Thank you from the Parish Council
The Parish Council would like to extend a huge public thank you to all the volunteers who have been helping in the village over the last four months. Some of you helped with leafleting at the start of the crisis. Some have been paired up with vulnerable and self-isolating people: running errands, picking up shopping and prescriptions, etc. Some have been ‘chatting,’ providing an essential social lifeline to people who cannot get out and about. All of your help has been invaluable.
Special thanks on this occasion go to Anna Thatcher and Katie Crawshay who have both now stepped down, having run weekly prescription deliveries around the village from the Deddington Health Centre for the last two months. Thank you both for your efficiency and good humour. Their roles have been taken over by Penny Cummins and Linda Watkins respectively.
We also owe a special thank you to Tom Coker and his amazing army of volunteers, from Steeple Aston and Middle Aston, and from further afield as well, who made such a wonderful job of smartening up of the playground ready for its re-opening. In the relatively short space of time available they achieved far more than they had planned, and the results are fantastic. Thank you too to Hannah Hodges, who has volunteered for the duration of her school holidays to help Bob Bickley keep the facility as clean, safe and sanitised as we can make it.
We would also like to extend our thanks to those people who have not yet been called on to help. You allow the PC Chairman to sleep at night, knowing there are people in the village willing to lend a hand if the need arises.
Writing this as lockdown starts to ease in mid-July, it is difficult to know what to expect over the coming months. We hope for a return to some sort of normality; but we must be prepared for the possibility of a second wave. Whatever the future holds, we will do our best to ensure everyone in the village stays safe. Thank you to everyone who has helped us achieve all we have done so far.
Steeple Aston Parish Council
Planning application for chicken sheds withdrawn but……..
The developers, Middle Aston Limited, have withdrawn their application for planning permission to redevelop Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston as a 29-unit business park.
The application was withdrawn after the Planning Officer James Kirkham responsible for the application raised a number of concerns about the proposal. These include the impact on the rural character and appearance of the area of the increased height and the design of the buildings along with the amount of office floor space proposed on the site.
He expects the developers will be looking to amend the scheme and come back with a
resubmission of the planning application.
The withdrawal follows objections from Middle Aston Village meeting, Steeple Aston Parish Council, the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan, and Dr Radcliffe’s School. Nearly 30 residents of the two villages also put in written objections to the planning authority Cherwell District Council.
The main concern of the objectors was the amount of traffic that would be generated first during the construction of the site and then when it was up and running.
The proximity of Dr Radcliffe’s School and the Pre School, where there have already been worries about road safety for children, was a particular worry.
The objections from the parish council raise a number of other concerns, as do the submissions from Middle Aston and the MCNP and others. They include:
- economic factors – intensification of the existing use of the site
- parking provision is already double that on the site and will be insufficient
- lack of footpaths
- the design and height proposed new buildings are out of character with the rural setting
- the failure to consult the school or local neighbours
- that the application fails to comply with planning policies at a national and local level.
Oxfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority, did not object to the scheme, but the Conservation Officer at Cherwell District Council did raise concerns about the appearance of the proposed new buildings.
In her response Emma Harrison writes: “Although there are concerns regarding the proposed development overall the redevelopment of the site is supported, and it is acknowledged that there may be consequential public benefits. It is also considered that the scheme could be amended to address the concerns raised. The Conservation Team would welcome further involvement to find a solution that is acceptable to all.”
It remains to be seen whether the developers will take her up on her offer and submit a revised scheme in due course.
Changes to contact details from Monday, 20th July
- If you used to collect your prescription from the shop, but for the last two months it has been delivered to your door by Anna Thatcher, the system remains exactly the same. However, your medication will now be delivered to you by Penny Cummins. If you need to contact Penny, you can reach her on 01869 349155 or 0770 325 8009 or at email@example.com
- If you used to collect your prescription from Deddington Health Centre, but for the last two months have been contacting Katie Crawshay and asking her to collect it for you, you now need to contact Linda Watkins. You can reach Linda on 0779 881 4171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you have a new or urgent prescription that you need collecting, the system remains exactly the same as before. Call Richard MacAndrew on 01869 347209 or email email@example.com
Steeple Aston Parish Council
Village families get cooking for charity
Families in Steeple Aston have been having fun learning to cook (and eat) the Ugandan way!
They’ve also been supporting a local charity which runs education and community development projects in Kenya, Lesotho and Uganda.
It’s all party of a competition in which you are taught online how to make a Ugandan meal of bean stew with chapattis. Then you enjoy eating your meal in authentic Ugandan style – with your hands!
You photo or video the process and post it on Instagram or email it to the charity, the Rafiki Thabo Foundation. The winners of the competition will have a Zoom cookery lesson from Prue Leith of the Great British Bake Off.
Pictured above are Maisie and Ted with parents Abigail Boisot and Matt Butcher. And below you can see Charlie, Hattie and Woody Wright. Their parents Helen and Dan were probably wise to suggest they ate in the garden!
Finding something different to do with the kids is proving popular with parents. Abigail said it was the best fun they’d had in ages.
To find out more about the competition and the charity, go to the Noticeboard. Entries have to be in by July 26th.
Church services restart in the open air
Church services in Steeple Aston will begin again next Sunday, July 19th – not in the church, but in the churchyard, weather permitting.
The Rector, Rev Marcus Green explains, “These are going to be open air services, and we will hold one service for the whole Benefice (Steeple Aston, North Aston & Tackley) every other week to begin with. We are asking people to bring their own chair or rug to sit on, to observe social distancing, and to wear a face covering or mask.
“Someone said to me – we wash our hands to protect ourselves; we wear masks to protect others. And in that spirit, though worship will feel odd with face coverings, it seems the right call. I’m going to award a prize for the most colourful or creative mask at our first services! The diocese is asking us not to sing, but we will be sharing communion.”
Saturday, 11th July was the first day the church doors were open to the public, but only for private prayer. The photo below shows the three churches’ open doors! Volunteers welcomed a handful of parishioners who visited the buildings during the day.
The Worship at Home video, which the Rector has provided during the lockdown, will continue to be available on the church website. The weekly service is also available via a phone line. The Rector, Rev Marcus Green says, “If people dial 929021 they can choose to hear either the whole service, or just this week’s prayers, or just this week’s sermon. It’s a local call so hopefully it’s a really helpful thing for those who can’t access a computer easily! And you can phone any time you like.”
Playground re-opens – but with new safety rules
The Parish Council is pleased to announce the playground will be open again from 9 o’clock on Saturday 4th July. Please take note of the guidance below and please be aware that you are using the facilities at your own risk.
We would like to say an enormous ‘thank you’ to Tom Coker and his army of volunteers – young, old and everyone in-between – who have done such an amazing job of smartening it all up. We hope you will enjoy using the facility again, but please maintain social distancing, and follow the guidelines below.
THE PLAYGROUND IS OPEN
We are doing our best to make the playground as safe as possible but please note:
You use the playground at your own risk.
The playground will be sanitised every morning.
Parents and carers are encouraged to sanitise touch points on equipment before and after use by their children.
Please bring your own sanitising gel or wipes. Sanitise your hands before entering the playground, when moving from one piece of equipment to another, and after you come out.
Please do not bring food or drink into or near the playground.
Maintain correct social distancing when using the playground.
Please follow the guidelines on numbers of users, both in the playground and on each piece of equipment.
Only one parent or carer may accompany a child into the toddler area, but please can adults keep out of the junior area.
Remind children to keep their hands away from their mouths.
If the playground is busy, please stay no longer than 30 minutes.
Wash your hands thoroughly again as soon as you get home.
Please follow current government guidance.
Steeple Aston Parish Council
Village celebrates VE Day in lockdown
Hope you enjoyed celebrating VE Day despite the restrictions. The Union Jack in this picture belonged to Vaughan Billings’ parents and was flown on VE Day in 1945. There are lots more VE Day pictures in the Photo Gallery. Thanks to Merrill Bayley for her contributions. If you have any more photos you’d like to share please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can have a sneak peak here
Planning permission for The Beeches refused again
Cherwell District Council has refused planning permission for the development of up to eight houses in the grounds of The Beeches in Heyford Road, Steeple Aston for the second time.
This was the third time that the owner Adrian Shooter had applied for permission to develop the site. His first application was withdrawn following objections from Steeple Aston Parish Council and several others. A modified plan was submitted which took into account some of these objections. This time, the parish council decided by a majority not to object to the revised plans. However, the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum still had several objections and the plan was refused
The third application was exactly the same as the second one, but with the addition of a lengthy legal counsel’s opinion. The lawyer Peter Goatley looked in detail at the case and made the point that the refusal of permission last time was delegated to a planning officer and never considered by the council’s Planning Committee.
He argued that the officer made an incorrect decision and that the relevant development plan policies, council guidance and strategies had been misinterpreted and misapplied. He said that if the application went before the committee “there would be a sound prospect for members of the planning committee, properly informed, to reach a different view to that expressed in the officer’s delegated report.”
Steeple Aston Parish Council once again voted by a majority to support the application, but the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum continued to argue against the development. The decision was once again delegated to an officer, and did not go before the full Planning Committee as requested by the lawyer.
The application was refused for two reasons, stating once again that it was contrary to local plans (including the MCNP Plan) and government guidelines.. The first was that “The proposed development represents new housing that would significantly encroach into the countryside beyond the built-up limits of Steeple Aston, contrary to the housing strategy of the Development Plan for the area, for which it has not been demonstrated that there is a justified need. In its proposed location the development would therefore be an unjustified and unsustainable form of development.”
The second reason was that “The proposed development represents inappropriate ‘back-land’ development that would fail to relate well to the pattern of development in the area and would appear as an intrusion of built form into the countryside, detracting from the rural character and quality of the area the setting of the village.”
In his opinion the lawyer Mr Goatley said that if permission was refused again Mr Shooter would have little option but to appeal. He has six months in which to do so.
You can see the plan and supporting documents and comments and the officer’s report on the Cherwell District website planning register.
Planners say no to Great Wolf, but yes to Southside development
Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee has made decisions on two important applications for the local area. Steeple Aston Parish Councillor Martin Lipson, who is also Chair of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum, was at the meeting. Here is his report.
“The application from American company Great Wolf to turn Chesterton into a Centreparcs-style theme park was unanimously rejected by Cherwell’s Planning Committee on 12th March. About 60 local people turned up to oppose the application, and various district councillors spoke strongly against the scheme. No one spoke in favour of it, and the representatives of the applicants sat stony-faced listening to their plans being rubbished. It will be a while before we hear whether they are going to appeal against the refusal.
“Later in the meeting, Rectory Homes’ scheme for 10 dwellings in Steeple Aston was approved by 10 votes to 4, with one abstention – against the recommendation of their officers.
“The vote took place after the planning officer had explained that the main reason for recommending refusal was the capacity of the site to take more houses, thereby triggering the requirement for four of them to be “affordable homes”. This despite the fact that Rectory had volunteered to make two of the houses “shared ownership”, which means they would in effect be affordable homes.
“The views of Steeple Aston Parish Council and Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum were presented to the Committee by Martin Lipson, who said that the village had led the way in recent years in providing two rural exception sites for affordable housing (Shepherds Hill and Coneygar Fields), and that the officers’ view that the scheme should be refused was paradoxical, as without the support of SAPC and MCNPF the Committee would not be considering a scheme of any kind.
“Mike Kerford-Byrnes, our local Cherwell councillor, proposed a motion of approval. The Leader of the Council – Barry Wood – felt that Steeple Aston had done its bit. He said “Steeple Aston has championed rural exception sites and affordable homes, and was a classic and leading example that others should follow”. He thought that rural areas need not have the housing density that might be required elsewhere, and praised Rectory Homes for volunteering to have two affordable homes in their scheme.
“Approval will bring with it a Section 106 agreement requiring the applicants to fund a number of community benefits to the parish, the details of which will be discussed with the Parish Council.”
Steeple Aston Parish Council has managed to hold its part of the council tax bill, known as the precept, to the same level as last year. There will be no increase in the charge for the year 2020/21.
On behalf of the Parish Council, Stuart Ferguson explains how the Steeple Aston element of the council tax bill is spent:
“At about this time for each of the past few years, the Parish Council has published a commentary on the Parish ‘precept’ or element of the overall council tax bill. The good news for 2020/21 is that the Parish Council has managed to avoid any increase whatsoever over the charge levied in 2019/20. Despite ever rising costs, this 0% change has been achieved through a rigorous analysis of all our necessary expenditures.
“Precepts vary between villages depending upon what has to be paid for in a given year. In general, the precept levied for a relatively urban area will be larger than for villages, a reflection of the greater responsibilities of those areas. The Steeple Aston precept is not one of the smallest, but we do have more facilities to maintain than many villages. At one extreme, for example, Middle Aston has no facilities and thus no expenditure or precept. (I understand that Middle Aston has a Millennium Fund, fed by voluntary contributions, which were also used to purchase their defibrillator. In Steeple Aston the defibrillator, now attached to the Sport and Rec building, was purchased using Parish Council Funds).
“Prominent amongst the responsibilities of the Steeple Aston PC are the Playground and Village Hall. The playground was established after very successful fund raising campaigns led by Richard Preston. The first section opened in 1994 (cost c£80K), the teenage area including the MUGA followed in 2009 (cost c£100K). Everyone knows that it is almost impossible to acquire funding for ongoing running costs. So costs of repairs, general maintenance, tidying, ROSPA reports etc are borne by the Parish Council. As the years go by, replacement fencing and equipment will be needed, quite probably at short notice, so the PC needs reserves to meet such immediate needs. The layout of the playground is such that it cannot be ‘locked up’ and thus the option of leaving time-expired/broken equipment behind a secure gate and fence does not exist. When the playground was first opened there was an army of volunteers which enabled regular Saturday maintenance/cleaning/tidying work to be done. Now we are reliant on paying for these things, except that the village is very fortunate in having one councilor who possesses the skills (and equipment) to do many repair jobs on a voluntary basis. There have been a few comments recently about how many of the notices are looking grimy. Fair point, but there have not been volunteers to do weekly cleaning and so now pressure washing of the MUGA area is needed. When the current crisis is over the PC intends to do this work but quotes suggest that there may not be much change out of a four figure sum.
“Many in the parish pleaded that the PC installed a toilet at the playground and that was done. Requests that Cherwell DC contribute to that, and ongoing costs, were rebuffed. So we pay for daily cleaning, consumables and repairs, some of which are necessary as a result of anti-social behavior. All of this costs money.
“There are the Village Hall and Sport and Recreation buildings to maintain. The respective management committees do a great job in acquiring funds for some improvements, most recently to the kitchen in the Village Hall, but other things, for example exterior decoration, come out of PC funds. The heavily requested exterior lighting is another example of relatively recent expenditure. Salutary was the cost of extensive repairs to the Village Hall roof in 2000. In the end, under the auspices of the then chair, Margaret Mason, we obtained a Lottery grant of 65K and the PC would have made an additional contribution. The anticipated life time of the new roof was said at the time to be c75 years. The original had lasted longer but it may have been luck that it had not started leaking. Repairs were expensive as it is in the Conservation Area and thus replacement tiles had to be essentially identical to the old tiles; use of new materials would have been cheaper no doubt, but not allowed. The Parish Council is being responsible in maintaining reserves with a view to expensive repairs and mindful that time flies. 55 years to go and no guarantee that there will in future be grants, or possibility of cheap loans, so it is prudent to put money aside.
“The foregoing illustrates some (not all) of the expenditures we have to meet. Let me finish by thanking our Clerk, Cathy Fleet. During my time (over 20 years? – nobody seems to remember!) on the Parish Council, the work of the Clerk, and associated things like auditing, have increased substantially. The clerk is paid in accordance with nationally agreed pay rates which in my view are not over-generous. In summary I believe that the PC is providing facilities that the villagers as a whole want. Yes, more could be done such as cleaning out bus shelters and general tidying around the village, but it would have to be paid for. My judgement is that we have things about right. I hope you agree; certainly over the years that has been the view of the village.”
Police warning after arrest for burglaries
The police have warned villagers to be on alert after a series of burglaries and attempted break-ins resulted in the arrest of one man. Bur others are suspected of being involved.
Message from Thames Valley Police
Following a series of burglary offences in the Steeple Aston Area, detectives from our Priority Crime Team and uniformed officers from ICR Team 3 have arrested a 21yr old man on suspicion of burglary. That man has been released on bail whilst enquiries into a large amount of recovered property continues.
“Sadly some criminals will seek to take advantage of the current situation to commit crime, rest assured though that as busy as we may be protecting our community from the risk of COVID-19, we will always make time for the those who think they can commit burglary on our area.
“Please ensure that you are keeping garages and external outbuildings locked and secure, garden side gates bolted and make sure the doors and windows of your home are secure; even when you’re indoors.
“Report any suspicious activity and we will always endeavour to respond quickly.”
There have been several reports of burglary or attempted burglary starting on 29th March and continuing after the arrest. So more people may be involved. If you have any information including CCTV call 101 ref 43200100951.
Call 101 for anything suspicious, 999 if a crime is in progress.