Neighbourhood Plan goes for examination

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan is currently being scrutinised by the official Examiner He was appointed on October 15th  and has already started work on the plan. His examination is expected to last well into November.

The Neighbourhood Plan Forum has issued the following update: ”Our Examiner has been appointed. MCNP was advised today by Cherwell DC that Mr Richard High has accepted our joint nomination to carry out the Examination of our plan, which will shortly commence. It is expected to take 4- 6 weeks to complete. After a period for checking, the report will be published. We are expecting this to be before December.

“Mr High was the examiner for Cherwell’s first neighbourhood plan at Hook Norton back in 2015, and has conducted 30 examinations of neighbourhood plans across the country, including one comprising of five parishes. He was chosen from a shortlist of suitable and available examiners provided by NPIERS, the national body tasked with the role

“This important stage has been a long time coming. Following submission of our draft Plan documents in April, we were asked to make some adjustments to the supporting documents. The formal submission was made in early May…In mid-June CDC’s formal consultation on the Plan closed, and the representations received were published on their website. These included CDC’s own comments, of which we had been previously advised through a series of meetings over many months. MCNP then produced, as advised by CDC, a “schedule of proposed minor modifications” so that the examiner, once appointed, would be able to seehow we planned to respond to the various comments. This took a few weeks to finalise. Then came the long hot summer, in which not much happened. But finally, we are moving forward again.

The examiner will be looking at a suite of documents which can be found on CDC’s website here.

Amanda is co-opted on to the Parish Council

Amanda Rodgers was invited to be the seventh member of Steeple Aston Parish Council at its September meeting. The vacancy arose because only six candidates stood for the seven vacancies in the May elections.

Amanda moved to the village two years ago with her husband-to-be Paul. They planned a very special wedding a few months later. It started with the ceremony and dinner in Middle Aston House, followed the next day by their very own “fête” in the Sport and Rec Centre then supper and a ceilidh in the Village Hall. Quite a celebration!

Born and brought up in Derbyshire, Amanda studied law at Durham University before moving to London for work. Her varied work background includes a long period working in recruitment and HR, running a business improvement district in London and leading an anti-radicalisation project.

For the last ten years she and Paul have worked together building a business community in the consumer payments industry. They have moved their office to the village, but spend much time travelling at home and abroad to the 70 events a year they organise as well as other meetings.

Amanda explains that they decided to move to the area and rented for a year in Lower Heyford while looking at a total of 52 properties trying to find their perfect home. They fell in love with Windy Ridge on Paines Hill and see it as their “forever house”. They are about to embark on an extensive refurbishment of the old house and the building of an extension.

Outside work Amanda is keen on F1, but is often found knee-deep in mud at the bottom of a canal. She and Paul are currently working on the restoration of a lock on the Thames and Severn Canal. After a very nasty accident breaking bones in her leg and foot, Amanda is planning her own road to recovery with a sponsored walk next summer along the length of the Oxford Canal to raise money for canal restoration.

A naturally busy person, she finds the more she does, the more energy she has. So taking on the role of parish councillor holds no fears for Amanda. She is passionate about community and wants to ensure that Steeple Aston thrives both now and in the future.

She has plenty of experience to bring to the role, with her community building background, having been a school governor and involved in planning issues before. Her legal experience will be useful with one of her first tasks which is to help review the council’s leases.

But right now, she’s concentrating on the contentious issue of dog poo. She has some experience of this too and hopes to persuade more villagers to do the right thing – bag it and bin it!

Richard is elected to chair Parish Council 

Parish Councillor Richard MacAndrew was elected as the new Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council at its September meeting. Martin Lipson will be his deputy.

Richard replaces Stuart Ferguson who has resigned due to pressure of work. He took over the role at short notice last year when John Coley stood down from the chairmanship on the advice of his doctors. The council thanked Stuart for taking on the job at a difficult time and were grateful for his experience and expertise in sorting things out.

Richard who was elected to the Council last December says: “I see the Parish Council very much as a joint endeavour. During my limited time as a Councillor, I have been greatly impressed by the many and diverse talents of my colleagues. I look forward to working with them over the coming months with a view to enhancing life in the village.”

Richard came to Steeple Aston in 2011 with his wife Cathy Lawday, who is the Editor of Steeple Aston Life.  In the 1970s he trained as a teacher of English as a foreign language and has worked in Finland, Sweden and Malaysia.  After eight years abroad, he returned to the UK, and worked in language schools in London and Oxford, ending up as a member of the Senior Management Team at St Clare’s, Oxford.

Since 1996 he has been a freelance writer, teacher and examiner. He has written a number of books for OUP, CUP and Macmillan. He is now semi-retired,

Villagers must comment soon on Tree Preservation Orders

Residents have the opportunity to comment on two Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) issued by Cherwell District Council. The first is for the land attached to Old Quarry House in Fenway, already the source of some controversy in the village. The second TPO applies to The Planes in Water Lane and has been made as a result of the homeowner’s application to remove and lop several trees.

The District Council says people affected by the orders have the right to make “objections or other representations”. This should be done in writing by 11th October. For details of where to write to etc, please see the links to the orders below.

The first order is a further revision of the TPO issued last year for the Old Quarry site with more detail about exactly which trees are protected. This is as a result of the Parish Council insisting that CDC’s arboriculturalist re-visit the site to ensure that the earlier draft TPO was accurate.

Parish Councillor Martin Lipson comments: “Given that a number of the trees now protected are fairly young and have a long life ahead of them, this represents a clear positive statement from CDC officers regarding the amenity value of the site to the village.”

The Old Quarry House site has continued to be the subject of controversy since the owner John Bowerman died last year. Solicitors for his niece Penny Ferreiro Cives wrote to Steeple Aston Life objecting to an obituary describing the area behind the house as a nature reserve.

Since then the site has been proposed as a designated Local Green Space in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan, which is currently with Cherwell District Council and waiting to be inspected by an external Examiner.

And in May a developer called Spitfire Homes, which has an option to purchase the land for development, made a presentation to the Parish Council. They suggested that the TPO then proposed would prevent them from developing more than 50 per cent of the site. To councillors’ surprise 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.

The new TPO covers five individual trees and six groups of trees in the area nearer to the house, and the complete area of woodland further away from the building.

The second TPO results from a householder application to remove certain trees and to lop others in Water Lane, which is in the village Conservation Area. The TPO states that it has been made because the work proposed was considered excessive, and to ensure that the amenity value of the trees is maintained. A more moderate amount of work could be carried out. Three trees (a Sycamore, a Holm Oak and a Horse Chestnut) beside Water Lane are specified in the order along with a group of two Beech trees further away from the road.

In both cases, because these Orders deal with trees that have significant amenity value to the village anyone can write to CDC before 11th October, giving their views in support or otherwise. The orders are temporary at the moment but will be made permanent within in six months.

To see the TPO for the Old Quarry site in Fenway, please click here.

To see the TPO for The Planes, Water Lane, please click here.

Proposed Oxbridge link comes close to village

Proposals for the new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway just announced by the Government show the planned route options appearing to come very close to Steeple Aston. Villagers are already expressing concern that plans for extensive development along the route may impact the village.

Announcing the scheme, the Government said, “This expressway will enhance both transport connectivity and growth across the region for the benefit of the UK as a whole….

“…Building the new link close to the east/west rail link will also offer more options for the commercial development of up to 1 million new homes, in line with proposals by the National Infrastructure Commission, and encourage more people to travel by train rather than by cars.”

The plan is for 300.000 of these new homes to be in Oxfordshire.

A full public consultation will be held next year, in which residents and businesses in and around the corridor will have their say on more detailed designs for the route.

The full government announcement can be found here.

Highways England’s booklet about the expressway can be found here.

Council hears of plan for houses on Paines Hill field

Plans for the development of the proposed “Local Green Space” at the heart of the village on Paines Hill have been presented to Steeple Aston Parish Council.  The owner of the Paines Hill field, Lynda Sanders, came with her designer to present their outline scheme for the housing development on the field to the council’s July meeting.

Many local people think of this open space as an essential feature of the village, part of its special character. Indeed, this was the main reason why Lynda purchased the field back in 1985 to stop it from being developed. She has kept chickens and the distinctive brown Soay sheep there for many years.

So it was with a sense of some irony that councillors listened to an explanation of the options now being considered for development on the upper part of the field, promoted by its owner. The options at present are for one single dwelling, a group of five, or a crescent of nine small houses (occupying most of the field). In each case there would be a new access road on to the site from Paines Hill. There would be some left over green space at the foot of the hill, by the stream, which the designer suggested could be available for public use.

Councillors, asked if they had any comments, did not have much to say other than to remind those present that in 2017 the Parish Council had nominated the field, along with three other green spaces in the village, as “Local Green Space” in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan. If approved at examination (which is expected in October) this status would protect the spaces concerned from development. The others are Robinsons Close recreation field, the Allotments also off Fir Lane, and the Old Sandworks site off Fenway.

The presentation ended with the designer promising that an application for planning permission would be forthcoming in due course. Cherwell District Council had so far not been approached.

A set of the sketch drawings was left for the Parish Council’s records. Anyone wishing to see the drawings can do so by contacting the Parish Clerk Cathy Fleet on 01869 347000 or

Rector answers questions about proposed church re-vamp

Following the public meeting where many villagers expressed concern at aspects of the plans for the ‘re-ordering’ of Steeple Aston church, and at the lack of public consultation, the Rector has tried to answer many of the questions and concerns in his blog on the church website. He has also promised more public consultation in future.

At the meeting on July 18th attended by over 40 villagers, there was disappointment that neither the Rector nor members of the Parochial Church council were there to explain their proposals and answer questions. At the Parish Council meeting the following week, some members felt the whole process was rather undemocratic and that there had been a certain lack of communication.

In his blog, Revd Marcus Green writes: “We have been asked all sorts of questions about the proposals for the Building Project in recent weeks. Thank You for all your interest! Please keep it coming!

To try and answer some of these questions, we’ve compiled a list of ‘FAQs’ – Frequently Asked Questions. Do write in if you’d like to ask about anything else!”

The questions (here with abbreviated answers) are:

  1. Why spend so much money on paths and ramps? The PCC has six guiding principles, six values in this Building Project: Access; Better Heating; Room for Children; Providing Loos; Hospitality & Service; Flexible Space. Really, there isn’t much of a hierarchy or order to these six – except that access comes first…….
  2. Why are you turning the Church into a Community Centre? We aren’t!…….. The PCC are simply trying to make the very most of what we have in order to ensure we don’t leave this fantastic place empty most of the week. Hospitality & Service are essential parts of church life.
  3. But why not just use the Village Hall or the Sport & Rec if you want to do something other than Sunday worship? Well… because we have a great building, and it seems such a waste not to use our own place for our own activities…………………..
  4. Why does the Church need loos and heating? It’s always been OK in the past!………. If the young and the elderly are to use a public building, we have to help:………
  5. Why does the Church need space for Children’s Church? Haven’t the children always used the Pre-School? ……….. We haven’t been able to use Pre-School for quite a while because of an insurance issue, but we have used the Samuel Radcliffe room in the school. However – that’s quite a walk when it’s raining or snowing or cold…………..
  6. Why are you putting a kitchen in the Lady Chapel? We aren’t! No-one would let us, and we would never want to. We do want to open this space out so it can be used for different things………..
  7. Why are you taking the famous wooden screen down? We are planning to move the screen to the arch between the lady chapel & the chancel, in such a way that if a future PCC want to move it back – they can………………
  8. Why are you ripping all the beautiful and historic pews out? ….there has been a huge desire to remove all the pews. Not just within the PCC – lots of people in the village have asked for this ….. Early on, however, independent heritage experts told us that both the bench ends and the pews themselves were important, and we needed to work with them. So we listened, and with the independent experts, the Diocesan committee that oversees historic buildings, and with other outside agencies, worked out a compromise…..
  9. Why haven’t the PCC consulted the village? We have! At the start we had a campaign with people filling in cards about what they wanted us to do, we had large open public meeting, and every Easter since then our annual congregation meeting has been advertised as an open meeting so anyone in the village could attend and hear and ask questions and vote about the project. For three years, people have voted with a deafening ‘yes’ to the PCC taking the project forward……
  10. Will there be further consultation? Yes. … When we have worked through the next stage of developing detailed plans with the Diocesan authorities and the consultative bodies that are part of the legal framework we have to work with, and are ready to place these plans before the Diocesan Chancellor to ask for Faculty (the Church equivalent of planning permission) we plan to hold an exhibition weekend where everything will be made really clear for everyone in the village to see, with full opportunity for everyone to respond and express their views. All of this will be passed on as we apply for the Faculty. We are rather tied to other people’s timetables here, but we very much hope this will be early in 2019.

To read the full set of answers on the church website, please click here.

To read the full minutes of the public meeting on July 18th, please click here.