Revised plans for Southside development presented

In its second meeting of the week Steeple Aston Parish Council’s Planning Committee met on 31st May to hear about the revised proposals for the development on Southside opposite the entrance to Hill House. They included a new footpath plan and a revision to the size and number of houses to be built.

Rectory Homes ( withdrew an application for planning permission to build six four-bedroomed houses on the site in February following a number of objections from local residents, the Parish Council, the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum and the OCC Highways Department.

At a previous meeting, it was clear that neither the Parish Council nor other commentators were hostile to some development on this site. But there were major objections to the original scheme proposed. The Parish Council summarised the three main objections as:

  1. Housing mix: the proposal is for six houses of four bedrooms. There is however a clear need locally for a mix of house sizes, including some with smaller number of bedrooms…..
  2. Safe pedestrian access: walking into the village with no footpath – especially in darkness – is dangerous, and difficult to solve where the road narrows at the Red Lion.
  3. Safe vehicular access: the new road junction for the development will exacerbate an already dangerous stretch of road unless measures are taken to improve safety. Both speeding and limited visibility on the bend here have caused several near misses for traffic using the Hill House lane used by about 20 cars serving various dwellings.

Amy Atkins for Rectory Homes said their new proposal for pedestrian access would involve a “shared surface” for cars and pedestrians from the development to the junction with Water Lane. This would be indicated by rumble strips on the road, and different colour paint on the road marking the ‘virtual’ footpath. She said that the Highways Department had accepted a similar proposal in Harwell village near Didcot. However subsequent investigation shows that the road there is not comparable with South Side, as it excludes buses and HGVs.

Parish Councillors and members of the public were unconvinced that this would provide a safe space for pedestrians, especially those with pushchairs and small children. The general view was that visibility on this stretch of road makes it unsafe. It was suggested that if the Red Lion’s hedge were removed visibility would be improved, but Hook Norton Brewery had not been willing to take down the hedge when asked on a previous occasion.

It was also suggested that a footpath which went around the back of Kiftsgate and emerged further along South Side might be safer, but this would involve the purchase of additional land. Other suggestions were a 20mph speed limit or a chicane. The developers took these points on board and said they would investigate further.

On the objections to the mix of houses, they said they had listened to the Parish Council’s objections and had also been informed that Cherwell District Council would prefer greater density and more of a mix. So they were now proposing to build 10 houses on the site – two two-bedroomed houses, three four-bedroomed houses and five three-bedroomed houses. This would increase the number of houses, but the greater mix was generally welcomed by villagers as more in line with local demand. Because there will be only 10 houses, there won’t be a requirement for the developer to include affordable housing in the mix. There was some concern however that this would lead to an increase in the number of cars on the road.

Finally an issue discussed at the previous meeting was raised again by the Chairman Stuart Ferguson. He asked the developers to look at the question of drainage, and whether the existing provision could cope with 10 more houses. In the past there have been overflows of sewage from the drains in Bradshaw Close after heavy rain, which indicated that the existing system, thought to be Victorian, was operating at its limits. The developers said this would be the responsibility of Thames Water.

See below for the draft sketch plans and the potential footpath solution which were presented to the village. Rectory Homes have asked us to emphasise that these are drafts, and they are far from being ready to submit a planning application to the district council.

To see the suggested footpath solution, please click here.

To see the proposed site plan, please click here.

To see the proposed street scene, please click here.

Old Quarry meeting produces several surprises

There were quite a few surprises to emerge from the Parish Council Planning Committee’s open meeting about the future of The Old Quarry, Fenway, which was attended by around 30 villagers on 29th May.

The meeting had been requested by the developers Spitfire Bespoke Homes ( as a presentation of initial proposals for the land, an old sandworks behind Old Quarry House, an 18 acre site which some have described as a nature conservation area. It was recently a subject of controversy when it was proposed for development, and was subsequently nominated as a Local Green Space in the Mid-Cherwell Development Plan and made the subject of a new area Tree Preservation Order (TPO) by Cherwell District Council.

Representing the company were Connor Chamberlain from Spitfire and Guy Wakefield, their planning consultant on the project. They said that Spitfire has an option to purchase the land, but there is no specification about the number of houses to be built.

The first surprise of the evening came at the start when the developers reported that the area Tree Preservation Order on the site imposed by Cherwell District Council had been modified. The TPO which originally applied to the whole site now covered a large area furthest away from the road, and a number of separate areas closer to the road. This left less than 50 per cent of the site available for development.

This change was news to the Parish Council and most villagers. Chairman Stuart Ferguson said they hadn’t been informed and would investigate. One neighbour had received a letter from the council, but others had heard nothing.

The second surprise came as a consequence of this. It was reported that the landowner has agreed that the land covered by the TPOs which is not developable would be gifted to the Parish Council. There was a mixed reaction to this both from parish councillors and the public, particularly as it could impose more costs and responsibility on the council which might not be welcome.

The third surprise was perhaps the most controversial. Though the developers have had no preliminary contacts with the planning authority, Cherwell District Council, as yet, they have been in contact with Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department about access to the site. To the surprise of local residents, it was reported that the Highways Department had agreed in principle that road access beside the existing Old Quarry House could be provided for up to 60 homes.

Villagers were very concerned about the impact that would have on traffic in Fenway, a single track road where there has already been recent development. There was also much concern when the developers said that an ecologist had walked the site and reported that any damage from development could be mitigated. There was a demand from some villagers for a proper independent ecological report on the site, and concern that work already undertaken may have damaged the site’s biodiversity.

The developers said that there would have to be reports on ecology, traffic and other matters before planning permission could be granted. They were here on a fact-finding mission to find out what the Parish Council’s attitude was, and they were aware that the draft Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan designated the whole area as a Local Green Space.

Steeple Aston Parish Councillor Martin Lipson is also the Chair of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum and he explained in detail why the Parish Council had backed the move to include the quarry as a Local Green Space, responding to a request from residents convinced that the site was of ecological importance.

He also explained why the Plan proposed only a five per cent increase in housing in the village (ie 20 houses) over the next15 years. The draft Neighbourhood Plan is open for public consultation until 19th June, then it will go to an independent examiner before being the subject of a referendum later this year or early 2019. The developers say they will want to see what the examiner says before deciding whether to go for planning permission.

In order to facilitate future discussions, the developers invited the Parish Council along with a small number of local residents to visit the Old Quarry site. This invitation was accepted, but has not yet been confirmed.

Church ‘re-ordering’ debate moves forward

The debate over the future ‘re-ordering’ of Steeple Aston church continues with a public meeting called for Wednesday, 18th July and a promise from the Parochial Church Council of an exhibition weekend before the end of the year.

The PCC has now published a long response to the open letter from a group of senior church members unhappy about the proposals asking for “a proper consultation process” to include at least one public meeting so that the views of all villagers can be heard.

It says: “PCC minutes show we have been looking at things like heating and access and kitchen space and loos for at least quarter of a century, never without controversy, always with lots of passion on all sides. This project is the nearest we have come to actually doing something and inevitably nobody is getting everything they want.”

The letter describes the opportunities there have already been for public consultation, including a public meeting and three open church annual meetings as well as correspondence in Steeple Aston Life.

The PCC members invite concerned villagers to email or talk to them with their questions and suggestions. The letter continues “We’re working with the Diocese of Oxford (the DAC is their committee that cares for church buildings) which is supporting us as we move toward applying for a faculty (the church equivalent of planning permission), we’ve met with some of the national amenity societies that have particular regard for heritage and we are trying to ensure the others are coming to see us soon. We very much hope that before year’s end we will be able to put on an exhibition weekend so everyone can come and see exactly what we hope to do – and why. And we’ll make sure there’s plenty of opportunity for questions too.”

Meanwhile the writers of the original letter calling for a public meeting say they have had a positive response from villagers, so they have booked the Village Hall for an open meeting on Wednesday, 18th July at 7.30pm. David Armitage, Paul Beadman, Malcolm Hensher and Ian Jackson urge villagers to “Come and have your democratic say”. They have also put a file in the Red Lion where views in writing can be put and read.

To read the full text of the PCC’s letter, please click here.

Parish Council explains this year’s Council Tax increase 

As you will have seen from your recent Council Tax demand, Steeple Aston Parish Council asked for an increase of more than eight per cent in their share of the bill. This was by far the biggest percentage increase in local council charges with Cherwell District Council receiving no increase at all.

Parish Councillor Richard MacAndrew explains how the Parish Council spends our money, and the reasons for this year’s increase. He writes:

“On behalf of the Parish Council here is a brief resumé of how we spend your money, how we budget, and an explanation of why this year it has been necessary to ask for an increase in funds. The precept we received last year from Cherwell District Council was £26,698. This year we requested an increase of £2,221.

“Council expenditure falls into two main categories: the practical and the administrative. The practical is what we do to keep village facilities up and running, tidy and safe. We aim to keep the administration costs to the minimum necessary to achieve this.

“On the administrative side, we have a qualified Parish Clerk, a vital member of the team who provides support and advice to the Council. She also implements many of the decisions that the council takes. Her salary, expenses and training cost £4,600 and comprise the major part of the Council’s administrative expenses. The councillors receive no payment, and do not generally claim expenses.

“Other administrative requirements which the Council has to fulfil are: insurance (£2,000); external and internal financial audits (£350, a small increase of £50 over last year); and payroll services (£189). Training for councillors is also included here. The budget for this is £500.

“The single major increase in administrative costs is the election of councillors. 2017/2018 has seen four new councillors: two were co-opted at no cost to the Council; one was elected unopposed (cost to the Council £39); one was elected (cost to the Council £1,199). No allowance had been made for elections last year so the Council decided it was necessary to make provision in case there was a contested election in May.

“On the practical side of things, the Council has annual commitments such as the grass cutting around the village (£4,000); hedge trimming and weed spraying (£800); and repayment of the loan that was taken out to create the football pitch at Robinson’s Close (£2,300). We are also responsible for the maintenance of various buildings, structures and places around the village: the village hall, the sports and recreation centre, the play area, pocket park, several hedges and verges, the toilets, bus shelters, the war memorial and street furniture.

“The budgets have remained the same as last year, except for two items. Our excellent play area, which draws in many parents and children from outside the village, is now over 10 years old. Some of the equipment is well-worn and in need of repair or replacement (for example, the netting on the mound). Since we do not receive any external funding for the play area, we have increased the budget for it by £600 to take this into account.

“The other item which has increased is Buildings Maintenance. As many of you are aware, there have been a number of incidents of vandalism in the village. Repairs over and above normal running costs have been needed especially in the Millennium Park toilet where a basin and some tiling were ripped off the wall. At the time of writing, someone has driven into the wall at the entrance to the Sports and Rec car park and left a dangerous crack in it. That will need repair; though, if possible, it will be claimed on insurance. It is also salutary to reflect that the roof on the Village Hall is now approximately 20 years into its anticipated 80 year life span. At current prices the next renewal is likely to cost £100,000. The Council therefore has a contingency budget for major capital expenditure.

“In listing the Council’s duties and responsibilities, and explaining where and why we have made increases this year, we hope to assure parishioners that we are managing their affairs in a thoughtful and thrifty fashion, anticipating future necessary expenditure, whilst at the same time trying to extract best value for money for what we do.”

A full copy of the Precept financial document is available from Cathy Fleet, the Parish Clerk.


Local district councillor re-elected

Conservative district councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes was re-elected in the local elections on Thursday, May 3rd. There were no parish council elections as there were only six nominations for the seven vacancies.

The election result for the Deddington ward of Cherwell District Council was as follows:

Candidate Party Votes Elected
BLISS, Aaron James Green 317
DAVIS, Nigel Geoffrey Liberal Democrat 350
KERFORD-BYRNES, Mike Conservative 1637 Elected
MURPHY, Annette Labour 597

Out of an electorate of 6,340 potential voters, there were 2,910 ballot papers issued, giving a turnout of 39.78 per cent.

The six candidates for the Parish Council were all councillors already, and have now been re-elected unopposed. They are Charlotte Bartlett, Charlotte Clarke, Stuart Ferguson, Martin Lipson, Richard Macandrew and Graham Porcas. They will be able to co-opt a seventh councillor if they so wish.

The new Parish Council will be meeting on Monday, 14th May at 7.30pm, unusually in the Sports and Rec Building. They will also be holding the Annual Meeting and the Annual Parish Meeting at the same time. All villagers are welcome to attend for all or part of the evening.

It’s a special first for John in the Spring Show

Steeple Aston Spring Show was quite an occasion for John Coley. Not only did he receive the Mead Vase for winning most points in the show, he also came top in the Horticultural Classes, winning the Duncan Cup. But the real surprise came when he shared first place in Cookery Classes, the first man ever to win in this competitive section. He is pictured here receiving congratulations from Hanny Nicholson. In the background holding the WI Cookery Cup is the other winning cook, Victoria Clifton.

The Annual Spring Show took place on Sunday, 25th March in the Village Hall. Richard Preston, Chairman of Steeple and Middle Aston Horticultural Society, reports:

“It was the first Sunday of Spring and on one of the few occasions this year, the sun came out and encouraged visitors to view the superb array of entries in the show. Overall the entries were down slightly on last year which is not surprising taking into consideration the lateness of the season.  However, 295 exhibits were entered by over 50 entrants providing a wonderful display of flowers, cookery, photography and crafts.

“The children’s entries were plentiful and of an extremely high standard with Ruby Keates winning the Bedding Trophy for the best exhibit as judged by our visiting expert on the day. Ruby also won the under-fives section gaining most points in her age group.  The under-eight winner was Hector Wheeler-Nunneley and the under twelve section was won by Fearne Ward.  The under sixteen category was shared by Abbey Keates, James Martin and Jenny Marsden.

“Onto the flower section where competition was keen for The Duncan Cup, the winner being Mr John Coley who also won the WI Cookery Cup or at least shared it with Victoria Clifton. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the first time a male entrant has won this section where an array of jams, cakes, savouries and other delectable offerings makes up this highly competitive division.  Janet Coley won the Handicraft Cup and Sheila Ballard gained most points in the floral art division.  The winner of The Mead Vase, presented to the person winning the most points and entering a minimum of three divisions was Mr John Coley.

“To all winners, competitors and all those who came along in the afternoon to view this splendid display, thank you so much for supporting what is probably the oldest society in the village having started life back in the 1860’s. Without your support this grand village tradition would not survive.

“Looking forward to the summer, and I think we are all doing that, the Annual Show will take place as usual on Robinson’s Close and the Village Hall on August Bank Holiday Monday. The schedule is now available from me or you can view it online.”

To see the full results of the Spring Show, please click here.

To see the Summer Show Schedule and download it, please click here.

For photos of the Show taken by the multi-talented John Coley, please click here.

And to see more photos of the show taken by Catherine Crook and set to music on Smilebox, please click here.

District Council publishes MCNP plan for public consultation

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) has now been published for public consultation by Cherwell District Council. Following the consultation the Plan will be independently examined by an external Examiner.

The Plan proposal comprises the following documents:

  1. The proposed neighbourhood development plan: Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan and MCNP Appendices (Submission Version) March 2018)
  2. A map identifying the area to which the proposed neighbourhood development plan relates
  3. A consultation statement: MCNP Consultation Statement (Submission Version) March 2018
  4. A basic conditions statement – MCNP Basic Conditions Statement (Submission Version) March 2018

Below is a Public Notice providing details of where the documents are available for viewing and how to make representations. The consultation closes on Tuesday, 19th June.

Cherwell District Council

Public Notice

Publication of Plan Proposal

Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan 2018 – 2031


Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (as amended)

Regulation 16

Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum has prepared the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Development Plan for the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Area on behalf of eleven parishes including Heyford Park. The Plan proposes planning policies to be used in the determination of planning applications within the Neighbourhood Plan Area.

Cherwell District Council is undertaking public consultation on the draft (Submission) Plan. The draft Plan and supporting documents are available for public comment from Friday 4 May to Tuesday 19 June 2018 and are available on-line at

Hard copies are available to view at the locations below and during the following opening hours: 

Cherwell District Council Offices, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury OX15 4AA. Monday to Friday 8.45am-5.15pm

Deddington Library, Horse Fair, Deddington, OX15 0SH. Monday 2pm-5pm and 5.30pm-7pm, Wednesday 9.30am-1pm, Thursday 2pm-5pm and 5.30pm -7pm, Saturday 9.30am-1pm

Bicester LinkPoint, Franklins House, Wesley Lane, Bicester, OX26 6JU Monday to Friday 8.45am (10am Wednesday) to 5.15pm

Bicester Library, Franklins House, Wesley Lane, Bicester, OX26 6JU

Monday 9.30am – 7pm, Tuesday 9.30am-5pm, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am – 7pm, Friday 9.30am – 5pm, Saturday 9am – 4.30pm

Kidlington Library, Ron Groves House, 23 Oxford Road, Kidlington, OX5 2BP. Monday 9.30am-5pm, Tuesday 9.30am-7pm, Wednesday 9.30am-1pm, Thursday 9.30am-5pm, Friday 9.30am-7pm, Saturday 9am-4.30pm

Kidlington Link Point, Exeter Hall, Oxford Road, Kidlington, Oxon, OX5 1ABMonday to Friday 8.45am (10am Wednesday) to 5.15pm

The Community Centre and Cafe, Heyford Park, 52 Camp Road, Upper Heyford, OX25 5HDMonday to Friday 7am – 7pm, Saturday 8am – 2pm, and Sunday 9am – 1pm

The Fox and Hounds, Main Road, Ardley OX27 7PE Tuesday 12pm-3pm and 5.30pm-11pm, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12pm -11pm, Sundays 12pm -10pm 
The Bell Inn, Market Square, Lower Heyford, OX25 5NY Mondays to Thursday 12pm-3pm and 5pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm – 11pm, Sundays.12pm -10.30pm

St Olave’s Church, North Street, Fritwell, OX27 7QW Mondays to Sundays 9am to 7pm

The White Lion, Fritwell Road, Fewcott, Bicester OX27 7NZ Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 4pm – 10pm, Friday 11am – 2pm and 4pm-12pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm and Sunday 12pm-8pm.

St James Church, Church Street, Somerton, OX25 6LN Monday to Sunday 9am to 7pm

The Barley Mow, Somerton Road, Upper Heyford, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX25 5LB Wednesday to Sunday 12pm – 2pm, and Monday to Sunday 6pm – 11pm

The Yurt at Nicholsons, The Park, North Aston OX25 6HL 8.30am – 4.30pm Monday to Saturday

Kirtlington Stores, Post Office and Cafe1 Troy Lane, Kirtlington OX5 3HA Monday to Saturday 6.30am to 7pm and Sunday 9am to 1pm

Village History Centre, the Village Hall, Fir Lane, Steeple Aston, OX25 4SF Saturday 10.00am to 12pm

Middleton Stoney All Saints, Middleton Park, Middleton Stoney, Bicester, OX25 4AW Monday to Sunday 10am – 4pm

Red Lion, South Side, Steeple Aston, OX25 4RY Monday to Friday 12pm to 3pm and 5.30 to 11pm, Saturday 12pm – 11pm and Sunday 12pm – 5pm 

Additional copies of the Plan are also available from the Parish Councils at:

Ardley with Fewcott Parish Council; Duns Tew Parish Council; Fritwell Parish Council; Kirtlington Parish Council; Lower Heyford Parish Council; Middle Aston Parish Meeting; Middleton Stoney Parish Council; North Aston Parish Meeting; Somerton Parish Council; Steeple Aston Parish Council; Upper Heyford Parish Council 

The contact details for Parish Councils are available at the link below: 

How to make representations

Any person or organisation may comment on the Plan or supporting documents. Response forms are available at the locations above and can be downloaded from Cherwell District Council’s website (via the link above) and sent by email to or post to Planning Policy and Growth Strategy Team, Cherwell District Council Offices, Bodicote House, Bodicote, Banbury OX15 4AA 

Representations received after 5pm on Tuesday 19 June 2018 may not be considered.

Please note that all representations will be publicly available and will be forwarded for consideration to the person appointed to carry out an examination of the Plan.

If you would like to be notified of the Council’s decision to make (adopt) the neighbourhood development plan, please state this in your representation. Further information is available on line at