News Archive 2016

November 2016

New Grange Park tree order “a bitter blow”

The controversial blanket Tree Preservation Order on Grange Park, Steeple Aston has finally been reviewed by Cherwell District Council. But to residents’ surprise, new individual TPOs have been created which seem to cover all the trees included in the old order. And no account has been taken of the danger to residents and their properties or the inconvenience of having such large trees in their gardens.

In total 26 Grange Park properties have received notification that new TPOs are to be imposed on their trees. These cover more than 40 trees on the estate that were formally covered by the area order. Residents have until 12th December to object to these new orders, and they are being urged to do so by fellow villagers.

Patrick Prendergast, one of the council’s Arboricultural Officers explained: “The purpose of the review was to remove the Area TPO designation and replace it with either individual or group designations. This is because Area designations are only to be used as a temporary measure. It is not unique to Cherwell that they have been left in place for so long, but by the New Year all our Area designations will be replaced.

“Any residents who have objections to the new TPOs have until the 12th December to submit. The TPO must be confirmed before the end of six months from when it was made otherwise it lapses. If there are objections then a report will be required to respond to those issues raised before the TPO can be confirmed in full or modified.”

The review was carried out by an arboricultural consultant from Sylva Consultancy. All of the trees to be included within the new orders were assessed by the consultant using TEMPO (Tree Evaluation Method for Preservation Orders).  The TEMPO assessment looks at the condition and suitability of a given tree for the TPO, the retention span, the relative public visibility, other factors, for example if the trees are of particularly good form, and includes an expediency assessment.

Andy Allen who has been leading the fight against the Area TPO expressed his disappointment in no uncertain terms. He writes: “The initial reaction is that this is a bitter blow to our hopes of having the existing Area TPO 8/1970 revoked unequivocally, as we have now been presented with the fait accompli of an Individual TPO on every tree in Grange Park!”

He explained that the problem with the TEMPO method is that it’s completely tree-centred and takes no account whatsoever of the impact on people or nearby buildings.

He said, “The results of the review appear to be presented as if our houses and families living in them are not there at all! It is tempting to regard this action by CDC as a vindictive reaction to our campaign for the review of a 46 year old TPO. A more charitable view might be that CDC are adopting a cover-all approach in the expectation that most of the proposed TPOs will be rejected in the face of stiff resistance by the residents.

“It is vital that any Grange Park (and other) residents who wish to object to this new order now do so in the appropriate terms – the current deadline set by CDC for this is 12th December. Failure to do so is likely to result in permanent TPOs being imposed on their trees.”

To see the notice sent to residents, with details of the trees to be covered and a map, please click here.


Remembering the local men who fell at the Somme

remembrance-parade-5Around 70 people attended the Remembrance Sunday service and parade this year. Villagers remembered particularly the eight local men who died 100 years ago during the Somme Offensive between July and October 1916.

Local author Jean Stone, who wrote the booklet “The Steeple Aston War Memorial” says the WI was asked to draw people’s attention to the centenary of the Battle of the Somme this year. So she tells us about the men from Steeple Aston who died in those few short months, and about her journey to France to find their graves. 

She writes: “It was said that larks could be heard singing as the guns fell silent at 7.30am on 1st July when the Somme Offensive began. Steeple Aston’s first casualty was on this day. 

John Rutledge was a Captain in the 7th Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment and together with the West Yorkshires was dug-in near the village of Fricourt which was occupied by the enemy. The West Yorks suffered the most casualties in the morning of 1st July and in the afternoon, the East Yorks made another attempt to advance but were overwhelmed by machine-gun fire. John, together with nearly all 208 British soldiers and two from New Zealand fell then and are buried in the Fricourt New Military Cemetery. By evening, the Germans had evacuated the village.

Bertie Foster (aged 35) was a Gunner in 1st Bn. Middlesex Regiment who were based in and around Bethune. They had had a fairly quiet time, mostly quick skirmishes against the enemy and it was during one of these that Bertie was wounded. He died of his injuries on 6th July and is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.

James Norman (aged 24) was a Signaller with the 5th Bn. Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who during that July, were entrenched defending the town of Beaurains. On 14th July, several men were wounded by shell fire when returning from carrying party duties (probably trench boards). It is assumed that James was severely injured and taken to Avenses-le-Comte casualty clearing station where he subsequently died and was buried in the Communal Cemetery.

Reginald Pickett (aged 17) was a Rifleman with the 17th Bn. Kings Royal Rifles who in July were being kept busy repairing parapets and filling sandbags. When darkness fell, trench raids were launched to destroy the enemy’s dug-outs and machine-gun posts. It was during one of these raids on 17th July that Reginald met his death and was subsequently buried in St.Vaast Post Military Cemetery.

John Bolton (aged 19) was a Private with the 1st/4th Bn. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who in July were involved in the battle for Delville Wood. Nearly every day it rained and the woods were filled with mud, broken tree stumps and the bodies of dead and dying soldiers. It was on 23rd July that John died in these horrific conditions and is buried in Pozieres British Cemetery.

Percy Hedges was a Rifleman with the 1st Bn. King’s Royal Rifles. After the capture of Delville Wood, the Germans launched a counter attack some days later. On 25th July, Percy and his unit were ordered to take over some trenches in the wood at Bois de Tailles.  By the 27th they had succeeded in flushing out the enemy, but it was sometime during the attack that Percy lost his life. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

Frederick Hickson (aged 22) was a Lance-Corporal with the 2nd Bn.Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and on 1st August was part of an attack to take possession of Guillemont south of Delville Wood. It was during this battle on 2nd August that Frederick lost his life. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial, Somme.

John Foster (aged 21) a Corporal in the 2nd Bn. Grenadier Guards was killed in action on 15th September during a battle lasting several days to drive the enemy out of their trenches at Ginchy. He was subsequently buried at Serre Road Cemetery, No 2 Beaumont-Hamel, Somme.

Jean’s journey to the French cemeteries

Nearly twenty years ago Jean wrote her booklet entitled ‘ The Steeple Aston War Memorial’ to record how and where 42 of our Steeple Aston soldiers were killed in WW1 and WW2 and who are also commemorated on tablets in the Church.

Here she draws on the diary of her trip to France to find the graves of those who died on the Somme, and others:

“Back in July 1997, I set off early one morning for Dover in my trusty MG – bought a ferry ticket and crossed to France. I headed first towards Ypres just over the border in Belgium and during the following few days zig-zagged my way southwards towards Amiens, having found and visited all 27 Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries and taken many photographs for the booklet. It was not always that simple. Some of the smaller cemeteries were at the end of a muddy lane in the corner of a farmer’s field and many a time I got stuck in mud up to the axles with no-one around to help me out. And it rained on-and-off too, just as it did a hundred years ago. 

“I still have vivid memories of my journey through Picardy and the cemeteries I visited. Then, I hardly met another soul – there were no crowds of tourists or parties of school-children. There were no sat. navs. and no mobile phones – only a large scale map to guide me. And those muddy dirt tracks that led me to some of the cemeteries have probably been replaced nowadays by tarmacked highways.

“I was hugely impressed by the enormity of the largest cemeteries and memorials like Thiepval and Serre Road both designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and the tiny ones like Fricourt – all kept in pristine condition by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. At the entrance to each cemetery is a small door and inside a ledger containing alphabetical details of the whereabouts of every grave. So it was most gratifying to find each one on my list with a quiet welcome and for a few minutes to share the peaceful solitude of their surroundings.

“My task finished, I joined the autoroute back to Calais first stopping at a Carrefour. Here I purchased a case of good French wine at under £2 a bottle. The last entry in my diary records that I got back home in time to collect Tuesday (the dog) from the kennels and then crossed over (from The Croft) to the ‘Red Lion’ for a well-earned beer.”

For more photos of this year’s parade, please click here.


January village meeting will discuss local plan

Villagers are to be invited to consider detailed proposals from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum at a meeting on Tuesday, January 24th in the Village Hall.

At this third in a series of meetings, villagers will be able to discuss the latest draft of the Neighbourhood Plan, which will be available online in advance. Leaflets containing summaries of the proposals will also be delivered to households during December.

Some of the subjects up for discussion were considered at November’s Parish Council meeting. They include the designation of Local Green Spaces in the village, and the provision of overspill housing for Oxford.

Three sites have been submitted by their owners for Steeple Aston – all on the western side. One is adjacent to Grange Park, and the other two are North and South of Fenway, just past the 12 new houses. To see a map, please click here.

Two have been suggested for Middle Aston. One is on the Steeple Aston Road, on the western side and north of the school and the other is a site stretching from the western side of Middle Aston Lane round the back of the houses to the Steeple Aston Road.

It seems unlikely that these sites will be used for Oxford overspill as Cherwell has designated sites much closer to the city as preferable. But the identification of these village sites for possible future development will no doubt be a topic for discussion at the meeting.

There is more information about these proposals in this month’s Councillor Calling column from Cherwell District Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes. To see it, please click here.

In his monthly update on developments at MCNP, Parish Council Chairman, John Coley emphasises the need for evidence-based proposals as well as consultation with residents.

He writes: “We are ploughing on. Since the last bulletin we have submitted an early draft of our Plan to Cherwell DC for critical analysis, and after quite a long delay, we now have their helpful comments.

“There has also been a case in the High Court where a developer has overturned the whole of a parish Neighbourhood Plan because the judge found that not enough evidence had been put forward to justify some policies. Simply because local people want something and they believe it is the correct way forward does not constitute Evidence, it’s only Opinion.  We must take this and other comments on board to make our Plan strongly evidence-based, and be able to support this with actual work done or commissioned.  This includes making sure that any boundaries we choose for settlements are not only evidence-based, but are consistently applied throughout.  The whole thrust of the reasoning for Neighbourhood Plans is for neighbourhoods to say where development should take place, and must not to be construed as “anti-development”, so we will have get it right.  Developers are waiting to pounce!

“Looking back to last month, the development in Fritwell has been withdrawn by the developers, following arguments about the mix of houses. The “Oxford Overspill” deliberations continue with Cherwell now naming a number of sites which have been put forward (not always by the owners, or even with their permission!) for developing 100 or more houses.  Three are in Steeple Aston, one in Fenway, and two by Westfield stables.  The Parish Council discussed these on 21st November at their monthly meeting.

“We are now getting to the stage where we feel able to involve you to let you know where we are with what was important for you, and to get your feedback on what more we could do where you think we aren’t quite there yet. Our meeting will be held on Tuesday 24th January at 7.30pm.  All households will receive a leaflet in December with a précis of our emerging policies.  The entire Plan document will be available, but it’s far too bulky for us to print one for each household.”


Grange Park Tree Order under review at last 

After a campaign by local residents, a review of the blanket Tree Preservation Order in Grange Park is finally under way. The Parish Council had been told that the review was expected to take place between August and October, but there had been no signs of this happening.

After further prompting from residents and the Parish Clerk, the consultant who has been employed by Cherwell District Council to review the order has now visited Grange Park.

Andy Allen, who has been leading the residents’ campaign, tells their story so far: “The long-running saga (or scandal?) of Tree Preservation Order (TPO) 8/1970 appears to be coming to an end, or at least a pause! After much pressure from Grange Park residents, Cherwell District Council’s Arboricultural Officer Caroline Morrey has finally agreed to review it. To that end, residents have recently received an undated, unsigned letter on CDC headed paper, informing us that the review will be conducted by a contractor, Fiona Bradshaw, “within the next month”

“TPO 8/1970 is an Area TPO, the Area category being one of four; the others are Individual, Group and Woodland. According to government Planning Practice Guidance the Area category should be used in emergencies only and reviewed as soon as possible – trees, or groups of trees, within the area should then be assessed as to whether they warrant special protection by Individual or Group TPO (there is no Woodland in Grange Park). The ’emergency’ which gave rise to the imposition by Oxfordshire County Council of TPO 8/1970 was presumably the planning permission granted for the Grange Park development 46 years ago.

“Oxfordshire County and Cherwell District Councils clearly failed in their duty to review this TPO, along with 46 other Area TPOs in their area of responsibility. The decision to review it now is welcome and the expectation is that it will be revoked and not replaced by Individual and Group TPOs simply in order to confirm the legitimacy of TPO 8/1970.

“We conducted a survey in January this year by means of a questionnaire distributed to every house in Grange Park. The questionnaire was designed to ascertain the views of residents about the TPO and asked a number of detailed questions about the impact and perceived amenity value of the trees. The analysis of the results was published in a report* dated 1st March 2016 which was sent to John Coley and Cathy Fleet, for distribution among all members of the Parish Council. More recently it was sent to Caroline Morrey, with copies to District Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes and our MP  Victoria Prentis among others.

“A brief summary of the results is that 68% (of respondents to the survey) felt that the trees had little or no amenity benefit to the local area, 68% that the trees were too large and 59% that the trees were too close to houses; 86% of respondents wanted the TPO to be revoked but only 45% stated that they would like trees to be felled in that event.

“The views about the trees being too large and too close are very pertinent as the trees have been allowed to grow largely uncontrolled for 46 years into monsters which are totally inappropriate for their modest garden locations; many of the trees are also dangerously close to houses. There is much information available online regarding recommended sensible distances from buildings, eg http://www.subsidencebureau.com/subsidence_trees.htm. It is striking that CDC appears to show precious little concern for the well-being of residents and their houses in the dogged pursuit of their mission to protect the trees at all costs.

“If CDC tries to impose new TPOs on Grange Park, residents will have the opportunity to object and they should do so in the strongest terms. However, it remains to be seen whether reason and common sense will prevail and Grange Park will finally be rid of this unnecessary, unfair and unpopular order.”

To see a copy of the Allen’s report, please click here.


October 2016

More funds raised for church re-ordering project

churchspringFollowing a ‘pledge weekend’ at the end of September, £16,000 has now been raised for the changes to the interior of the ancient village church of St Peter and St Paul in Steeple Aston. Plans for the refurbishment are going ahead despite objections raised by some villagers.

Following the weekend the Rector, Revd Marcus Green said, “I am totally amazed by the generosity of people in the village, and delighted by how folk are committing themselves to the project. We have a Book Sale on October 23rd, a Jazz Concert on December 3rd and a Choral Concert on February 4th ahead, so hopefully we will achieve the £20,000 we need for this stage of the project well within the timescale.

Before the weekend around 40 residents had already pledged £11,000 towards the project. Revd Green explained, “Given that this is for the technical stage of the work, where we just push things forward towards permissions and consents, pulling together everything that is needed for the building to begin – and not actually towards building anything – I think this is an astounding sum of money.”

Over the next few months, advanced plans will be produced and it is hoped that they will be agreed by the end of 2017, so that work can begin. A part-time fundraiser will also be recruited. The last major re-ordering of the listed building took place nearly 200 years ago, but the church is thought to date back to the 12th century.

A public meeting in March gave a broadly positive reaction to a feasibility study carried out by JBKS Architects. The six main aims of the project are listed as:

  • Better Heating
  • Better Access
  • Flexibility for different liturgical and community usage
  • At least one toilet
  • Basic kitchen facilities
  • Space for children.

The architects’ preliminary design proposals, still at the “conceptual stage” include relocating the Chancel Screen and font, new glazed doors and a new floor with underfloor heating. Toilets, a kitchen area and space for children will be provided by reorganising the vestry area and tower room. Perhaps the most sensitive proposal concerns the Victorian pews with their Tudor bench ends. These would be taken up, shortened and resited to allow more flexible space around them.

There has been plenty of support from churchgoers for many of these ideas but objections to the plans have been raised in letters to the village magazine, Steeple Aston Life. Perhaps the most dramatic expression of dissent though came in the form of a message in the church visitors’ book from Charles and Angela Cottrell-Dormer of Rousham Park. It simply says: “Outrageous proposals to ruin this lovely church. PURE VANDALISM.”

Long-time resident Jean Stone wrote to SAL that she was also concerned that these “revolutionary ideas” will destroy “the whole ambience of such an old and revered building”. Like others she welcomed the provision of toilet and kitchen facilities. There has also been support for improved disabled access and facilities.

But Churchwarden Malcolm Hensher wrote to SAL to say that about a third of the Parochial Church Council were unhappy with major aspects of the plan and proposed some compromises. In the end however the PCC voted 10 to 2 in favour of going ahead.

Revd Green says he welcomes people’s comments and suggestions. He says “Sometimes I ask for what I call “creative negativity” from those who in their heart of hearts really don’t like the project. We’ve had public meetings and elected a PCC on the basis of going ahead with the project; the PCC have voted clearly to move forward. But as for those who still struggle, I don’t want silence! I want really good questions asked really clearly so that we get the very best version of the project we can.

“All my experience tells me that some of the very best things we will do will come as a result of the input from those who push the hardest. It’s not always easy – but then a family isn’t always an easy place. We still all belong, and I am grateful to be rector of a village where such care is taken by so many people. The PCC have exciting plans and vision, and I’m pleased to be a part of that; and I am very much rector of those who aren’t excited by those plans too.”

To see the proposals in the brochure “Shaping a Community”, please click here.

To visit the church’s own website, go to www.sntchurch.com.

If you have views on the church’s plans, you can contribute to the debate on the website Forum,  please click here.


September 2016

Council appeal after vandals strike again 

Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet writes: “It seems that Steeple Aston is full of vandals!!! Following the criminal damage caused to the Village Hall by vandals in the summer we now have a further two instances in the village.

“The bus shelter at the top of Nizewell Head has been badly damaged – panels have been kicked out and graffitti sprayed all over it including some star-like symbols.  This will be repaired at the expense of the Parish Council which ultimately will be passed on to the tax payer.

“And now the Broadband box by Grange Park has been graffittied.  Interestingly, the same symbols appear here as on the bus shelter although the damage occurred at different times.  Also the stupid people who did this very kindly have left their names, HOLLIE AND INDIA has been painted on the road along with the symbol.

Does anyone know who HOLLIE and INDIA are?   Because if so the Parish Council would like to have words with them!”

If anyone has any information regarding any of these instances, please could you let the Parish Clerk know.  She can be contacted on parishclerk.steepleaston@gmail.com or by phone on 01869 347000.


Mid-Cherwell Forum agrees target dates

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “More good news this month. We have now put together some important target dates to make sure the Neighbourhood Plan is advanced in an ordered manner and to give all of us on the Forum an idea of target dates we have to meet.

“We aim to be able to get a draft of the plan to Cherwell District Council by November, and to have a third round of Community Engagement in early January 2017. We are expecting that there will be a few amendments following the meetings. Following amendments we will ask all Parish Councils to agree that the Plan is formally submitted to Cherwell. CDC can then pass it on to an Independent Examiner which is part of the legal process all neighbourhood plans have to go through.

“Depending on how long that takes, and how we deal with any comments from the Examination, we will then have a Referendum on the whole Plan. For a Plan to be “made” requires that over 50% of those who vote, vote in favour of the Plan.  This would be towards mid-Summer next year.

“Then another tranche of work begins in keeping our Plan up to date with any changes which CDC make to their Local Plan – don’t forget that all the plans look forward to 2031, and lots of variations can and will occur in that time.

“Much progress has been made in drafting the various policies to drive the Plan forward to where we believe you want us to go for all the Plan area. These will be the subject of much scrutiny through September and will then be on the website.   We now have a series of Frequently Asked Questions to help you understand how we have addressed the various strands of the Plan.  These are now on the website at www.mid-cherwell.org.uk  for you to see.” 


Mobile library service to end

The familiar sight of the mobile library bus on a visit to Steeple Aston will soon be a distant memory, as the final closure of the service has been announced.

Faced with the need to make substantial financial savings Oxfordshire County Council has regretfully decided to bring the service to an end. The final day will by Friday, 16th September.

In a letter to the Parish Council, Jillian Southwell, the county’s Library Service Manager said it was a difficult decision that followed extensive public consultation on the cuts needed to save £361 million by 2018.

She wrote: “We know how greatly the mobile library is valued by its users, and are encouraging people to continue borrowing books from the service until the last round of visits begins on Monday, 5th September….

“Service users will be offered alternative library provision through our network of 43 library buildings; our online library services; and our Home Library Service.”

The Home Library Service will be expanded to cope with additional demand. This free service works through paid staff, partners and volunteers to deliver books, dvds, music cds and audio books to residents who are unable to get to a library themselves. It’s also available to those who can visit a branch but aren’t able to carry their books home. The mobile crew can provide an application leaflet. Details are also available online or by calling 01865 810240.

The nearest library to Steeple and Middle Aston is at Deddington. For details of opening hours etc, please click here.


Fund-raising under way for church re-ordering project

churchspringPlans for dramatic changes to the interior of the ancient village church of St Peter and St Paul are to go ahead despite objections raised by some villagers.

Around 40 residents have already pledged over £11,000 towards the project, and further fund-raising is planned including a pledge weekend in late September, sponsorship, a book sale, a jazz evening and a choir concert.

The Rector Revd Marcus Green said, “Given that this is for the technical stage of the work, where we just push things forward towards permissions and consents, pulling together everything that is needed for the building to begin – and not actually towards building anything – I think this is an astounding sum of money.”

Over the next few months, advanced plans will be produced and it is hoped that they will be agreed by the end of 2017, so that work can begin. A part-time fundraiser will also be recruited. The last major re-ordering of the listed building took place nearly 200 years ago, but the church is thought to date back to the 12th century.

A public meeting in March gave a broadly positive reaction to a feasibility study carried out by JBKS Architects. The six main aims of the project are listed as:

  • Better Heating
  • Better Access
  • Flexibility for different liturgical and community usage
  • At least one toilet
  • Basic kitchen facilities
  • Space for children.

The architects’ preliminary design proposals, still at the “conceptual stage” include relocating the Chancel Screen and font, new glazed doors and a new floor with underfloor heating. Toilets, a kitchen area and space for children will be provided by reorganising the vestry area and tower room. Perhaps the most sensitive proposal concerns the Victorian pews with their Tudor bench ends. These would be taken up, shortened and resited to allow more flexible space around them.

There has been plenty of support from churchgoers for many of these ideas but objections to the plans have been raised in letters to the village magazine, Steeple Aston Life. Perhaps the most dramatic expression of dissent though came in the form of a message in the church visitors’ book from Charles and Angela Cottrell-Dormer of Rousham Park. It simply says: “Outrageous proposals to ruin this lovely church. PURE VANDALISM.”

Long-time resident Jean Stone wrote to SAL that she was also concerned that these “revolutionary ideas” will destroy “the whole ambience of such an old and revered building”. Like others she welcomed the provision of toilet and kitchen facilities. There has also been support for improved disabled access and facilities.

But Churchwarden Malcolm Hensher wrote to SAL to say that about a third of the Parochial Church Council were unhappy with major aspects of the plan and proposed some compromises. In the end however the PCC voted 10 to 2 in favour of going ahead.

Revd Green says he welcomes people’s comments and suggestions. He says “Sometimes I ask for what I call “creative negativity” from those who in their heart of hearts really don’t like the project. We’ve had public meetings and elected a PCC on the basis of going ahead with the project; the PCC have voted clearly to move forward. But as for those who still struggle, I don’t want silence! I want really good questions asked really clearly so that we get the very best version of the project we can.

“All my experience tells me that some of the very best things we will do will come as a result of the input from those who push the hardest. It’s not always easy – but then a family isn’t always an easy place. We still all belong, and I am grateful to be rector of a village where such care is taken by so many people. The PCC have exciting plans and vision, and I’m pleased to be a part of that; and I am very much rector of those who aren’t excited by those plans too.”

To see the proposals in the brochure “Shaping a Community”, please click here.

To visit the church’s own website, go to www.sntchurch.com.

If you have views on the church’s plans, you can contribute to the debate on the website Forum,  please click here.


August 2016

Daphne is Summer Show Champion again

summer 17Once again the Champion at the village Summer Show was Daphne Preston, pictured here with the five cups she won on August Bank Holiday Monday.

Daphne, who has won the title for the last three years, saw off all comers once again winning the Wadham Challenge Trophy and the Fothergills Cup for her flowers, the Scott Cup for her flower arrangements, the George Alder Memorial Cup for her dahlias and the Banksian Medal. So she deservedly qualified for the Walker Cup for Show Champion.

Her proud husband Richard, Chairman of Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society, who won the Rousham Cup himself for his vegetables, writes:

“What a difference a bit of sunshine makes! After two rather damp flower shows the weather turned in our favour and brought a large number of visitors to view the amazing produce and crafts that were on exhibition in the marquee and village hall.  The number of exhibits was around the usual at just under 700 confirming that this show is one of the largest traditional flower shows around and attracts exhibitors from The Astons and further afield.  The field was full of stalls and attractions from a bouncy castle to jousting, shooting to plate smashing.  And not to forget the wonderful array of stalls where local societies were able to display their wares and hopefully swell their funds a little but also local crafts from brownies, the sort you eat, to artists that take commission work to capture your pet in oils.

“Another great attraction is the Fun Dog Show where we were able to witness the skill of biscuit catching and the most appealing eyes, this is the dogs of course, and the winner of “Dog of the day” who was Sarah with ‘Bella’.

“For me it is seeing all those smiling faces and wonderful exhibits and that makes this day a very special day in the calendar of Steeple and Middle Aston. For a show to be able to not only survive but expand and improve over 125 years is something to be proud of when similar shows around the country are struggling or have disappeared.  This is down to two main factors.  First, the commitment of a very hard-working committee and most importantly, the support from villagers who either enter an exhibit or come along during the afternoon to join in in what must be the major village event in a very full village calendar.”

For the full results, please click here

For more photos, please click here.


New Chippie bus service gets going

OurBusBartonsA new bus service to replace the defunct Villager service from Steeple Aston to Chipping Norton will start on Wednesday, August 31st.

The Villager service had its last run on Wednesday, July 27th. A new community-led service Our Bus Bartons, will provide the same service every Wednesday, leaving Steeple Aston at 9.00am and Chipping Norton at 11.50am, arriving back in the village at 12.40pm.

From Tuesday, August 30th, Our Bus Bartons will also be providing a daily service mornings and evenings from Middle Barton to The Crescent, Steeple Aston to link up with the S4 bus to Banbury and Oxford as well as calling at Lower Heyford rail station. Altogether they will be providing services on seven routes for Middle Barton villagers and those nearby.

Our Bus Bartons was set up by volunteers in response to the recent cuts in bus subsidies by Oxfordshire County Council. The aim was to replace the recently withdrawn bus service from Stagecoach that previously provided a lifeline to the small villages around Middle Barton. It has received grants from charities and local councils, but is still seeking further financial support as well as more volunteer drivers.

The Chair of Our Bus Bartons Richard Brown said “Similar to many village communities, Middle Barton came under threat of rural isolation following the cuts announced last year. Our Bus Bartons reconnects residents from the villages of Middle Barton, Duns Tew, Sandford St Martin, Steeple Barton, Lower Heyford, Glympton, Wootton, Woodstock, Over Worton, Great and Little Tew with Banbury, Oxford, the new Oxford Parkway Rail station and Chipping Norton. The service incorporates the health centres in both Deddington and Chipping Norton as well as direct links to supermarkets in Chipping Norton and Kidlington.

“In just seven months, we have set up a functional public transport service for villages in and around Middle Barton. Local councils, charities and individuals have recognised the hardship to local villagers that would likely occur after Stagecoach had its subsidy cut and the subsequent loss of bus service.”

“We have relied on volunteers to get Our Bus up and ready in just seven months, but of course we need more help. We have trained a small number of volunteer drivers, however we need more to run our services efficiently. Whilst we have been grateful to receive some generous funding we are very keen to receive further financial help however large or small.”

To see the new bus timetable, please click here.

For more information, go to their website: http://ourbus.co/bartons/

Or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OurBusBartons/


 

Increased police presence after vandalism at Village Hall 

Police will be increasing their presence in the village after vandals caused damage to the Village Hall and the surrounding area during the first week of August.

Parish Clerk Cathy Fleet reports: “Sadly, overnight on Tuesday/Wednesday considerable damage was caused to our Village Hall and parts of the playground.  It seems that someone went on the Village Hall roof and has either thrown something or fallen through the glass canopy above the kitchen door.  The canopy is completely shattered and will need replacing at the expense of the Parish Council.  If something was thrown, then this is pure vandalism, if someone fell through then the chances are they suffered some injury, but either way they should not have been on the roof in the first place.

“At the same time paint was sprayed on the toilet door which will need to be cleaned off and a fire was lit using white spirit, WD40 and a canister of butane in the newly refurbished gazebo.  Someone, somewhere knows who is responsible for this!

“It is sad to think that some people in the village have so little respect for what many people work hard to keep in a good state of repair.

“The police have been informed and have allocated a crime number, and police presence will be increased in the area. The Parish Council will now have to consider installing CCTV in the playground.”

If you have any information about this incident you can contact Cathy at parishclerk.steepleaston@gmail.com, or on 01869 347000. Alternatively you can call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


New Chippie bus service to start in weeks

OurBusBartonsA new bus service to replace the defunct Villager service from Steeple Aston to Chipping Norton is due to start on August 31st.

The Villager service had its last run on Wednesday, July 27th. A new community-led service Our Bus Bartons, will provide the same service every Wednesday, leaving Steeple Aston at 9.00am and Chipping Norton at 11.50am, arriving back in the village at 12.40pm.

Our Bus Bartons will also be providing a daily service mornings and evenings from Middle Barton to Steeple Aston to link up with the S4 bus to Banbury and Oxford as well as calling at Lower Heyford rail station. Altogether they will be providing services on seven routes for Middle Barton villagers and those nearby.

The new service was set up by volunteers in response to the recent cuts in bus subsidies by Oxfordshire County Council. The aim was to replace the recently withdrawn bus service from Stagecoach that previously provided a lifeline to the small villages around Middle Barton. It has received grants from charities and local councils, but is still seeking further financial support as well as more volunteer drivers.

The Chair of Our Bus Bartons Richard Brown said “Similar to many village communities, Middle Barton came under threat of rural isolation following the cuts announced last year. Our Bus Bartons reconnects residents from the villages of Middle Barton, Duns Tew, Sandford St Martin, Steeple Barton, Lower Heyford, Glympton, Wootton, Woodstock, Over Worton, Great and Little Tew with Banbury, Oxford, the new Oxford Parkway Rail station and Chipping Norton. The service incorporates the health centres in both Deddington and Chipping Norton as well as direct links to supermarkets in Chipping Norton and Kidlington.

“In just seven months, we have set up a functional public transport service for villages in and around Middle Barton. Local councils, charities and individuals have recognised the hardship to local villagers that would likely occur after Stagecoach had its subsidy cut and the subsequent loss of bus service.”

“We have relied on volunteers to get Our Bus up and ready in just seven months, but of course we need more help. We have trained a small number of volunteer drivers, however we need more to run our services efficiently. Whilst we have been grateful to receive some generous funding we are very keen to receive further financial help however large or small.”

To see the new bus timetable, please click here.

For more information, go to their website: http://ourbus.co/bartons/

Or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OurBusBartons/


July 2016

MP comes to celebrate faster broadband

Picture: Andrew Walmsley 15/07/16 Steeple Aston L-R standing: Stacey King (BT regional manager), Cllr Michael Waine (chair of OCC), Victoria Prentis MP, and Cllr Ken Atack L-R front: Karl Rolfe (Openreach engineer), Oscar Willis and Emily Whiting (kids from Dr Radcliffe's Church of England primary school) Steeple Aston residents, businesses, children and community groups were today (Friday) joined by Victoria Prentis MP to celebrate even more of the village getting better access to the information superhighway. The historic village is the first community in Cherwell district to benefit from the second phase of the multi-million pound Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme. The roll-out, which is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, is led by Oxfordshire County Council and BT, supported by Cherwell District Council, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEM LEP) and OxLEP (Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership).

Local MP Victoria Prentis joined villagers, local councillors and BT at an event to celebrate the latest rollout of Better Broadband in Steeple Aston.

Residents, businesses, children and community groups were invited to celebrate even more of the village getting better access to the information superhighway on Friday, 15th July. Pictured here with a broadband cabinet and BT engineer are: (l-r) Stacey King, BT’s Regional Manager, Victoria Prentis MP, Cllr Michael Waine, Chairman, Oxfordshire County Council, Cllr Ken Atak, Cherwell District Council and Year 6 children from Dr Radcliffe’s School.

Steeple Aston is the first community in Cherwell district to benefit from the second phase of the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme. With the recent upgrade in Grange Park more than 500 homes and businesses in the village are now able to access high-speed fibre broadband.

The news was welcomed by Victoria Prentis who said: “I know how important a good internet connection can be to homes and businesses. It is great that more of my constituents are getting access to high speed broadband which is increasingly used by people of all ages. It is clear that there is still more work to be done as there are still many properties and businesses without access to this important infrastructure.

“Better Broadband for Oxfordshire has done great work so far, and I look forward to welcoming more progress in the future. I have no doubt that the residents of Steeple Aston will love using this new service.”

The arrival of faster fibre broadband was also welcomed by Graham Porcas, who has been running his two businesses – Proma Machinery Ltd and Plasmatreat Ltd – from his home office in Steeple Aston for more than 10 years.

He said: “Good broadband access has been vital to enable me to do this successfully and, with the increasing use of internet-based services requiring more reliable connection and higher speeds, I am very pleased to now be connected to fibre.”

Though the network is being rolled out by BT Openreach, people have a wide choice of fibre broadband provider. Coverage of fast broadband is not the same as delivery. Villagers will need to contact their Internet Service provider (ISP) to get an upgraded service. It won’t come automatically, and many people will need a new faster router. BT say that people opting for an upgrade should be able to access broadband download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps.


June 2016

Visitors enjoy first Open Farm Sunday

farm7Farmers Samuel Clarke and Charlotte Powell opened Manor Farm in Steeple Aston on Sunday, 5th June for their first Open Farm Sunday. And they had plenty of family support with Charlotte’s grandfather Royston Kinch on the quad bike taking families for rides in his trailer, and grandmother Edwina selling food and drink to visitors.

All together there were 130 visitors to the farm and they raised £150.60 for their nominated charity RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) who help farmers of all ages when they are in need.

open to the public under the NGS scheme. The church allotments were open too with a plant stall doing good business throughout the afternoon, and tea and cakes were on sale in the Village Hall. So the village was buzzing with visitors from far and wide.

Charlotte Powell writes: “Open Farm Sunday is an initiative from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to get as many people as possible onto farms to see animals and crops in real life and learn where their food comes from in a hands on manner. This was the 11th year the events have been held and over 10,000 farms opened their gates in varying ways to suit them, from a farm walk for a handful of people to thousands of people visiting for interactive displays, trailer rides and meeting animals. Over 250,000 people visited open farms on 5th June this year!

“We had a great day talking to people from Steeple Aston and the surrounding villages alongside people from as far afield as Abingdon! We were able to answer people’s questions about what we do, show a range of our animals, people could see tractors from 1943-present, have a ride in the quad trailer and top it off with a drink and cake/sweets or their own picnic in our straw bale picnic area! Thank you to everyone who came and to those who helped out making it such a success; we hope to see you next year!”

To see more photos of Open Farm Sunday, please click here.

To see photos of some open gardens and allotments, please click here.


Neighbourhood Plan meetings report on progress

A second series of public meetings have been held in Steeple Aston and other villages in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan area, and there were also stalls at village events, all to provide feedback on progress so far.

Steeple Aston Parish Councillor Martin Lipson chairs the Neighbourhood Plan Forum and reported to the Steeple Aston meetings that a great deal of information had been gathered about area, which consists of 11 parishes, the Upper Heyford Residents Association and Dorchester Living, the developer at Heyford Park.

Information was provided on community infrastructure, including the results of an audit of community facilities across the neighbourhood; a detailed study of housing need in the area; and information about transport and traffic, including vehicle counts and discussion about the future of local bus services.

There was some discussion on the priority given to local connections when allocating housing, asubject of particular interest in the village. Councillors are looking at the potential for Community Land Trusts where, in theory, a parish council could become the developer providing affordable housing for local people.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “We held a series of meetings in the MCNP Area this month to tell our community what progress we have made to build on the requirements from the February meetings and also to discover if we are still on the right track, as we go forward to a draft Plan.

“I think we have captured most of what was requested and now it’s a matter of securing the main objectives so we can write out the detailed policies which will fit into the overall Plan.

“Questions were asked about:

  • Bus services
  • Economic growth
  • Oxford city overspill issues and 5 year housing supply in Cherwell
  • Road safety – provision of traffic mitigation and special concern about safety of Middleton Stoney junction at Park Farm.
  • Medical services
  • Traffic over Rousham Bridge and
  • Car parking on the roads affecting buses trying to pass them.

“All these, and I’m sure more, we will tackle over the Summer as we work more detail into what we will present again during Autumn.”

Around 220 people have already given their views on the draft neighbourhood plan objectives by completing one of the questionnaires distributed door to door and at engagement events. If you haven’t yet completed the survey, you can do so online; there is still time to participate. Click here to complete the questionnaire

If you would like to receive a paper copy of the survey please click here.

For more information about the plan, and to sign up to receive regular bulletins on its progress, go to www.mid-cherwell.org.uk


Parish Council considers Community SpeedWatch

Steeple Aston Parish Council has been advised to introduce a Community SpeedWatch scheme in the village, as the police are unable to enforce the speed limit regularly themselves.

Concern over speeding, especially on Southside, was raised with the council some time ago. Last September it arranged for a speed recorder to be put there for a week to see whether the impression of speeding was valid or not.

It was sited near to Bradshaw Close looking along Southside in both directions. Just over a quarter of the readings, 1,679 out of 6,593, were above the speed limit of 30mph. Seven per cent of all vehicles (486) were doing at least 36mph. But more dangerous still, 96 of the speeding vehicles were doing more than 40mph.

The parish councillors sent the results to Thames Valley Police in the hope that the speeding was sufficient to trigger police enforcement of the 30mph limit. But the average speed of all vehicles was below the 30mph limit so it was not clear whether the police would take action or not.

In response to this, Chris Kidd, the local Police Community Support Officer attended the March meeting of the Parish Council. He explained that the police were trying to be responsive to the concerns of local residents. They had spent two hours in Steeple Aston noting speeding but had not caught anyone and they did not have the time to enforce speed limits rigorously.

He suggested that instead the council could introduce a Community SpeedWatch scheme. What this means is that some volunteers in high visibility jackets would put up warning signs saying speeds are being checked and then they would stand on street corners pointing speed cameras at approaching cars.

Chris Kidd said the information from the speed cameras would not be enforceable, but the police will back up the volunteers by approaching offenders regularly doing over 35 mph. It was expected that the result of the exercise would be to reduce speeding without having to resort to much police involvement.

The Parish Council would have to buy the signs, high visibility jackets and speed gun. The total was expected to come to very roughly £300 although it might be possible to reduce the cost by sharing the equipment with another local parish.

The volunteers would need to be trained and the police will organise training sessions for as many volunteers as required. The volunteers would be covered by the £10,000,000 public liability cover included in Parish Council insurance.

For more information about Community SpeedWatch, go to: http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/rdsafe/rdsafe-roadpol/rdsafe-roadpol-speedenforcement/rdsafe-roadpol-speedenforcement-speedwatch.htm


Steeple Aston Parish Precept rises by just £158

The Parish Council’s part of our 2016/2017 Council Tax has only risen by £158 for 2016/17 – less than the cost of half a Mars Bar per household, according to the chairman.

Parish Council Chairman John Coley explains: “It’s that time of year again, when we all receive the Council Tax bill for the next year. The Parish Precept forms part of the total bill, combined with demands from Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and Thames Valley Police.  This year we decided to ignore the prospect of payments to us from Oxfordshire County Council towards grass cutting, or from Cherwell District Council as a bonus for new homes in the parish, as we can’t depend on any payment at all.

“Your Parish Council owns a number of assets and we also have leases of property for which we have upkeep responsibilities. We own all the bus shelters, wooden benches, playgroundplayground equipment including the gazebo (now needing serious repair), the War Memorial and the toilet in the Play Area. We are leaseholders of the Village Hall including the surrounding wall, the Sports and Recreation Building and the land forming the Play Area.  In these long term leases we have to keep the “fabric” (brickwork, paintwork, woodwork, roof) in good order and comply with the terms of leases about the overall care of the surrounding land.

“”We will also be contributing to the running costs of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan to try to limit the number of houses to be built in Steeple Aston until the year 2031, as well as holding more meetings to get your contributions on how we’re doing.

Despite these calls on our/your finances, we have limited the total to keep the parish up to date to no more than £158 more than last year. That’s less than half a Mars Bar per household for the whole year to March 2017.  By some quirk of CDC’s arithmetic, my bill shows a reduction of 0.8%!”

To see a spreadsheet with all the details of the council, please click here.

To see a list of the Parish Council’s assets, please click here.


Plan needed to protect against predacious developers

Parish Council Chairman John Coley warns that the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan must be agreed to prevent “predacious developers” building against the wishes of residents,

He invites villagers to two meetings on the Plan on Tuesday 14th June at 7.30 pm and Saturday 18th June at 3.00 pm. He explains what the meetings are for, and provides an update on progress so far.

He writes:As promised, we will be holding further Community Engagement meetings in Steeple Aston Village Hall, this will be:

  • to let you know what we have achieved, and
  • to ask you to give us some feedback on where we should be going next to make sure we go where you want us to protect our neighbourhood.

“Leaflets and questionnaires will be arriving imminently to give you more information.

“Many will be aware of the attempt by Corpus Christi College, Oxford to develop 5000 houses on a greenfield site it owns between Lower and Upper Heyford, and Caulcott. This opportunism is currently at a standstill, but the letter from the Bursar to the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum Chairman made no reference to the College abandoning development altogether.

“It is all the more important that we press on with our Plan to try to thwart any predacious developer from building where residents of the neighbourhood do not wish development to take place.

“The Forum has now delegated much of the work they do not have the capability to undertake, to Working Groups. The groups will focus on aspects of the Plan.  We have a Social Infrastructure Group (looking at healthcare, community facilities such as play areas, meeting places and possibly a skate park), a Traffic and Transport Group (buses, trains, car movements), and a Development and Housing Group (size, character and quality of residences, affordability, where these might best be built and who might occupy them).

“All the Groups have already met, and will go on meeting, engaging with CDC and Oxfordshire Councillors and local businesses to find out what should be included in the Plan policies.”

For more information about the plan, and to sign up to receive regular bulletins on its progress, go to www.mid-cherwell.org.uk


 May 2016

Chairman’s report reveals challenges of the job

Only two members of the public attended the Annual Parish meeting on 16th May, but they heard Chairman John Coley report on what he called a year of “challenges”.

In his Annual Report he said: “We have tried to deal with a lack of lollipops, speeding at the pace of a snail, a friendlier web, an Oxford College’s plans to build 5000 houses at “Great Heyford”, and large strides made with the Neighbourhood Plan.”

Frustrations in dealing with Oxfordshire County Council were evident. There was the eccentricity of the OCC Highways mathematics which concluded that the averaged, and re-averaged results from the speed radar which spent a week on Southside, revealed that we have no speeding problem. This was despite the fact that 25 per cent of the individual vehicles recorded speeds of over 30mph.

No action was taken on this, and there was no action either on a school ‘lollipop’ lady. OCC had agreed verbally at a site meeting that fundraising locally to provide one would be acceptable, only to then decide that their traffic movement criteria was not fulfilled therefore it would not be allowed.

Mr Coley was happier though with progress on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan which is proceeding apace. And he was pleased that following local opposition, Corpus Christi College decided not to proceed with the development of 5,000 houses at “Great Heyford” – but he warned that this expansion plan had not necessarily gone away.

He was grateful to parish councillors, the clerk and others who’ve worked hard looking after the village throughout the year.

To read the full report, please click here.


Tories elected for new district council ward

The three district councillors elected earlier this month to represent Steeple Aston are all Conservatives. They beat the three Labour candidates, one from UKIP and one from the Green Party in the election held on Thursday, May 5th where turnout locally was 40.34 per cent.

Our new district councillors are Hugo Brown, Mike Kerford Byrnes and Bryn Williams. They represent the new larger Deddington ward established following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, which led to all the council’s wards being disbanded and replaced with a new structure.

Councillor Kerford Byrnes previously represented Steeple Aston as one of two members for the old Astons and Heyford Ward. The other former councillor James Macnamara lives in Lower Heyford; he stood for the new Fringford and Heyfords ward, and was also successful.

Because of this reorganisation all the council seats came up for election this year. But councillors will have different terms of office. For each ward, the councillor with the highest number of votes was elected to serve a four year term. The candidate in second place was elected for three years while the third-placed member will serve two years. This will allow the council to retain its traditional election-by-thirds and from 2018 onwards, all councillors will be elected to serve a four-year term.

Accordingly, Cllr Kerford Byrnes will have a two year term, Cllr Brown a three year term and Cllr Williams will serve for four years.

At the election, the Conservative easily retained majority control of Cherwell District Council with 38 of the 48 seats. Labour representation remained unchanged at eight, but the Liberal Democrats lost their only seat. The number of Independents doubled from one to two.

There will be no district council elections next year, but there will be elections for all the members of Oxfordshire County Council.

For the contact details of local councillors, please click here. 


Allo ‘Allo show is a sell-out

'Allo 'Allo

Steeple Aston Players’ production of the comedy TV classic ‘Allo ‘Allo was sold out well in advance for all three performance nights March 17th to 19th. The Village Hall was transformed in to René’s Café for the occasion and villagers, many of them in costume, brought along their own picnics to enjoy during the performance.

SAL Editor Cathy Lawday reports: “The Steeple Aston Players production of ‘Allo ‘Allo was a rip-roaring display of double-entendre, slap‘n’tickle, cod foreign accents, risqué jokes and slapstick – just what one would expect from a show with this title.

“It was impossible to tell who was enjoying themselves the most: the cast or the audience. In fact it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two – since the audience, waitresses and musicians were all in costume and in role too.

“Congratulations to the whole cast and crew for an engagingly light-hearted and very enjoyable evening.”

Thanks for the photos to Paul Ekert, John Bulleyment and John White. To see more, please click here.

WI joins council effort to Clean for the Queen

Members of Steeple Aston Women’s Institute joined parish councillors and volunteers on Sunday, 28th February in an effort to make the village “Clean for the Queen”.9 All done for another year

The WI’s Catherine Crook explains: “Clean for The Queen is a campaign to clear up Britain in time for Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday, which will be officially celebrated in June 2016.

“When she came to the throne litter was not the problem that it is today. Food packaging, plastic bottles, takeaway meals and cigarette butts have all contributed to a growing menace that affects our wildlife, streets, countryside and sense of pride. What better way could we show our gratitude to Her Majesty than to clean up our country?

“The event – country wide – took place officially on the 4th,5th and 6th March. In order to link up with our Steeple Aston Parish Council’s litter pick day we brought our day forward by a week.

“We had a fantastic day weather-wise and the turnout wasn’t bad either! Our area was Sixty Foot, which we went over with a fine-toothed-comb.  According to reports from previous years this area had less plastic bags but far more broken glass bottles.”

For more photos, please click here.


Grange Park residents want Tree Preservation Order lifted

A survey of Grange Park residents shows that most want the blanket Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in the area removed, and they have asked the Parish Council to do more to support their case.

At their February meeting, Andy Allen told councillors that he had sent a questionnaire about TPOs to Grange Park residents and 54 per cent had replied, of whom 86 per cent were in favour of removing the blanket TPO. This would enable the trees to be better managed and in some cases replaced with more suitably sized trees giving brighter leaf colour or better blossom.

The Tree Preservation Order dates back to 1970 and applies to trees that were growing then, not to any that have been planted since. Since the order was imposed more than 45 years ago, many of the trees have grown very large and quite unsuitable for relatively small residential gardens. Some trees have died and others have been felled by residents who were not aware of the TPO.

Writing in February’s edition of Steeple Aston Life, Graham Porcas echoed the views of a number of Grange Park residents saying the blanket TPO “urgently needs revision if not complete removal as its original purpose has long been superseded and its primary function now seems to be as a means of blocking development which would otherwise be allowed under the government’s planning rules.”The decision to revoke the TPO will be up to Cherwell District Council, which will have to decide whether it is still fit for purpose. At the moment the order prevents felling, lopping, uprooting or other wilful damage to the trees concerned without permission. Residents who break the order can be faced with a significant fine.

After a lengthy discussion, the parish councillors asked Mr Allen to send them his full report with the details of the responses to all his questions. Councillors agreed that Cherwell District Council might be more likely to lift the blanket TPO if it was made easy for them by giving them a suggested list of Grange Park trees which should still have individual TPOs on them.

The Parish Council will decide how to proceed at its next meeting on Monday, March 21st.

More meetings to be held on Mid-Cherwell plan

Villagers are to be invited to more meetings in June to put their views on the progress of the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “A short but very upbeat report this month.  We have made considerable progress including:

  • Collating numbers and percentages of views on the key issues for the Neighbourhood Plan from all parish meetings in February and March;
  • A revised list of objectives for the Neighbourhood Plan augmented by Key Topic Working Groups meeting this month. These are collecting evidence, and corresponding with or meeting with various external bodies and taking forward actions;
  • In May a neighbourhood-wide housing needs survey, which has just been approved by Locality (an arms-length government-sponsored body put in place to assist Neighbourhood Plans), will be carried out for us;
  • We should soon hear whether our bid for a grant of funds from Locality is successful. If so, there will be money to pay for hall hire, printing of leaflets, banners etc.
  • We seem to have finally found an administrator who, all being well, will start on 1st May;
  • Plans are now being prepared for the next round of local meetings in June.

“In Steeple Aston we have therefore just booked our Village Hall for Tuesday 14th June at 7.30pm and Saturday 18th June at 3.00pm.   This will be an opportunity for you once again to have your say, and tell us if we are going in the right direction.  Please try to beat our last number for an audience (98).  We would love to have over 100.”


Eight stand in district council election

Villagers will be able to choose from eight candidates in the election for Cherwell district councillors on Thursday, May 5th.

Previously we had two district councillors representing the Astons and Heyfords ward. Now that ward has been broken up and Steeple and Middle Aston have been moved in to the Deddington ward. This new ward will have three councillors to represent a large area covering 13 villages from Steeple Aston in the South to Hook Norton in the North-west.

One of our current councillors James Macnamara lives in Lower Heyford and is therefore standing in the new Fringford and Heyfords ward. Our other current councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes is standing for the new Deddington ward. He is joined by two other Conservative candidates Bryn Williams and Hugo Brown.

There are three candidates for the Labour Party: Alasdair Brown, Polly Foster and Annette Murphy. Aaron Bliss is the sole representative of the Green Party and Aubrey Ellis represents UKIP.

Elections for the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner will take place on the same day.

Voting will take place in the Village Hall on Thursday, May 5th between 7.00am and 10.00pm.

Then we’ll all get a chance to vote again in the EU Referendum which takes place on Thursday, 23rd June.


April 2016

Record turnout at Mid-Cherwell plan meetings

There was record turnout at the two meetings held in March for Steeple Aston villagers to discuss the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan. And that pattern has been repeated across the area with better than expected turnout in many of the 11 parishes involved

Now a series of working groups will consider the responses by villagers and look in more detail at the issues and to start considering possible solutions for inclusion in the draft Neighbourhood Plan.

Steeple Aston’s involvement with the process was increased by the election of local parish councillor Martin Lipson, pictured here, as Chair of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan. He was elected at the recent AGM when the new constitution was adopted.

Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes:

“Thank you to everyone who came to the two meetings. We counted 98 altogether, and wished another two or three had turned up.  The response was far better than we could have expected, and we had to add extra tables to cope.  As well as a record turnout, we received 480 comments either on sticky notes or by later emails.  Well done to you all.

“We spent over three hours sorting all the comments into main categories, then into sub-topics. Here’s a list of the top five:

  1. Housing mix                                        50 comments
  2. Health centre provision                       42 comments
  3. Public Transport – buses                     37 comments
  4. Road traffic volumes                          34 comments
  5. Community facilities                           32 comments

“Overall in the Neighbourhood Plan area we have had a very good turnout, and there have been around 5,000 comments so far with some parishes still to hold their events. There were comments on some rather surprising aspects, for example; provide extra cemeteries for the increased populations; plant a new Community Woodland with a path through it; provide allotments at Heyford Park; provide more and safer cycle ways; develop a purpose-built Retirement Village at Heyford Park.  This represents a huge input from local communities to the Neighbourhood Plan, and shows how well we are all involved in this community-led process.

“All the comments will now be combined with similar responses from the other 10 parishes togive the MCNP Forum Plan-wide themes to be pursued. In other words, comments will be composited, some comments will morph into condensed versions, others will stay pretty well intact.  Some comments were Steeple Aston specific, and will be considered later on as items for the Parish Council to discuss.

“We now have an agreed Constitution, and held our first AGM on Wednesday 9th March, when Martin Lipson was elected Chairman.  We had a 95 question document to complete for Cherwell District council and another about City of Oxford’s housing overspill plans.  CDC were unable to give us a few days’ delay to submit both, so we have sent them in as “position documents”, outlining our views on those issues affecting the Neighbourhood Plan.

“So far as the overspill needs are concerned, we do not accept that the City has done all it could to meet its own housing needs and have asked for a transparent review of all land in the City before development is outsourced on a quarter share each to surrounding of the District Councils, leaving them vulnerable to not having their planned 5-year land supply, and thus open to all developers wherever they decide to build, whilst the City has not attempted a robust assessment of their own developable land. Happy Days!”

For more information about the plan, and to sign up to receive regular bulletins on its progress, go to www.mid-cherwell.org.uk.


Villagers asked to monitor broadband speeds following complaints 

Steeple Aston residents are being asked to monitor their broadband speeds following complaints to the Parish Council that since superfast fibre services arrived in the village, those who do not have it yet are noticing a distinct drop in the quality of service.

They say connection to the internet is taking longer than it did, and drop-outs are becoming more frequent. Some people have wondered if this because the system has a finite capacity, and what is happening is that meeting the increased demand of people streaming films etc. on fibre is reducing the capacity of the system for those who are not.

Parish Councillor Martin Lipson raised these complaints with the Oxfordshire Better Broadband team. They said they were not aware of any such problems following an upgrade, but would raise the matter with BT.

Meanwhile they suggested villagers should be sure report each issue to their internet service provider (ISP) when it occurs, and monitor their broadband speed for a four-week period to provide evidence for further investigation.

The full text of their response, which explains how best to monitor your speed, is below:

“Thank you for your enquiry and I am sorry to hear that some members of the community are reporting they are suffering poor service on their basic broadband services.

“We’re not aware of any areas reporting drops in speed as a result of our programme’s works or the commercial operations of BT and other companies to upgrade services in the area, but I will raise your concerns with BT at our next review meeting (9th March).

“I would also encourage you to keep raising the issue with your service provider and advise others in the community to do so too. Often sudden slow drops in speed and drop outs (on any type of broadband service) are due to the traffic management policies of the individual internet service providers (ISP).

“If contacting their ISPs fails to help, can I request that you ask some residents (suggest a minimum of 6) to monitor their broadband connectivity for a period of four weeks.  They need to:

  • log their phone number,
  • record their baseline speed at the beginning of the period  (www.speedtest.net),  (take a screen shot)
  • record any outages they experience and report the outage to their service provider on the day it happens – in fact encourage every resident to report every outage as to their service provider as it is will set  flags only if there are sufficient fault reports
  • record their broadband speed on a regular basis (www.speedtest.net), twice weekly (take a screen shot)

“Once we have a collection of data then we can sit with the engineer and see what issues are recurring and if there is anything that can be done.  I cannot promise any improvements.  In fact, all this work may lead to nothing as the conclusion may be that it is completely unrelated to the programme, which we’ve found in another area where we investigated similar issues.  However, without hard evidence to investigate there simply isn’t anything that springs to mind as a cause.”

Web: www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk

Email: broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk


Villagers have their say on Mid Cherwell Plan

MCNP meeting -listening carefullyWith thousands of new houses being built in nearby Upper Heyford, Steeple Aston Parish Council is joining 10 other local Parish Councils (from Middleton Stoney to Duns Tew and from Kirtlington to Fritwell) together with Heyford Park Residents’ Association and the main developer Dorchester Living, in producing a “Neighbourhood Plan”.

This 11-Parish Plan will be one of the biggest in the UK and will give the participating bodies more control over what happens in Mid Cherwell in the future, where it happens and what is not allowed to happen.

The Parish Council consulted with residents at two public meetings on Tuesday, 23rd and Saturday, 27th February to get their opinions on what this development might mean for the whole Neighbourhood Area and the village.

On the Tuesday evening more than forty villagers met at the Village Hall to hear a presentation given by members of the Parish Council, before filling dozens of post-it notes with their views. They were asked to give their thoughts on the impact the new houses would have – on things like schools, GP surgeries, traffic, the community, valley landscape and village character.

There was some concern that Deddington Health Centre would not be able to cope with the increased demand, and numerous suggestions that a bus route from Heyford Park to Bicester be extended to include Steeple Aston on its run, or for Heyford Park to act as a transport hub linking all villages together.

MCNP meeting post-it notesMany people also expressed the view that it was important for Steeple Aston to keep its village shop and Post Office, and also think about affordable housing for young people, and the elderly. Views were also expressed about ensuring that any new housing in Steeple Aston provides a suitable mix of family, affordable and elderly housing to ensure a good mix remains in all areas of the village.

It was noticeable that at each meeting there were around 50 people there and less than 10 at each meeting were people with young families. Whilst it is difficult to get away with young children councillors thought it would be great if younger families could make their feelings known too by going to www.mid-cherwell.org.uk   

Everyone was reminded that the developer will be under pressure to spend money on facilities for the whole community – so what would we like to see built at Heyford Park? Suggestions included a skate park and a swimming pool, as well as improved parking facilities at Lower Heyford station.

So far 1,100 houses have been approved to be built at Heyford Park, with an additional 1,600 houses expected. Cherwell DC are considering development on green field land next to Heyford Park. The Parishes and the Residents Association would prefer most or all of it on previously developed land.

Overall, Cherwell District Council must provide nearly 5,000 more homes by 2031; and possibly another 3,500 of Oxford’s “overspill”.

Residents attending these public meetings wanted to make sure Steeple Aston maintained its identity, and as one attendee wrote “not become a suburb of Heyford Park”.

In his monthly report on MCNP, Parish Council Chairman John Coley explained that these meetings are the first phase of consultation; there will be others as we go along through to a referendum.

He writes: “The MCNP Forum (representatives from all those included in the Plan) now have an agreed Constitution and we’ll be holding our initial AGM in March to ratify the Constitution and appoint Officers.

“As with many complex schemes there are times when things seem to take a step backwards, and we are in that stage currently. Cherwell District Council (CDC) have published a document which is at odds with what the Forum thought was agreed, where in their new “Masterplan” for Heyford Park, Greenfield sites have been identified for housing as well as the previous Brownfield sites. Another document from CDC contains 95 questions and answering them in a way which makes clear the views of our parishes requires great exercise of our minds.

“Added to that vulnerability is another potential addition to the number of houses CDC may be required to add to their already enlarged housing numbers. There could be as many as 10,000+ houses which Oxford City Council say they cannot build, so everyone else in Oxfordshire has to build to keep County numbers at the centrally imposed level. That in turn could mean the supply of land already allocated may not be able to accommodate the extra “Oxford” houses, and Cherwell are now asking for new sites to be nominated for assessment.  Speculative developers are already active in our area.  The need for the Neighbourhood Plan is therefore even greater.”

To keep up to date with the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan, or to express more views, you can go to their website: www.mid-cherwell.org.uk where you can also sign up for updates from the site.


Police alert scheme replaces local Neighbourhood Watch

neighbourhood_watch_logo

A new police alert scheme is to replace the old Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the village. This new system does away with the need for a local coordinator or street wardens, instead as many villagers as possible are encouraged to get involved.

The Thames Valley Alert scheme is operated by the police, and villagers can join up individually. The advantage of being part of the scheme is that you will receive information from the police on local incidents so that you are less likely to be a victim of a similar crime. There is also general advice on how to protect your property.

The police say that property which is marked is less likely to be stolen because it is far more difficult to get rid of it. A relevant example for this village is to paint or engrave garden tools and machinery with your post code and house number. For items you don’t want to mark in an obvious way they suggest ultra-violet invisible marker pens, or even DNA marking.

In all cases they would like there to be a good photograph, with an indicator of size. Then if something is stolen it can be identified if it is found. Parish Council Chairman John Coley has some ultra violet pens which can be borrowed.

If you wish to join the scheme you can go to www.thamesvalleyalert.co.uk where there is a form which takes about three minutes to fill in. Or you can ask Richard Preston (richard.preston5@btopenworld.com) or John Coley (johnmwcoley@tiscali.co.uk) to give you a form and to send it off for you.

Once registered you will receive regular updates on local scams and crimes. You will also receive a pack full of good tips on avoiding crime and instruction on what to do and who to ring if you get involved in an incident.


Red Lion couple celebrate 10 years at pub

Red Lion Mel & Sarah

Mel and Sarah Phipps are marking their 10th anniversary at the Red Lion with a special ‘red brew’ of their own. Hold your glass up to the light and you’ll see the red glinting through.

The cleverly named Ryecatcher was brewed specially at the Hook Norton micro brewery with ingredients chosen by Mel and his father-in-law, also called Mel. The beer made of rye with a variety of hops and malted barley is currently on sale at the pub, and will be available at other Hook Norton pubs as well.

Mel and Sarah came to Steeple Aston in February 2006 after a long career running pubs and restaurants around the south-east. They both have family roots in Oxfordshire, and they spent over 12 years running The Star in Woodstock before joining the Hook Norton team

They’ve seen lots of changes since they arrived, not least the closure of the only other pub in the village. The introduction of the smoking ban in 2007 though, and then the effect of the recession had a serious impact. “It was a tough time”, says Sarah.

More recently they have added lots of new features to attract customers. Mel says that their pizzas, introduced four years ago, are very popular to eat in and take away.

There have been occasional music nights with local musician Dave Scott and his band. They’ve raised money for charity too with their annual Christmas Carols Round the Piano and their Christmas tree Ribbons of Remembrance.

Red Lion Ryecatcher

A recent innovation which has proved popular is a series of dinners with local speakers, .most recently village resident and noted conductor Nicholas Cleobury. These are held in the Garden Room restaurant, which is also available for use (usually free of charge) for meetings, parties and other get-togethers.

There have been family changes too, with their children leaving home. And of course technology has had an impact on all our lives in the last ten years. Now not only does the pub offer free wifi to its customers, but the till and the stock control system are all operated via broadband. This means that even if they go on holiday abroad, Mel and Sarah can log on to see what the villagers of Steeple Aston are drinking!

For now though they hope that plenty of them will be trying their Ryecatcher Ale pictured here.

March 2016

Local heritage assets listed by district council

Four local buildings and structures have been listed by Cherwell District Council as non-designated Local Heritage Assets. CDC invited all its parishes in 2014 to put forward nominations, and these four (out of a wider range of contenders) were submitted following discussion by Steeple Aston Parish Council and Middle Aston Parish Meeting.

CDC states that “new nominations can be brought forward at any time”, and not only parish councils but any individual can make these nominations as long as they provide sufficient justification and evidence in support.

The listed buildings and structures are:

  • Boundary features associated with Middle Aston House
  • Grange Lea, Grange Park
  • Raised pavement, North Side / Fenway
  • Wind pump, Brasenose Farm

Non-designated heritage assets are described in the National Planning Policy Framework as ‘A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest.’

Cherwell District Council maintains a list of non-designated heritage assets and new nominations can be brought forward at any time.

The council says that the recognition of their heritage significance means that these assets will merit consideration in planning matters. A balanced judgement will be made with regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset.

It points out, however, that it’s important to note that these are not designated heritage assets and that the criteria applied to ‘listed’ buildings do not apply to them.


Steeple Singers make record efforts for Syrians

Singing for Syrians

Villagers of all ages joined Singing for Syrians events to raise money during December – and raised over £2,000 to help the sick and injured in Aleppo.

The first singers were local toddlers, pictured here with their mums and minders. They enjoyed some festive crafts followed by carol singing at their weekly meeting in the Sport and Recreation Centre. Once Gift Aid and match funding is included, they raised nearly £100.

Then schoolchildren joined in with a collection at Dr Radcliffe’s School’s Carol Service. Collections were alos held at three village events – the Wassail Nuight, the church Carol Service and Carols in the Red Lion.

Organiser Caroline Compston said: “Steeple Aston is now famous in Parliament for organising FIVE events for Singing for Syrians, more than anywhere else in the U.K. The village has raised over one thousand pounds (£1,040) and that’s not counting the Toddlers Group. That’s an amazing amount and people in the village have been extraordinarily generous.

“To give you more precise figures, we raised £164 at the School Carol Service, £155 at the Wassail, £398 at the Carol Service and, last but not least, £323 at the Carols in The Red Lion with Nick Cleobury.

“We have raised a huge amount and the organisers of Singing for Syrians are thrilled with what we have done. People have been extraordinarily generous. Since the government is giving us match funding Steeple Aston has raised £2,080. This will go towards the salaries of doctors and nurses in Aleppo and prosthetic limbs for the many men, women and children (30,000 of them) who have lost arms or legs. Huge thanks to everyone in the village who have contributed.”

The Singing for Syrians initiative was conceived by local MP Victoria Prentis, offering a friendly, positive way to raise money. They encourage people to host concerts and coffee mornings with the proceeds being given to two charities: The Hands Up Foundation and Christian Aid. Plus, every pound donated will be matched by DfID.

Singing for Syrians is a nationwide initiative, conceived by local MP Victoria Prentis, offering a positive way to help some of Syria’s most vulnerable people. The organisers encouraged individuals, communities and churches to hold special carol concerts during December, or to make collections at events already organised.

Every pound donated will be matched by DfID. They say that every penny raised will go to Syria through two carefully selected charities: Hands Up Foundation: www.handsupfoundation.org and Christian Aid: www.christianaid.org.uk


Mid-Cherwell Plan website and meeting dates announced

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan now has its own website where you can find out about recent developments and ask to be updated by email. And two public meetings will be held in February for villagers to put their views about the future development of the area.

Steeple Aston Parish Council is participating in the development of this new community-based Neighbourhood Plan for the Mid-Cherwell area. This initiative could play an important role in shaping the future of local villages by determining, with statutory force, what development might be welcome and what might not be.

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. The engagement of local people is essential to the process, as 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 provides an update on recent developments. He writes: “More good news this month. Anna, our volunteer, has put in lots of valuable time and effort on the Neighbourhood Plan website it is up and running at www.mid-cherwell.org.uk.

“To enable as many as possible to make their views known to the Parish Council we will be holding two public meetings to get your opinions on how the Neighbourhood Plan can best be shaped for what you want. Both meetings will be in the Village Hall. Please pencil in your diaries Tuesday 23rd February at 8pm for the first meeting and Saturday 27th February at 3pm for the second one so as many as possible will have a chance to see what it’s all about. This is how YOU decide what YOU want the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan to achieve. There will be at least one reminder early next year for everyone in the parish.

“It is not a simple paper exercise so as to tick boxes: I have just learnt that Hook Norton’s Neighbourhood Plan has run into trouble with extra housing numbers allowed by the Secretary of State, even though their Plan had been accepted. We must make sure that ours is as watertight as we (and Cherwell DC) can make it, or else a predatory developer will be sure to find holes in it.

“But it’s not just about housing, there are plenty of other things we can put into the Plan, such as schools, transport, leisure facilities, as well as health services and employment opportunities. Also to help protect against creeping urbanisation in the Neighbourhood Plan area, and to reinforce the protection offered by Conservation Areas. We have to take this once in a generation opportunity to try to mould events and not just be reactive in our approach to the Plan.”

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan website is at: www.mid-cherwell.org.uk.


Tributes paid to Paul O’Sullivan 1927 – 2015

O'Sullivan 2

Tributes have been paid to Paul O’Sullivan, the former Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish Council, Cherwell District Councillor and co-founder of the village magazine, Steeple Aston Life, who died in early December.

The Steeple Aston Life Committee paid tribute to his sense of fun as well as his work for the community. He is pictured here in his role as a Quack Doctor at the village’s Edwardian Fair in 1986.

They wrote: “With the death of Paul on 9 December the village says ‘Goodbye’ to one of its most caring sons. Paul was a great raconteur with a huge sense of fun – as those who ‘benefitted’ from his prescriptions when he played the role of Quack Doctor Pajos at the Edwardian Fair will vouch. But it was in his many years of service as both a Parish and District Councillor that he touched most people’s lives.

“In 1973, in collaboration with George Ennis, Head of Dr. Radcliffe’s Primary School, Paul first circulated a news bulletin in the village. This was welcomed with such enthusiasm that it has continued to be published every month in the village since then. His working life as a Sales Rep. brought him into contact with many village shops and probably helped him develop his enormous appreciation of the value of community. We thank you Paul for your legacy.”

Paul served for many years as a parish councilor, becoming Vice-Chairman and eventually Chairman of the Parish Council. Margaret Mason took over from Paul as Chairman. She writes: “Paul served as the Chairman of Steeple Aston Parish council from 1987 until 1994. When he retired from the council and I took over from him things were changing swiftly, there was little bureaucracy imposed from on high and no emails to contact each other in those days!

“His wife, Dorothy, was Parish Clerk during this time and between them they ran an efficient ship; minutes were hand written and there was a real determination to do the best for the village. The village precept was always settled with a glass of wine in Paul’s living room.

“Paul knew everyone and loved and cared for this village. He was a great optimist. I remember coming back with him from the meeting at Upper Heyford when it was announced that take offs would in future fly over the village. It took some persuading to convince him that this would not be quietly accepted!

“Paul, as chairman, did not enjoy controversy, he liked the parish to run smoothly and things to be well cared for. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the energy and dedication he gave to Steeple Aston.”

Following his time on the parish council, Paul went on to serve on Cherwell District Council as a Conservative councillor representing Deddington. He stayed in this post for 20 years until his retirement in 2014.

During this time the main committees he served on were Standards, Appeals and Licensing.

He was appointed Member Champion for Older People in December 2012 when the role was created. His main aim in this role was preventing loneliness and isolation and he remained dedicated to creating opportunities for Cherwell’s older residents and helping them thrive in later life. He also represented Cherwell District Council on many Age UK Oxfordshire boards.

Following his death, Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Paul was a true community councillor and a thoroughly nice man to go with it. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”


School Friends on target for adventure playground

Following a successful Christmas Fair at Dr Radcliffe’s School, parents have now raised three-quarters of the £12,000 required for a new outdoor adventure playground. They hope to raise the remaining £3,000 over the next two terms so that the new equipment can be installed during the summer holidays.

Anna Thatcher, Chair of the Friends of Dr Radcliffe’s School writes: “A huge, huge thank you to everyone who helped make the fair such a success. I have so many people to thank for hard work, raffle prizes, good nature, setting up, clearing up and general enthusiasm.

“Put together we raised just over £2000, together with matched funding from Matt Robinson (Barclays £1,000), Rachel Martin with £250, plus over £400 from the Christmas cards we have raised another £3,650 towards the £12,000 target. This puts us at over £9,000 in total.

“My target is we raise the last three thousand before the end of the school year so the playground equipment can be installed over the holidays. I will be looking at arranging a meeting in the New Year to discuss ideas for raising that last three thousand.”

February 2016

Over a quarter found speeding on Southside

More than 25 per cent of the vehicles travelling along Southside during one week in September were breaking the speed limit, the Parish Council has been told. Now it is asking the police to take action to enforce the 30mph limit.

Following complaints about cars speeding in the village, particularly on Southside, the Parish Council arranged for a speed recorder to be put there to see whether the impression of speeding was valid or not.

The recorder was not intended to identify the individuals who were speeding. It was sited near to Bradshaw Close looking along Southside in both directions and was there for a week from 11th September.

The readings have been analysed, and 6,593 vehicle movements were recorded. Just over a quarter of the readings, 1,679 out of 6,593, were above the speed limit of 30mph.

The police do not usually take action for speeding in 30mph areas unless the speed is above 35mph. If those speeding, but doing 35mph or less are excluded there were 468 doing at least 36mph.

This means that seven per cent of all vehicles were doing at least 36mph along Southside. But more dangerous still, 96 of the speeding vehicles were doing more than 40mph. Strangely, it seems to be much easier to speed in one direction than the other, because 83 of the 96 vehicles doing more than 40mph were going out of the village compared to only 13 of the offenders coming into the village.

The Parish Councillors have sent the results to Thames Valley Police in the hope that the speeding is sufficient to trigger police enforcement of the 30mph limit. But the average speed of all vehicles was below the 30mph limit so it is not clear whether the police are likely to take action or not.

The other road where there have been repeated complaints of speeding is Paines Hill. The Council is considering whether it would be useful to ask for the recorder again so that speeding here can be analysed as well.


Plea to dog owners after cow develops incurable disease

Village farmers Charlotte and Samuel Clarke say they are ‘deeply saddened’ by the infection of one of their cows with an incurable disease caused by a parasite found in dog mess. The cow will have to be culled as the disease causes abortions or the infection of calves with the disease.

They are pleading with villagers to pick up their dog mess, which they point out can infect humans as well as animals. This is by no means the first time that dog owners have been asked to clear up after their animals. Constant pleas from the Parish Council have been reported on this website over the years, but to no avail.

The Clarkes explain what has happened in this sad case in a letter, also to be published in Steeple Aston Life. They write:

“As many of you will be aware, we farm areas of land in and around Steeple Aston, we run a flock of breeding ewes and a fledgling herd of single suckler cattle. We purchased the cattle as week old calves back in Autumn 2013 and we reared them on a bottle for the subsequent two months, slowly weaning them and rearing them carefully on grass and hay. We waited patiently until the cattle were 15 months old before ‘serving’ them to get them ‘in calf’ with the pregnancies lasting a further nine months.

“Unfortunately after this long process and approaching the exciting time of newborn calves, one of our cattle aborted its calf at seven months gestation and, following tests by our vet, has been confirmed to have Neosporosis. This is caused by a single celled parasite (Neospora Caninum) which causes abortion in cattle across the UK and worldwide as the parasite multiplies in the placental tissue.

“We are deeply saddened by the events of the last month which will lead to the cow being culled as she is highly likely to abort at a late stage of pregnancy again or if she did carry to full term would pass the disease directly into subsequent calves. There is no cure for the disease. This issue is wholly avoidable by one simple job – PICK UP YOUR DOG MESS. Remember it is not only cattle and sheep that can be affected by pathogens in dog faeces, people can be too!

“Neosporosis was first identified in dogs, the “definitive” host of the parasite that produce Neospora oocysts (eggs) in their faeces. When a dog eats infected meat, the parasite invades and multiplies within gut cells and Neospora eggs will be excreted in the faeces a few days later. The dog’s immune system usually controls the infection within a few weeks and shedding of eggs will cease. In subsequent infections, parasites are controlled more quickly and less significant numbers of oocysts are produced. The oocysts that are shed can survive in the environment for many months and are a source of infection for many other host species, including cattle.

“When walking and working the local fields and footpaths we are constantly treading in dog mess. This has to stop. Unless the situation improves and we see a real improvement in reduced amounts of mess left we will have no option but to fence footpaths to the statutory width, thus stopping all dogs from entering any fields to eliminate the spread of disease. Please be aware it is not only a problem in fields where animals are grazing as the parasite can last in the soil for many months and be passed through infected feed and water sources. We work hard to make a living off the land and feel totally disrespected when someone lets their dog defecate on one of our fields and then not pick it up, how would you like it if our animals came to your place of work or garden and were left to roam and defecate everywhere?”


January 2016

Football club reduced to one team after mass exodus

Football Logo

After a very successful last season, SAFC has suffered a serious reversal in its fortunes with the departure of the first team manager and most of his players. Now it is reduced to one team playing in the second division. And Alan Peckham, the club’s secretary has also resigned after 30 years in the post.

Steeple Aston’s Secret Footballer reports on the sweeping changes that have taken place – and on progress so far this season:

“Well what a difference a couple of months make. When I last wrote my report it was to summarise the most successful season we have had in many a year. Victory over arch rivals Heyford Athletic in the Coronation Cup coupled with second place in the league probably didn’t do justice to the quality of football played by the first team. Whilst the reserves were relegated back to Division Three, their Cup Final appearance in the Geoff Wilson Cup made up for a disappointing season and proved that there was plenty of talent in the team.

“I remember writing my piece and thinking that I needed to write up a summary of the end of season presentations for the next edition. Events proceeded to overtake me.

“After recruiting lots of very good players, first team manager, Andy Morris resigned. Then for various reasons all bar two of the first team decided that they would not be playing for Steeple Aston next year. An emergency committee meeting was called when it became clear that we would not have enough players to continue the club’s proud tradition of running two teams in the Banbury District and Lord Jersey Leagues.

“So, we now have one Steeple Aston team playing in Division Two of the league with Gary Waddup returning after a few years away to manage the team.

“The season kicked off with a home game against SWIS FC. This was the side that the reserves finished their league season last year with a 6-0 loss. It was vitally important that after the upheaval over the summer, with several new players getting to know each other that we got off to a good start. SWIS started brightly and were clearly a skilful side. They were perhaps not the most disciplined tough, especially in defence and our new forward line of Greg Finnemore and Charlton Allen soon found gaps to exploit and it was fully deserved when Greg opened the scoring. Further goals followed courtesy of Charlton and another new signing, Ryan Lewis. The sausage sandwiches tasted great after a win and a performance that gave everyone involved in the club a real shot in the arm.

“The following week we found ourselves up against Chasewell Park. Another home game and another pleasant September afternoon meant everyone turned up feeling confident and ready for a good game. We had a strong side out too, with Mark Brewer adding his experience and know-how to the defence.

“90 minutes later and the least said about a 4- 0 defeat the better. I think it is going to be one of those seasons where we might take one step forward and two steps back as the club regroups and consolidates.

“Another momentous event took place over the summer with Alan Peckham deciding that the time was right to take a step back and grab back some more of his life after devoting himself to the role of secretary for some 30 years.

“Alan is still on the committee and still very much involved, needed and loved at the football club. His successor, Kevin Osborne has very big boots to fill. “Good skills by you, Mr P”


School Lollipop campaign reaches stalemate

The campaign to reinstate a Lollipop Lady or Man outside Dr Radcliffe’s School in Steeple Aston has reached something of a stalemate after nearly a year of campaigning by parents.

Following continued pressure from the village, Oxfordshire County Council agreed to assess the road outside the school in both February and June of this year. Although the formal report has still not been published, it seems that Steeple Aston does not meet their criteria for a School Crossing Patrol. This is in spite of their apparent concession that there was a dangerous lack of visibility when the school bus was parked in its bay outside the school.

It was suggested that parents wanting to cross to the carpark and playground at Robinsons Close should walk their children down the pavement far enough to be able to see the road beyond the parked bus and cross there – where there is no pavement on the other side!

Local parent and campaigner Helen Wright described such a scenario as ridiculous: “Parents cannot seriously be expected to herd their children along what is a very narrow footpath in order to cross them over the road and onto a very congested road. This would surely lead to accidents. Whoever came up with that idea should not be working in road safety!”

Campaigners have still not got a straight answer as to whether they can fund a lollipop person themselves. It seems that because the site does not meet the County Council’s funding criteria, any School Crossing Patrol would not be covered by the Council’s insurance, plus they would have no legal powers to actually stop the traffic.

Helen Wright, who is also a parish councillor, said: “This seems to me to be very backward thinking. What could possibly be wrong with a group of people wanting the road outside their local school to be safer? To feel so strongly about it that they’re prepared to to go ahead and fund a School Crossing Patrol themselves? And go on to pay for that person to attend the Council’s training courses, and pay for them to wear the correct high-vis clothing etc? This would surely save the Council money and make the roads outside our schools safer.”

Local County Councillor Arash Fatemian has been working behind the scenes to try and get some sensible answers on the predicament. Among other things he has written to Cllr David Nimmo Smith, the holder of the Transport portfolio, and is currently awaiting a response.

On a more positive note, thanks to all the campaigning, along with pressure from the Parish Council, Steeple Aston has succeeded in getting fresh yellow zig zag lines painted along the road outside the school, as well as having the 30mph signs cleaned and overhanging foliage cut back to improve visibility.


Meeting on Mid-Cherwell plan to be in February

Villagers will be invited to a special Parish Meeting in February to give their views on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP), and what they want to get out of it.

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:

“We are making haste slowly. There is still no Administrator in post, although we have had a couple of enquiries to pursue. The best news is that a volunteer from Steeple Aston will be helping us with keeping the new Neighbourhood website up to date and making all the links we need to allow others to access news and views, including connections to each parish web site to see what progress is being made all over the neighbourhood.

“We think we now have a Constitution and an understanding in principle for each parish to contribute towards administration costs. (Dorchester Living will fund the cost via a loan until parish payments are in place). We also have set ourselves a time line to go to the Examiner by December 2016

“At the recent Forum Meeting (all of the constituents to the Neighbourhood Plan) we had a presentation of how Upper Heyford had begun to tackle the necessary Community Involvement and Engagement which is paramount to getting our Plan approved by the Independent Examiner. So in Steeple Aston we will be distributing leaflets and holding a Parish Meeting sometime in February 2016 to ask all our electors what they want to obtain for this parish from the Plan.

“The next Executive meetings are 3rd December, 7th January, and the next Forum meets on 13th January.”