery. Once it is available householders will have to enter into contracts with their ISP to get an upgraded service. It won’t come automatically, and many people will need a new faster router.

There might also be limitations on broadband speed arising from the length of the cable from the cabinet to individual homes. These copper cables are NOT being upgraded under this roll-out. It is the run from the exchange to the cabinets that is being renewed with fibre optic cable to improve the capability of the system.

The first set of postcodes to be connected by June this year will be connected to the cabinet by Whitsun House on South Side. Expected speeds, depending on how close you are to the cabinet, can be viewed www.thinkbroadband.com/guide/fibre-broadband.html


April 2015

Secret Footballer goes online

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A warm welcome to Steeple Aston’s very own Secret Footballer, who will be contributing his reports to the website throughout the season starting this month.

The mystery writer has been contributing the Steeple Aston Life for some time. But now his Football Focus will also be found on the website every month during the season.

His first contribution, “A tale of two semis” brings news of one victory and one defeat in recent semi-finals. In future we may be able to bring you photos as well. Here is this month’s contribution:

“Great news to report that our reserve team beat Bishops Itchington Reserves to reach the final of the Geoff Wilson Cup. After being behind for most of the game and then going down to ten men, we were indebted to Ben Phipps who lashed home the equaliser and then coolly slotted home a final minute penalty. All this from centre back- from where he was, by head and shoulders, man of the match.

“Once I am informed of the date of the final I will let you know.

“Fast forward a week and a terrific game of football at Bicester Town saw the first team lose 3-2 to Heyford Athletic in the Lord Jersey Cup. A last minute winner from Heyford mean that two goals from Ben Phipps (yes- him again) were not enough to see the best team on the night go through. A great performance however and great support from the sidelines has to be a genuine consolation.

“There are two more semi finals to look forward to- on the 21st against Heyford again in the Banbury Charity Shield and on 25th March against Deddington in the Coronation Cup.

All the best

The Secret Footballer”

To find out more about Steeple Aston Football Club, and for future reports, please click here.


Win £50 with SAL 500’s Quirky Quiz

As part of the celebration of Steeple Aston Life’s 500th issue, you are invited to have a go at their Quirky Quiz. This comprises 50 questions about Steeple Aston & Middle Aston. And the winner will receive a £50 PRIZE!

Village institutions, clubs and societies and contributors to the magazine were asked to submit questions for the quiz, which range from the historical to the mathematical. Villagers may have to spend some time over the Easter holidays doing their research. Some questions might require a walk round the village, but looking in the website archive might help as well!

The quiz with its answer sheet can be found in the April 500th edition of SAL, or you can download it below.

SAL Editor Cathy Lawday is keen to encourage everyone to take part. In her editorial she writes: “Find the answers on the village website, in SAVA’s online or print publications; by walking round the village with your eyes open; by visiting the shop, the churchyard, the church; by reading this magazine. Perhaps you’ll not only find answers to the quiz, but will find out more about your village at the same time. Do have a go and send in your answer sheet even if you can’t solve all the questions. The winner will be drawn at random from the highest scoring answers.”

Closing date: all entries MUST be received on or before SUNDAY 12th APRIL 2015

Please send your completed answer sheet to:

Editor, Cathy Lawday, Burland, South Side, Steeple Aston, OX25 4RY

The first correct entry drawn at random will win £50. Quiz answers and the name of the winner will be published in SAL.

NB Erratum Question 7 should say Cedar Lodge not Cedar Court. The SAL Committee is aware of this error, and you won’t lose marks because of it.

To download a pdf copy of the quiz for printing, please click here


Fundraising Valley Girls complete their Indian cycle

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The group of 21 local lady cyclists, who flew to India to cycle 470km across rural Rajasthan, have successfully completed their five-day ride. They had already raised over £65,000 for charity before they left the country.

The Valley Girls, pictured here in front of the Taj Mahal, are normally seen dressed in pink and blue lycra cycling around the local roads of the Cherwell Valley. They flew to India to take part in the ride from the Taj Mahal to Jaipur as part of the Big Heart Bike Ride organised by Action for Charity. After a weekend for recovery and sightseeing, they set off on their cycles on Monday, 9th February and completed the arduous ride within the five days. And you can see lots of photos of their trip online at www.facebook.com/ValleyGirlsCycle

The majority of the group come from Steeple Aston, Lower Heyford, Somerton and North Aston. Among their number is the Chair of the Governors at Dr Radcliffe’s School, Lisa Boote.

She explained in a recent school newsletter that all the members are over 40. She wrote, “Some of us have cycled before, but many are back in the saddle for the first time in 25 years. Most of us met as parents with children at Dr Radcliffe’s and over the years as our children have moved on so have we so it’s been great to get together again with a focus! Despite the hard cycling we still manage to catch up gossiping on our bikes – it’s a bit like ‘Loose Women’ on wheels.

“Our reason for putting our bodies through such pain and riding in the heat and humidity of India is to raise money for four charities – all very close to our hearts and all have a personal connection to us or have helped someone we love: The British Heart Foundation, Southampton Hospital Charity, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals and Vasculitis.”

With fund-raising events and sponsorship they had already raised £65,000 by the time they left for India. This was well above their original aim of £10,000 for each charity. But you can still sponsor them by going to: virginmoneygiving.com/team/ValleyGirlsCycle2015


Bridie chosen as new parish councillor

Bridie%20Mulcahy-Hawes

Bridie Mulcahy-Hawes was chosen to be co-opted as Steeple Aston’s newest parish councillor at the council’s January meeting. She succeeds Marian Trinder, who has resigned after more than five years’ service.

Bridie was one of three candidates asked to attend the meeting to answer questions before the councillors voted. This new ‘open’ procedure has proved rather controversial and unpopular, though councillors felt obliged to follow it.

Bridie and her husband Chris moved to the village from Bicester ten years ago. They live in Nizewell Head, and fell in love with their house because of the wonderful view across the fields to the Eyecatcher.

Conservation will be Bridie’s main priority as a parish councillor. She says: “I feel privileged to reside in such a beautiful location. I regularly walk in and around the village and would like to be involved in protecting and preserving what we have here.”

One of her regular walks is to Coneygar Fields where her daughter Kate has been lucky enough to be allocated one of the new shared ownership houses. She says this would never have happened without the input of the Parish Council and their insistence that the rural exception rules be implemented.

It was Kate’s experience which got Bridie interested in the work of the council. Now she says she is keen to make a contribution to the community and the valuable work the Parish Council does in representing us all.

Bride attended Oxford Brookes University as a mature student studying English and History. Later she took a Masters in Creative Writing. But she may not have much time for writing poetry given the already overwhelming number of emails she has started to receive in her new role.

She understands she will have a lot to learn as a parish councillor, with planning and housing as the most important topics for the immediate future. Fortunately, she has found the other councillors friendly, welcoming and helpful.

She will combine her council duties with her part-time job working for Sainsbury’s in Kidlington and spending time with her two young grandchildren who live near Leicester. She also has plenty of other interests including baking, reading, writing, walking, gardening and wildlife.


March 2015

Young Writers’ competition launched

Steeple Aston Life, the village newsletter, is launching a Young Writers’ Competition as part of the celebration of its 500th edition in April.

Editor Cathy Lawday explains: “Entry to the competition is not restricted to youngsters who live in the village, or to pupils at Dr Radcliffe’s school; it is open to anyone aged 10-16, and we welcome entries from anyone in that age group. Our message to young writers is: Don’t be shy! Give it a try!”

There are three titles to choose from:

A. Write a story or a poem which starts: “It all began one Monday in Paines Hill…”

or B. Write about “The Great Steeple Aston Discovery”.

Or C. Write a piece (either fact or fiction) oin the subject: “What’s wrong with this place.”

Entrants can write a story, a poem, a report, a dialogue, a strip cartoon, a rap, an essay, a fairy tale, a fantasy, a romance, a ghost story….whatever they like. It can be fact or fiction, serious or funny, it can be set in the past, the present or the future. It can feature imaginary characters or it can be about real people: from the present-day or from the past…

Anything is accepted, provided it is not more than 500 words long. The maximum length is 500 words. There is no minimum length.

There will be prizes for the winning entries from different age bands (within the 10-16 limits) and the prize-winning pieces from each age band will be published in a Special 500th Issue of SAL in April this year.

For more details and the competition rules, please click here.


Lollipop lady campaigners fear for child safety

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A campaign to get a lollipop lady back on patrol in Steeple Aston is underway.

The village has been without a school crossing patrol since Marian Trinder retired from the post in July 2012. Oxfordshire County Council then carried out an assessment of the area outside the school and said that it did not meet the necessary criteria to get a replacement.

Eighteen months on and the school run is being described as “full of mad mothers” and “an accident waiting to happen”.

Those who take their children to Dr Radcliffe’s School are quick to report near misses along the way – one mother had the bags knocked off her shoulder by a car mounting the pavement in order to get by more quickly, another was lucky to hold onto her toddler’s hand as they attempted to cross the road peering round a van parked on the yellow zigs zags.

Teachers frequently have to go out and try to move cars on as they block the path of the school bus, leaving children stranded and late for their classes. One mother said: “All parents would feel safer whether they drive their children to school, or walk with them. We all need some direction out there. We need a lollipop lady.”

And there are plenty of worrying statistics to back up the campaign. According to the AA, every year around 5,000 children under 16 are killed or seriously injured on our roads – two out of three of them when walking or playing.

A spokesperson from Oxfordshire County Council said they use a “complex formula” in order to decide whether a school needs a crossing patrol – relating to the number of children crossing the road and the volume of traffic in the area. But critics of the decision say “there’s no formula for chaos or for children’s safety”

The staff and governors of Dr Radcliffe’s School have been keeping a close eye on the situation and feel the problem has worsened. The headteacher, Frances Brown, said: “The safety of children is an upmost priority for everyone. There seems to be more parents driving to school, more road users not taking care when passing the school and more dangerous parking – which restricts visibility for both pedestrians and drivers. We’re in the process of contacting the Council and asking for reassessment.”

In addition to inviting the county council back out to reassess them, the school has set up an email address – schoolcrossing@dr-radcliffes.oxon.sch.uk – for people to report near misses, dangerous driving or irresponsible parking. They’re trying to compile evidence to give to the council in order to persuade them of their need for a crossing patrol.

Meanwhile former lollipop lady Marian Trinder says she saw plenty of near misses while she was on duty and believes “the village needs a lollipop person before an accident happens.”


Fast broadband on its way for most, maybe all

Most homes in Steeple and Middle Aston will get fast broadband during 2015. An increase from 90 to 95 per cent coverage is now guaranteed with the help of extra cash from the district council and the government.

And the Parish Council is to lobby for additional funds to be used to fund the connection of final few homes in Steeple Aston so that 100 per cent coverage can be achieved in both villages.

Martin Lipson, the Parish Councillor who is monitoring progress on this, explains: “There is more information now available about the availability of “fast broadband” in our villages. Out of 28 OX25 4… postcodes serving the village, the following 16 of them will have Fast Broadband installed for connection by the end of June 2015: RP, RR, RS, RZ, SE, SF, SG, SH, SJ, SL, SN, SQ, ST, SU, SW, SX

“The next group is addresses with postcodes RT, RU and 5QG, which will have it by the end of 2015.

“This leaves the following postcodes RX, RY, SA, SB, SD, SP, SR, SS, TH. The latest news is that a decision has just been taken by Cherwell District Council that a further four postcodes from this group, affecting approximately 120 properties, will be added to those already programmed. This will result in a further update in January of the online map (www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/postcode-map), at which point the extended coverage will become official and will be given a timescale for completion.

“Until then we will not be told which four postcodes are being included in the programme, but we do know that they were selected on the basis that the cabinet serving them covers the most properties enabled for the money available. This extended coverage for the village will be part of the uplift from the national 90 per cent coverage to 95 per cent that Cherwell have funded, and BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK, part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) have match-funded.

“This will still leave five postcodes in the parish without planned inclusion in the fast broadband programme. It is assumed that these are all served by one cabinet which is more expensive to upgrade, and that the properties are therefore probably towards the edges of the parish. It is possible that a sum of £500k that Cherwell is holding back to help the final five per cent (of which these properties will be a part) could be applied to them, and the Parish Council will therefore lobby Cherwell in the New Year, in the hope that we can achieve 100 per cent coverage.

“Middle Aston parish has 12 postcodes, 11 of which will be completed by June 2015, with the remaining one completed by the end of 2015 – so it will be getting 100 per cent coverage.

Important note: please bear in mind that coverage of fast broadband is not the same as delivery. Once it is available next year, householders will have to enter into contracts with their ISPs to get the upgraded service – it won’t come automatically, and many people will need a new faster router. There might also be limitations on broadband speed arising from the length of the cable from the cabinet to individual homes. These copper cables are NOT being upgraded under this roll-out. It is the run from the exchange to the cabinets that is being renewed with fibre optic cable to improve the capability of the system.”


SAL wins a national magazine award

Edwina%20%20Cathy%20handover

Steeple Aston Life, the village’s monthly magazine, has beaten over 600 others in a national competition. SAL was placed third overall and won the award for Best Content in the 2014 National Parish Magazine Awards.

Editor Cathy Lawday, pictured here with her predecessor Edwina Kinch, said: “I’m really thrilled that SAL won this award, and I’m particularly pleased that we won Best Content, because it demonstrates what a community venture Steeple Aston Life is. The Content category is judged on the variety of articles and information, so it is a reflection not just of the efforts of the editorial team but also of all the work put in by our many contributors.”

The judges of the 2014 National Parish Magazine Awards said that the standard this year was the highest ever, so it had been hard work for them to decide the order. The Best Content category is judged on the variety of articles in the magazine, the general information included and the use of photos.

The aim of the competition, run annually by Parish Magazine Printers, is to give magazine editors recognition for the service they provide which, they say, so often goes unrewarded. They also hope to give an incentive to those who are considering joining their ranks in future. Each category winner receives a certificate.

SAL, which was the only winner from Oxfordshire this year, celebrates its 500th issue in April.

The top five entries in the competition were:
1st and Overall Winner: Beaconsfield Parish Magazine (Buckinghamshire)
2nd and Best Print: The Dove (Somerset)
3rd and Best Content: Steeple Aston Life (Oxfordshire)
4th and Best Editor: Barton Today (Northamptonshire)
5th and Best Design: Loddon Reach (Berkshire)


February 2015

Heyford Station Friends apply for help

Heyford%20Station%20flowerbed

The Friends of Heyford Station have applied to Steeple Aston Parish Council for a donation, and have asked villagers who use the station to consider joining their organisation and helping to fund their efforts to make the station more attractive. You can see here an example of their work.

Parish Councillors will consider their request for a donation at their annual precept meeting in January. Meanwhile individuals who use the station and would like to support the Friends can contact Roger Bowen, the Hon Secretary by email at rogerbowen@btinternet.com.

Mr Bowen explains that Friends of Heyford Station is an organisation dedicated to improving the environment of Heyford Station, which was felt to be far too urban for its rural surrounds.

He wrote to the Parish Council: “Over the last seven years or so, the Friends have developed gardens with beds alongside the path approaching the station and towpath from Canal Cottage, as well as on the southbound platform, plus planters on both platforms, and are currently looking at the practicalities of making the car park less unattractive.

“These horticultural facilities are provided for the benefit of the travelling public as a whole and the Friends are not unaware that they are very much admired and appreciated.

“The crux of the matter, as you may have been expecting, is that the gardens cost money and the Friends rely on donations. Although all the labour is voluntary, plants, treatments and tools have to be bought.

“Some years ago, your Council was approached to make a donation, but this application was denied on the somewhat curious grounds that the Friends was not a Steeple Aston parochial organisation. This has left Upper and Lower Heyford Parish Councils carrying the can, as it were, with Lower Heyford shouldering the brunt.

“The Friends is not, of course, a Lower Heyford parochial organisation. It’s just that Heyford Station is in Lower Heyford and it is estimated that at least 50 per cent of the regular users are from Steeple Aston

“It has to be admitted that all the current Friends’ members, except one in Upper Heyford, are from Lower Heyford parish, but that is not how it has to be and the second prong of this approach is to seek your assistance in encouraging your parishioners, especially those who use Heyford Station, to become members, attend meetings, which are only every three months, and generally contribute to the organisation

“In conclusion, the Friends would like formally to ask your Council to make a donation towards ongoing costs and its consideration of this entreaty will be very much appreciated”


Caulcott gypsy site plan goes to appeal

The plan for a gypsy site beside the B4030 at Caulcott, just three miles from Steeple Aston, which was refused by Cherwell District Council, is to go to appeal.

Steeple Aston Parish Council, along with other local parish councils and residents 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.

Following the refusal of planning permission by Cherwell, an appeal has been made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The appeal is to be decided at an Inquiry but no date has been set.

Any comments that were made following the original application for planning permission will be forwarded to the Planning Inspectorate and will be taken into account by the Inspector in deciding the appeal.

Anyone wishing to make additional comments should write direct to the Planning Inspectorate, 3/26, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN quoting the appeal reference number (APP/C3105/A/14/2227894) by 10 December 2014 at the latest.

Or you can find more details and comment online by going to the government’s planning portal www.planningportal.gov.uk/planning/appeals/online/search and searching using the appeal reference number above.

The Parish Council unanimously agreed at its November meeting to support Lower Heyford PC in its opposition to the appeal to this planning application and to rely on its earlier comments, which were 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 individual objectors 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.

Southside speeding to be monitored

Speeds are to be monitored and the police consulted after villagers complained to the Parish Council about traffic speeding along Southside, especially where the road narrows between Bradshaw Close and the village shop.

Councillors discussed the options for dealing with this at their September meeting, but there was little agreement about the effectiveness of signs telling drivers their speed or the speed limit. Some thought the signs worked and others thought they were ineffective.

At the end of the discussion, it was agreed that a police officer would be invited to the next meeting to comment on the issue. Also the Parish Clerk was asked to apply for a ‘black box’ to be installed on Southside, somewhere near to Manor Farm.

This will involve a week where two wires are placed across the road and the ‘black box’ records the speed of vehicles. It would not record number plates but it would quantify how much speeding was occurring. The extent of the speeding will determine the subsequent police and Parish Council response.


January 2015

New councillor appointment delayed to January

The co-option of a new councillor to replace Marian Trinder has been delayed because of a change in the procedure for appointing councillors between elections.

Marian announced her resignation in October after five years’ service on the council, citing pressure of work. Between elections councillors have the power to co-opt a replacement after the advertisement of the vacancy.

In the past, this decision has been made by councillors in private, based on the candidates’ written applications. But now the procedure has been changed and applicants must be invited to a council meeting to make a brief presentation and answer questions in public before a secret ballot by the councillors.

It had been hoped to co-opt a new councillor in November, but now the decision will have to wait until the next council meeting in January. Three applications have been received, and these candidates will be invited to the meeting on January 15th where they will also be invited to ask any questions they may have. It has been emphasised that their application will be considered even if they don’t attend the meeting.

The existing parish councillors will then vote by secret ballot, and the name of the successful candidate will be announced at the meeting.


Village mobile library service could be cut

Plans for a substantial reduction in the mobile library service to Steeple Aston are out for consultation, and library users are asked to make their views known.

Currently the mobile library service bus visits Steeple Aston fortnightly for an hour. It stops at the Pre-School and the former White Lion.

The council says that fewer than three people visit the bus at the White Lion stop. So the new proposals are for the bus to come to the Pre-School only, and for just 15 minutes a fortnight.

The consultation exercise on Oxfordshire County Council’s mobile library service, which is predominately aimed at service users, runs from Monday, 6th October to Wednesday, 31st December. The new proposals are to be implemented in April next year.

Jillian Southwell, the council’s Library Service Manager explains: “We have recently reviewed our mobile library service and found that whilst the service is clearly valued, many of the stops we currently offer are not very well used, and some are not used at all.

“We believe we can better serve the needs of people who find it difficult to get to library buildings by joining up our mobile services and delivering them in a different way.

“Our proposal is that our seven mobile vehicles will remain in service but will be used in a different and better way providing better stopping places with longer stops. There will also be an improved home library service for housebound people.

“There will be no financial cuts to the mobile library service budget and everybody who currently uses our mobile library service will continue to receive a level of provision. It may however be offered in a different way.”

The proposals for using mobile library service vehicles in a different way are for:

  • Four general service vehicles serving communities.
  • One dedicated home library service van delivering to individuals who are housebound and would not otherwise have access to library services. This vehicle will also deliver to care homes and nursing homes and will complement, support and grow the service already provided by home library service volunteers.
  • Two mobile vehicles visiting primary schools to promote reading for pleasure.

The details of proposals are set out in a consultation document that is available on all mobile library vehicles and is also published on the county council website. Letters have been sent to mobile library service customers to inform them of the consultation and staff on the mobile library vehicles have been briefed to help answer customer queries.

To read about the proposals in more detail, and to respond to the consultation, go to http://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/mobilelibraries