News Archive 2017


“Quack Pot” protest over South Side potholes

Young Woody Wright had lots of fun playing with the 100 yellow ducks floating in the potholes on South Side.

But his mother, Parish Councillor Helen Wright, explained it was a serious attempt to get something done about the potholes which have been worrying villagers for nearly two years, causing at least three of them to trip and fall recently.

The idea started as a bit of a joke when Parish Council Chairman John Coley suggested in his Annual Report that the rash of holes had become so bad that the council might consider a “Quack Pots Day” where they would fill all the holes with water and float plastic ducks in the ponds.

Fellow councillor Martin Lipson happened to have several hundred plastic ducks in his basement (previously used for a children’s charity event). So on a very rainy Wednesday, 17th May he floated 100 of them in the potholes outside the Old White Lion.

Now councillors are hoping that the publicity generated by the ducks will prompt Oxfordshire County Council to finally mend the potholes.

In a press release sent to local media and to county councillor Arash Fatemian they said, “Drivers and pedestrians in South Side, Steeple Aston were astonished last Wednesday to find their much-loved potholes inhabited by one hundred bright yellow ducks.

“Villagers and others have had to negotiate this particularly bad stretch of potholes in the centre of the village for over 18 months. Every month, like a lot of other parishes, the Parish Council has reported a worsening situation to Oxfordshire County Council Highways. So this month the Parish Council resolved to highlight the problem so that OCC can’t continue to duck the issue.

“Parish councillors Helen Wright and Martin Lipson, aided by other villagers, floated 100 rubber ducks in the rain-filled potholes. Helen said “Despite our reporting that since the start of the year three residents had tripped in these holes and fallen, precisely nothing has been done.”

“Smiling drivers wound down their windows, braving the heavy rain, to ask what was going on, and passing local residents applauded. Woody Wright aged three said “I think the ducks like their new ponds”.

“After the ducks had been re-homed, Martin Lipson said “We can now only hope that OCC will finally do something to put into decent repair the main road through our village. This has gone on long enough.”

To read Parish Council Chairman’s Annual Report in full, please click here.


Age UK pilots local Drop-in Information Sessions

A new pilot scheme by Age UK Oxfordshire will provide monthly drop-in information sessions for the first time in Steeple Aston.

Age UK Oxfordshire’s free information service aims to help people stay independent and live life to the full. Whether you need help at home, want to discover local activities in your area, find out about benefits, or get in touch with support services the Community Information Network can help.

From Wednesday, 29th March they will be holding monthly Information Sessions at the Sport & Recreation Centre in Steeple Aston. Older people, carers and adults with support needs are invited to drop in and meet local Community Networker, Libby Griffin.You will be able to browse the information table, pick up a range of helpful booklets, and ask any questions – no appointment is necessary. All are welcome; the kettle will be on!

The Information Sessions will be held on the last Wednesday of each month, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at Sport & Recreation Centre, Fir Lane. For more details contact Libby Griffin on 07827 235410 or email

Richard Preston, our Age UK Oxfordshire local-link adds: “Age UK Oxfordshire is not just about the elderly but offers support and advice to all those who have contact with the elderly. Our perception of ‘elderly’ is probably of someone who may have experienced the last world war or seems to have been around for ever but that is so far from the truth.

“Support for the elderly probably touches all of our lives at some point. It might be your parents who have now retired, the lady next door who appreciates the opportunity for a chat over the garden fence.  It might be that you know of someone who gives time to help someone of a certain age who needs some shopping done or wants a light bulb changed.  The reality is that you probably have some contact with ‘the elderly’ and maybe you could find out more ways of providing help.

“Steeple Aston is piloting a scheme where Age UK Oxfordshire is coming to you each month to provide useful support and advice on how we can all help our neighbours, relatives and friends and show what a caring society we live in today. Please call in and see what is available even if you are not classified as ‘elderly’.”

If you have a question but can’t get to an Information Session please call the Helpline on 0345 450 1276. For more information about Age UK in Oxfordshire, go to their website:

Schoolkids video raises over £1K for Red Nose Day

Four years ago, a group of five-year-olds from Steeple Aston made a video to raise money for Red Nose Day. Now aged nine, they’ve done it again – and they’ve persuaded some grownups you might recognise to join in as well.

Last time they made £800 for the Comic Relief charity by making their own version of One Direction’s ‘One Way or Another’ music video. This year they’ve raised £1,064 by performing to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’.

Both videos were made by Laura Jobe. The new one features children now in Class 4 at Dr Radcliffe’s School along with friends and family. They also persuaded their teacher Becky Roberts and Headteacher Frances Brown to take part, along with other locals such as Raj and Pari from the village shop.

For links to both videos, and, if you want to, donate to Comic Relief and help them reach their target, go to:

Mid-Cherwell Plan sent to the Examiner

The draft Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan has been sent for comments to an Independent Examiner before the start of the formal consultation process which will culminate in a referendum next year.

Following the Examiner’s report, it is expected to be sent to Cherwell District Council in early August. This date matters because as soon as Cherwell have a copy of the draft Plan they are obliged to take its recommendations into account.

Meanwhile villagers from across the Mid-Cherwell area are to be invited to an open meeting of the Neighbourhood Forum on Wednesday, 17th May at Ardley Village Hall. The Forum consists of a group of 40 people from the 11 Mid-Cherwell parishes, the Heyford Park Residents Association and the Heyford Park developer, the Dorchester Group.

In addition the eight-person Executive, chaired by Steeple Aston Parish Councillor Martin Lipson, has offered to visit all the 11 parishes and sit in on a Parish Council meeting in each place to answer questions from Councillors and the public.

In his monthly report, Parish Council Chairman John Coley explains more about the work being done to ensure the Plan is accepted.

He writes: “It was Proust who wrote “What we call our future is the shadow which our past throws in front of us.” So, this month I’m looking back and looking forward.  Everything we have done thus far, and the work we are doing now, will form part of our submission for a Neighbourhood Plan.  Increasingly developers are looking to appeal or go to court to challenge Neighbourhood Plans; so  we must take pains to make sure that what we in the Plan is clearly supported by good evidence, and where we choose between alternatives, we must show that we have applied the same weight to all options.  This is a daunting prospect for such a large geographical area.  It will take time as well as effort.

“One example is our determination to show that Mid-Cherwell has its own character, and should not treated just as a ‘standard development location. You may have seen a black bus (shades of the Magical Mystery Tour for those old enough to remember The Beatles’ 1967 album) going around villages one day last month.  This carried consultants and Forum representatives as they travelled round the Plan area and attempted to epitomise and define the ‘character’ of the various Parishes in the Plan.

“The whole ethos behind the Neighbourhood Plan is that neighbourhoods can decide where they would prefer development to take place; it is not so they can use a Plan to block all development – so not “Strawberry Fields Forever”.  We need to make sure our policies are not stating the obvious, or reinventing the wheel, and to this end we have begun a series of meetings inviting all those making Neighbourhood Plans in Cherwell to come together and swap ideas and policy wordings. This includes Bloxham which has already had its own Plan adopted.  It will be very handy to see what works, and what doesn’t.

“It also helps us to begin to work out the timescales for various consultations, based on actual time taken rather than on the time we think it should take (“Back to the Future” for someone who carried out Activity Based Costing!). Inevitably there can be significant variances which we can try to ease by having policies which are soundly researched and written.  The better our policies and wishes are described, the less the chance of them being challenged. Work done now will save time much later.”

To see the draft plan and find out more about the Forum, go to


Anna Allen joins the Parish Council

Steeple Aston’s newest parish councillor is Anna Allen, who was co-opted on to the council at its February meeting following the recent resignation of Bridie Mulcahy-Hawes.

Anna has lived in Grange Park, Steeple Aston for 25 years with her husband Andrew. Their children Antony (now 30) and Judy (28) went to Dr Radcliffe’s School.

With a Norwegian diplomat father and an English mother, Anna spent her childhood years travelling the world. But at the age of 18 she decided she wanted to make her future in Britain. She went to Bangor University to study marine science and it was there that she met Andrew, who had been seconded from the Royal Navy.

They ended up in Steeple Aston when Anna got a job with Pergamon Press, by then part of Reed Elsevier. She spent nine years there managing their environmental sciences programme. It was an exciting time to be involved in environmental issues, she says, and this is where she developed her interest in wildlife and the environment.

She left this job in 2000 to work in electronic publishing, joining an American dotcom company but working remotely in the Cherwell Innovation Centre at Upper Heyford. Here as the editorial director for The Scientific World she developed new ways of open access publishing peer reviewed scientific literature. Then after a spell working on pharmaceutical marketing she retired in 2013.

On retirement Anna thought she would continue to develop her technical interests and learnt how to build websites. But she decided she’d had enough of spending her days in front of a computer, and took up the offer of a gardening job. She started gardening just four hours a week, then she put an advert in Steeple Aston Life and was overwhelmed by offers of work. She now has two partners in Anna’s Garden Services, and they work with three other associates.

Anna says they have now worked in 50 gardens over an area from Bicester to Great Rollright. She finds gardening much more rewarding than the corporate world. “We meet wonderful people,” she said, “it’s a real privilege to work in such lovely gardens often with historic buildings, and we learn a lot from the garden owners.”

Anna is pretty busy in her spare time as well. Two years ago she founded the Steeple Aston Walking Group, now 35 strong. She is Treasurer of the Allotments Association and a keen beekeeper. She also helped set up the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan website and newsletter.

It was this experience which prompted her interest in local government, and eventually led to her application to join the parish council. “Since I retired,” she said, “I’ve got more involved in the community and got to know the village better. I’m very busy, but I like the idea of putting something back locally.”

Her main contribution, she thinks, will be her business experience and her knowledge of environmental issues. But she isn’t against development in the right place, and recognises the importance of providing more housing, especially to keep young people in the village

She will also take an interest in fostering small businesses locally, and hopes her marketing skills will be particularly useful to the council in helping it communicate better with villagers.

Grange Park residents await TPO verdict 

Residents of Grange Park who have objected to the imposition of individual tree preservation orders to replace the controversial and outdated area order on the estate are waiting for a response from Cherwell District Council.

The proposed new orders cover more than 40 trees. Following representations, the original deadline for objections was extended by a month to 12th January. Most of the residents of the 26 Grange Park properties affected who wanted to object were able to do so in that time.

In addition, the Grange Park Residents Group engaged a consultant, Peter Wharton of Wharton Tree and Ecology Consultants Ltd ( to assist them with their objections. He produced a very detailed and comprehensive objection letter which was submitted, on behalf of the residents group, to the Head of Law and Governance at Cherwell District Council before the deadline.

The letter made a clear case for rejecting the proposed TPOs on technical and legal grounds. As yet the residents have had no response to their objections, apart from an email acknowledgment that Peter Wharton’s letter was received and passed to the Arboricultural Department for consideration.

Cherwell District Council said previously that 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 the issues raised before the TPO can be confirmed in full or modified. The new TPO was issued on 14th November 2016, so there is some time to go before the six month deadline is reached.

To read the full text of the letter sent to CDC, please click here.

District starts petition against ‘One Oxfordshire’, parish yet to decide 

Steeple Aston Parish Council will decide at its March meeting whether to support or oppose the proposal to do away with a layer of local government to create ‘One Oxfordshire’.

This proposal from Oxfordshire County Council, which would do away with district and city councils, is aimed at saving money. But it is strongly rejected by Cherwell District and others. They have requested a meeting with the Secretary of State to put their case. Cherwell has also started a petition against the idea.

It argues that the district council is strong and financially sound . It has protected all frontline services without increasing the cost to residents. It says that plans for a unitary authority would mean local voices would be lost and that decisions affecting the district would be made by people at a county level, who would prioritise the needs of Oxfordshire over those of Cherwell.

Villagers in Middle Aston have been quicker off the mark than their Steeple colleagues. Edward Dowler, the Chairman of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, feels strongly in favour of Cherwell’s stance. He has signed the petition and forwarded the following message to many Middle Aston residents, who are thought to have signed the petition too.

On February 24th, Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council sent out the following message:

“Earlier this month I wrote to you all to inform of you Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to disband the area’s city and district councils (including Cherwell) and replace them with a single unitary authority for all of Oxfordshire.

“At the time, I told you that Cherwell, Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District were united in their opposition to this. That still remains the case and earlier this week, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, to request a meeting before any decision is made. We are now awaiting a reply.

“In the meantime, Cherwell has set up a petition to stop the proposals from going ahead and since its launch last night more than 220 people have now signed it. I would encourage each of you to also show your support in opposing these proposals by adding your own name to the petition and encouraging friends and family to do the same. The signatures gathered will be used as evidence in our ongoing effort to protect the future of Cherwell District Council and services to our residents”.

As of March 10th there were over 1,100 signatories to the petition. If you would like to  add your signature, please go to

Governors consult on academy status for village school

The Governors of Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School in Steeple Aston are consulting with parents, staff and others on the conversion of the school to academy status as part of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST).

Parents and carers were invited to meet with representatives of the Trust, governors and the school’s leadership team on Tuesday,17th January. This meeting formed part of a period of open consultation during which governors are seeking the views of staff, parents/carers, Church and community representatives and the children.The consultation is expected to end on 4th February.

Chair of the Governors, Lise Boote wrote to parents: “The Governors consider that becoming an academy as part of ODST will bring many advantages to Dr Radcliffe’s School. It will support us in our continued journey of improvement with access to high quality school improvement services; it will help us ensure that the ethos and values at the core of our school will remain intact; it will give staff and governors more freedom of choice about how the school develops and we believe it will help us to better withstand educational changes at a national level.”

She said that in practical terms academy status will change some things behind the scenes. The Governors feel these changes will enhance the running of the school but otherwise parents and children will see very little difference. There will be no impact on the curriculum or admissions policy. The Governors will continue to work closely with the Diocese, the Local Authority, the schools in The Warriner Partnership and other local primary schools who have converted to academy with ODST. There will be no change to the name of the school, the school uniform or term dates.

ODST is a not for profit organisation set up by the Diocese of Oxford in 2012. Dedicated to providing excellence in education, it allows schools to develop and share best practice and work in support of one another whilst benefiting from central support services. There are currently eighteen primary schools working with ODST and it is planning to expand this to around 30 schools over the next year.

To see the full consultation document and other information, go to the school website and look under Key Information.

For more information about ODST, go to their website

Extra policies and local green space added to Mid-Cherwell Plan 

Following recent public consultation on the Mid-Cherwell Development Plan, new policies on light pollution, protection of trees and hedgerows and adequacy of technical infrastructure have been added to the list.

And a new timetable will now allow for a further period of public consultation from 30th April to June 9th before the plan is submitted to Cherwell District Council. And members of the public will be invited to attend a meeting of the Forum on May 17th. If all goes well, there will be a referendum on the final plan in February next year.

Meanwhile, after a heated discussion at February’s Parish Council meeting, it was decided that the old sandpit behind the houses to the west of Grange Park should be proposed for designation as an additional “Local Green Space” in the village.

Local green spaces are those areas which benefit the local community because of their recreational value, beauty, tranquillity, historic significance or richness of wildlife. The designation, if finally approved, does not depend on agreement by the landowner.

In his monthly report, Parish Council Chairman John Coley writes: “During January over 300 people braved the weather to show their support for the Neighbourhood Plan and to ask many questions. Most of these were answered on the spot by Forum members, and all of them will influence the policies and the Plan document that is now being reviewed.

“Traffic-related issues were most commonly raised with concerns about speeding, increasing volumes of traffic – especially HGVs on country lanes, and the need for more bus services. Our Traffic and Transport working group has been gathering proposals from each of our parishes to develop an overall traffic mitigation scheme that can be included in our draft Plan. This will need to be successfully negotiated with CDC, OCC and major developers at Heyford Park if it is to have the desired effect.

“Ideas put forward at these events for additional Plan policies will be considered at the March Forum meeting. There has already been wide support for a new “dark skies” policy controlling light pollution – particularly from street lights in new developments.  Others might be to control the loss of existing trees and hedgerows, together with other biodiversity-related policy: a further new policy would seek to protect important views in and across the neighbourhood.

“Some of our policies seek to protect the traditional rural character of the villages and the whole neighbourhood. To have real effect, the rather elusive concept of “character” needs careful definition, and to that end MCNP has received Government support to commission consultants AECOM to carry out a “Heritage and Character Assessment” of the Plan area. This is now under way. This document, when completed, will be an important plank of “evidence” supporting our policies. Parish councillors and local historians have been gathering relevant documents which detail the heritage and the history of our villages, which AECOM will use as a foundation for their recommendations.”

To see the revised proposals, please click here

For more information about the Forum, go to their website:


Villagers examine Neighbourhood Plan policies

Steeple Aston residents had the chance to examine detailed proposals from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum at a meeting in the Village Hall on January 24th.

The meeting was one of several held during the month so that residents of the 11 villages included in the plan could have their say on the policy proposals before they are presented to Cherwell District Council, hopefully in April.

Steeple Aston Parish Councillor and Chair of the Forum Martin Lipson told the meeting that the aim of the plan was to restrict development to within designated areas in order to enable the villages and the landscape to retain their historic character.

In addition to these policies, the Forum has developed a Community Action Plan to move forward with issues that are not strictly part of the planning remit, such as requiring utility providers to improve their services in the area.

After submission to the district council, the plan will be sent to an independent examiner who may require changes before a referendum can take place. It is hoped that the process will be completed by the end of the year.

In his monthly bulletin on the progress of the Plan, Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “We can look forward to 2017 as the year in which all our work on MCNP comes to fruition. As you know, we are starting the year with community engagement meetings. They will tell us, after all our drafting and discussions, whether any of the policies need adjustment to meet with your approval.

“Local Green Spaces have been nominated by many of our parish councils and these will now go into the Plan. These will add extra protection from development to valued community spaces.

“We have been instrumental in setting up a group meeting for all those Cherwell parishes who are in the process of forming Neighbourhood Plans (Cherwell District Council having declined to set this up). The first meeting to share experiences and knowledge gained will be “in the middle of February.

“The Plan Forum has received Government funding to commission a consultancy firm to undertake a Heritage and Character Assessment of all the larger settlements in the neighbourhood area (and their surroundings). The report will sit alongside our policies to make sure that future development fits in with the special ambience (lovely word, that) and history of our part of Oxfordshire. This will take place over the next few weeks, ready to go into the Plan Report.”

To see the draft policies proposed, and the Community Action Plan, please click here

For more information about the Forum, go to their website:

Draft planning policies published before community meetings

Draft policies produced by the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum have been published in advance of a series of community engagement meetings to be held during January. Villagers should have already received a leaflet summarising the policies and inviting them to a meeting to discuss them.

The Steeple Aston meeting will be on Tuesday, January 24th at 7.30pm in the Village Hall. But if that date isn’t convenient, you are welcome to attend any of the other meetings listed below.

Steeple Aston Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “All 24 draft policies have now been published, and community engagement meetings in January 2017 have been announced. You should have a leaflet summarising the policies together with a lot of additional information, and you can see the full policies on

“In January, we will be holding our final round of community engagement meetings. At each of the events below there will be a display of the final draft Policies of the Neighbourhood Plan, together with maps showing the proposed Settlement Areas and nominations for Local Green Spaces that our parish councils want to see incorporated in the Plan.

“There will also be opportunities for discussion with members of the Neighbourhood Plan Forum representing your community, and a question and answer session. Each meeting will cover the same neighbourhood-wide agenda for all 11 parishes, so you are welcome to attend whichever is most convenient.

Saturday, 14th January        2.00 – 4.00pm, Reading Room, Upper Heyford

Sunday, 22nd January         10.00am – 12.00pm, Village Hall, Ardley

Tuesday 24th January          7.30 – 9.00pm, Village Hall, Steeple Aston

Wednesday, 25th January    7.00 – 9.00pm, Nicholson Orchard Barn, North Aston

Thursday 26th January        7.00 – 8.30pm, Village Hall, Somerton

Saturday, 28th January        10.00am – 12.00pm, St. Mary’s Church, Lower Heyford

Saturday, 28th January        10.00am – 1.00pm at Heyford Park Community Centre

Saturday, 28th January        3.00 – 5.00pm, Village Hall, Kirtlington

Monday, 30th January         7.30 – 9.00pm, Village Hall, Fritwell

“We have had wide-ranging meetings with Cherwell District Council to persuade them of the need for certain policies and to ensure that they all comply with national and local planning legislation. After the January meetings, MCNP has to make the full draft Plan document publicly available, in the run-up to formal submission in the Spring.”

If you aren’t able to attend a meeting, you can still read the policies and leave your comments on the Forum’s website