Carl’s poem is a market winner

Steeple Aston’s Carl Tomlinson has won a competition with his poem about the Covered Market in Oxford. He performed his poetry live in the market along with the other winners. And he will soon be recording it to become part of an audio installation in the market.

The Shout Out for the Covered Market competition was run by Oxford City Council. The brief was to write a piece of spoken-word, poetry or music that tells a story of Oxford Covered Market. It could be your experiences visiting the market over your lifetime, a fictional story set within the market, or a description of the sights and smells of the market today

To enter, competitors were asked to record their piece – either on a mobile phone or on a computer – and send the audio to Oxford City Council using Facebook Messenger or Instagram Direct.

There were four age categories. Carl came top of the adult category for over 25s, winning a prize of £150 in the form of vouchers to spend in a participating Covered Market shop of his choice.

Competition entries were judged by a panel including Barney Norris, the award-winning playwright, poet and essayist, He is an Associate Artist at Oxford Playhouse and the Martin Esslin Playwright in Residence at Keble College.

In total, 34 people entered the competition, sharing personal memories, vivid poetry and songs about the 18th century market.

The winners performed their work, alongside Barney Norris, at a recital in the Covered Market. Their work will also be installed in a new listening post in the market.

See the video of Carl reading his winning poem here.

Special kind of Advent Calendar on show in the church

boxes in churchThis year members of the congregation at Steeple Aston and their friends have been busy making a rather special new kind of village Advent Calendar.

The individuals and groups who volunteered to take part were each given a packing box donated by a local removal company and a bible reading from the Christmas story. They were asked to fill their box with appropriate decorations to illustrate the reading.

The boxes were covered and each given a number so they could be opened on the appropriate day in the run up to Christmas..

Among those taking part were children at Dr Radcliffe’s school, the Churchwardens, the Children’s Church, the WI, the PCC, the Cricket Club, Bev Davies, Shirley Palmer, the Toddler Group, Sustainable Steeple, the Brownies, Katerina Vernicos, the Shaylers, the Birds, Christopher Compston and the Steeple Aston Choral Society. The village Bellringers even made a box with its own sound effects.

You can see the boxes at the back of the church, which is open every day, or you can view them on the church website.


Local lad takes over our local pub!

Aidan behind the barLocal boy Aidan Madden has just started work as the new landlord of the Red Lion. He has taken on the tenancy following the departure of Mel and Sarah Phipps after 14 years at the helm.

It will be a family affair with Aidan’s brother Kegan helping out when he’s home from duties in the Royal Navy. The boys’ parents Kathy and Colum are also assisting with lots of practical help and business support.

The family come from Middle Aston and have been visiting the pub for many years. In fact Kegan worked behind the bar for a while. They know lots of local people, not least because Aidan and his brother went to Dr Radcliffe’s School and then The Warriner.

Aidan studied jewellery design at university, and hopes to continue with this when time allows. But he has always worked in kitchens, including in the coffee shop at Blenheim Palace and most recently as a chef at the Three Pigeons in Banbury.

He says that when they saw the tenancy was becoming available from the owners Hook Norton Brewery he and his brother both thought “Let’s go for it!”

They plan to brighten the pub up with a lick of paint, possibly updating the toilets and making more use of the small room on the right of the entrance. They will continue to offer pizza to eat in and take away. There will be main courses on offer during the day, and small plates available later in to the evening in the bar. The aim is to have a reasonably limited menu with seasonal changes and using local produce.

Aidan will have help with the cooking from Josh Tollet from Banbury, and members of staff who worked with Mel and Sarah are staying on.

One of the first investments made by the new team is an up to date coffee machine. The hope is to attract more customers during the day for tea and coffee as there is no café in the village.

There will be an open evening on Saturday, 9th November when free snacks will be on offer from 6.00pm until late. Then food service proper will start with Sunday lunch the following day. More details about menus and opening hours will be available soon.

The Beeches planning application refused

Cherwell District Council has refused planning permission for the building of up to eight houses at The Beeches on Heyford Road, Steeple Aston.

The council’s case officer who recommended the refusal judged that “the proposals represent an inappropriate form of development beyond the built-up limits of the village, for which no essential or identified need has been demonstrated.”

This was the second time that the owner of The Beeches, Adrian Shooter, had applied to develop the plot where he currently lives. The first time the application was withdrawn following objections from Steeple Aston Parish Council and several others.

This time, the parish council decided by a majority not to object to the revised plans. However, Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum still had several objections and said the plan should be refused.

The district council give two reasons for the refusal, both on the basis that the proposals are contrary to the Cherwell Local Plan and government guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The first is 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 is 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.”

Mr Shooter has six months to decide whether to appeal the decision.

The detailed report, which explains the reasons for the refusal, and all other associated documents can be found here on Cherwell District Council’s website

Council wants your input on mobile phone reception

The Parish Council have been in touch with mobile phone companies recently in an effort to get an improved service in the village. The companies insist that reception in the village is fine.

We feel that one way of assessing whether this is true or not would be to gather information from people living in different parts of the village to see what the situation really is. If you would like to add to our data collection, please email the Parish Clerk, Cathy Fleet,  ( or call her on 01869 347000 with the following information:


Mobile phone company: 


An example response would be:

Address: My House, Northside

Mobile phone company: EE

Reception: weak intermittent reception in my garden; weak reception upstairs; no reception downstairs.

Thank you.

The Parish Council

A new editor required for SAL – again!

The search is on for a new editor for the village magazine, Steeple Aston Life, after Heather Sherkunov announced she is leaving the village before the end of the year.

Heather and her husband Yury came to Steeple Aston from Blackpool in September 2018. She took over the editorship of SAL from Cathy Lawday in May of this year. The couple were hoping to settle in the village and buy a house here, but this hasn’t proved possible.

Heather says in her forthcoming SAL editorial: “I’m leaving the village for pastures new. It is with a heavy heart that we’re leaving and we hope to return one day because we love it here. I also love editing this magazine and would highly recommend it as a fantastic way to meet people in the village.”

It’s clearly not possible for Heather to continue editing the magazine if she doesn’t live here, so the SAL committee are searching urgently for a replacement. If you’re interested in having a go, please contact Heather for more information about the role, or any member of the SAL committee.

The advertisement below describes the role.

Become the Editor of Steeple Aston Life Magazine

Are you looking for a new interest? Would you like to be more involved with village life?

SAL is looking for a person, or a team of people, to edit the award winning magazine.

The voluntary job involves:

  • Writing/compiling articles
  • Working with the designers on content
  • Managing articles and photos which are sent in
  • Liaising with the advertising manager
  • Page planning
  • Taking photos, if you wish, to go with the copy
  • Proofreading

The job does not involve preparing layouts, dealing with advertisers, issuing invoices, distribution and delivery as members of the committee handle these areas.

If you would like more information, please contact Heather Sherkunov, on


Council won’t object to revised Beeches plan, but MCNP does

Steeple Aston parish councillors have voted by a majority not to object to a revised proposal to build eight houses in the grounds of The Beeches on Heyford Road.

The original plans which had six of the eight houses with five bedrooms each was withdrawn in the Spring after objections from the Parish Council and a number of others. The planning officer dealing with the application to Cherwell District Council said that he objected “in principle” to the development.

Now a revised application for planning permission has been made, which takes into account the Parish Council’s main concern that the mix of houses failed to reflect local needs. Parish councillors heard at their September meeting that the new plans are for two houses with two bedrooms, three houses with three bedrooms and three houses with five bedrooms.

The council had previously said it was not against the principle of building some houses in the grounds of The Beeches. Some councillors were still not happy with the revised proposal, but the majority voted against putting in an objection.

However, Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum has raised several objections to the plans and says the application should be refused.

The Forum says that the proposal does not meet the criteria of  various policies agreed by Cherwell District Council and contained in the Neighbourhood Plan. These relate to previously-developed land; closeness to the Steeple Aston settlement area and  the number of 5-bedroom houses. It further argues that the proposal doesn’t respect the historic pattern of settlement growth or have a street frontage, and might not encourage integration of its residents with the existing local community. 

A decision on the planning application is expected by the end of October.

To view the application and all the associated documents (including the detailed MCNP objections) on the CDC website, please click here.


The 128th Annual Flower Show

Richard Preston, Chairman of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society reports: 

August Bank Holiday is synonymous with possibly one of the major events in the village’s calendar and this year we celebrated our 128th Annual Show. The first one recorded was in 1869 in The Dew Diaries and I must admit, I feel I have been to most of them!

Just like the Church Fete, we experienced record temperatures on Robinson’s Close and this meant that the ice-cream van actually sold out before leaving the field. As always, hundreds (estimated 800) of visitors came to see the amazing produce, cookery, photographs and handicraft in the marquee and not forgetting the numerous entries from the children who never cease to amaze us all with their craft skills and enthusiasm.

This year entries were around 850, which is close to a record and well above the average with what the judges described as ‘exceptional’ quality exhibits throughout the show.  On the field were various stalls and attractions and the Fun Dog Show which this year was managed by Dogs for Good who did an amazing job considering the intense heat. We are very grateful to Harts Veterinary Centre for their continued sponsorship of the Fun Dog Show. Teas in the Village Hall were as busy as ever providing visitors with much needed refreshment after the hustle and bustle of the marquee.

The show is the culmination of some hard work by a very small and slightly older age group than might be expected, and without them there would be no show. Also, our most enormous thanks go out to the families that simply turn up on the day and help us out by stewarding or manning the gate or stalls during the afternoon.

But even more importantly, there would be no show without the exhibitors who support this age-old tradition and keep the village alive. I must add at this point that there were many new exhibitors making this one of the best supported shows in recent years. There are, as always, winners of trophies and prize money and well deserved they are, but the real winners are the people who support the show every year by entering something or simply coming along to the show in the afternoon. 

Show Champion Daphne Preston receives a third cup from Edwina Kinch

We, the committee, are desperate for new committee members and our AGM (it only last about 30 minutes) is in the Village Hall Committee Room on Wednesday 11th September at 7.30pm. There are never more than four meetings a year!  Steeple and Middle Aston undoubtedly produce the biggest and best traditional flower show to be found in North Oxfordshire and probably further afield and it is down in no small amount to the fact that we try to keep abreast of the changing times and interests within our community. To do this we need and will always listen, to new ideas from people who are as keen as the existing committee to ensure this show carries on for another 128 years. If you feel you can join our committee or contribute ideas or help on the day of the show, please let me or any committee member know or simply turn up at the AGM.

Thank you everyone for your support at this year’s show.

To see the full show results, please click here.

Thank you to Mick Bonwick and Catherine Crook who took lot of lovely photos. To see them, please click here.  


Southside planning application temporarily withdrawn 

The application for planning permission to build 10 new homes on Southside opposite the entrance to Hill House has been withdrawn by the developers. But they intend to resubmit a revised application as soon as possible.

The developer, Rectory Homes (, had submitted plans for a mix of houses: 2 two-bedroomed and 5 three-bedroomed houses, and 3 houses with four or more bedrooms plus 33 parking spaces or garages. There have also been changes to the road layout proposed, which, according to the developer, have been agreed with Oxfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority.

Steeple Aston Parish Council is ‘broadly supportive’ of the planning application, but it does have a number of concerns which it thinks should be addressed by the developers before they’re given the go-ahead.

The council’s concerns are over:

  • Thames Water’s assurances that the sewerage system can cope: there have been problems in the past where the system runs down through Bradshaw Close.
  • the maintenance of road markings and signage, which is necessary to maintain a high degree of safety
  • the narrowness of the road where there is to be a ‘build out’: a local farmer needs to be able to get wide farm vehicles into and through the village.
  • The general appearance of the development and how it will tie in with the appearance of the rest of the village. The scheme should enhance the entrance to the village.

These concerns have been underlined by a number of comments and objections to the planning authority Cherwell District Council. They have come from members of the public as well as Oxfordshire County Council and the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan forum.

The MCNP was particularly concerned about the appearance of the development and the views across neighbouring fields. OCC has now confirmed its approval in principle of the highways/pedestrian scheme, subject to revisions needed to allow access to Southside for buses and wide farm vehicles. They have however objected to the development on “sand extraction” and archaeological grounds.

Several residents are still concerned about the safety of pedestrians and drivers with a dangerous increase in traffic at a site where visibility is already an issue.

The plans, associated documents and the full comments from the council, members of the public and others can all be seen on the CDC website here.

More Sunday buses for Steeple Aston

The S4 bus service which runs between Oxford and Banbury via Steeple Aston will be much improved on Sundays from Sunday, 1st September. The initial funding for this improvement comes from developers who are required to make payments towards bus services as a condition of their planning permission.

Stagecoach, the company that runs the S4 has announced that they are making the changes following discussions with Oxfordshire County Council, a review of usage, and feedback from staff and customers.

They say the Sunday service, which currently only has four buses in each direction, will be enhanced to every 90 minutes, initially using developer funding, with later journeys in both directions and an earlier arrival from Steeple Aston, Deddington and Adderbury into Banbury.

Buses will leave Banbury at 0830, 1000, 1130, 1300, 1430, 1600 and 1730. Buses will leave Oxford at 1000, 1130, 1300, 1430, 1600, 1730 and 1900, with an additional trip at 0917 from Steeple Aston to Banbury (arriving 0953).

Sunday buses will also now serve Tackley and Rousham

To see the new timetable, please click here 

Congratulations to ‘diamond couple’ Roy and Edwina Kinch 

The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Roy and Edwina Kinch are delighted to congratulate them both on reaching the huge milestone of 60 years of marriage on 19th August 2019.

Royston, who was born and raised in Steeple Aston. married his bride Edwina in her home village of Adderbury on Wednesday, 19th August 1959 and they have lived in Steeple Aston throughout their married life.

Their family say they are “A real diamond couple who are rocks to so many”.

Roy and Edwina were also congratulated by many villagers and by the committee of Steeple Aston Life. Edwina edited the magazine for over 25  years, and is now the Chairman of the SAL committee.

Council ‘broadly supportive’ of Southside development, but still has concerns

Steeple Aston Parish Council has decided not to object to the proposal to build 10 new homes on Southside opposite the entrance to Hill House. It says it is ‘broadly supportive’ of the planning application, but it does have a number of concerns which it thinks should be addressed by the developers before they’re given the go-ahead.

The developers Rectory Homes ( have submitted a revised application for planning permission following objections to their two previous applications. The new proposal is for a mix of houses: 2 two-bedroomed and 5 three-bedroomed houses, and 3 houses with four or more bedrooms plus 33 parking spaces or garages.

There have also been changes to the provisions for pedestrian access, which, according to the developer, have been agreed with Oxfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority.

The Parish Council says that it supports the application because:

  • it will fulfill a significant part of the number of new homes to be built in the village indicated in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan
  • though some increase in traffic can be expected, not all traffic movements will be through and within the village; many will be to and from the A4260.
  • the new road and footpath layout (if approved by OCC Highways) will provide improved pedestrian access not only for the site itself, but also for the twelve or so existing dwellings on the other side of the road; and down Sixtyfoot towards Hopcrofts Holt.
  • the land has not been used for arable or dairy farming within memory. It is currently an unattractive feature to see on entering the village.

The council’s concerns are over:

  • Thames Water’s assurances that the sewerage system can cope: there have been problems in the past where the system runs down through Bradshaw Close.
  • the maintenance of road markings and signage, which is necessary to maintain a high degree of safety
  • the narrowness of the road where there is to be a ‘build out’: a local farmer needs to be able to get wide farm vehicles into and through the village.
  • The general appearance of the development and how it will tie in with the appearance of the rest of the village. The scheme should enhance the entrance to the village.

The council suggests that these concerns issues be addressed in a revised application by the developers.

Comments on the application have also been received from Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum which raises questions about the appearance of the development as mentioned in the parish council’s submission. And a comment from a resident of Bradshaw Close echoes the council’s worries about the sewerage system.

Several residents have already made their objections known to the planning authority, Cherwell District Council. They are mainly concerned about the safety of pedestrians and drivers with a dangerous increase in traffic at a site where visibility is already an issue.

The plans, associated documents and the full comments from the council, members of the public and others can all be seen on the CDC website here.  


Parish Council’s annual expenditure explained

Parish Councillor Amanda Rodgers gives a detailed account of what the council spends our money on:

If you’re like me, when your Council Tax Demand arrives, you tend to just give it a quick glance and then file it, without paying much attention (perhaps other than to grumble at the increase and mutter about what we get for our money…).

However, included as a line item on your Council Tax Demand is ‘Steeple Aston’ and this is the amount paid to the Parish Council to enable us to carry out our responsibilities. On behalf of the Parish Council, we want to provide a brief explanation of how we use those funds for the benefit of the village.

As we are at the beginning of the financial year, all figures are based on budget rather than actual costs and I have rounded the figures to the nearest £100 for ease of reading. 

For 2019/20, the precept that we receive from Cherwell will be c.£29,500, an increase of 0.9% on last year’s amount or, in real terms, just under £600. The need for this increase reflects increases in service costs and our assessment that there are likely to be some slight additional costs relating to building maintenance this year compared with last year.  

We were pleased to be able to keep the increase low, without compromising our ability to deliver, as we appreciate that there were more significant increases in other areas of the Council Tax this year, particularly policing.

So, what do we spend your money on? As you will see from the breakdown below, the vast majority of our spend goes on the upkeep and improvement of village facilities and support of village associations/societies.

  • Facilities – £18,500
    This covers the costs of keeping village facilities up and running and ensuring they’re fit for purpose and in the best possible condition, these include:

    • Maintenance of the following:
      • Village Hall – this year our lease requires the repainting the outside of the hall, including windows, doors and all wood and metal work, including gutters and downpipes
      • Sports & Recreation Centre
      • Play Area – there are significant ongoing costs associated with ensuring that the play area remains in both good and safe condition, and continues to be available for all families to make use of
      • Pocket Park
      • Public Toilets
      • War Memorial
      • Street Furniture (including Bus Shelters)
    • Grass cutting, hedge trimming and weed control
    • Repayment of the loan for the football pitch
    • Hosting of the village website (

In addition to our annual spend, we are also required to plan for future major works to village assets such as the Village Hall, to cover costs of things such as re-roofing at a future date or the replacement of play area equipment, for example. For this reason, we hold cash reserves of an amount assessed as both necessary and sufficient to cover such major works as and when required (and outside of the scope of any insurance policies).

  • Grants – c. £3000
    These comprise contributions to village societies/associations or those providing services used by those in the village, including:

    • Barton Bus
    • Deddington Library
    • Parochial Church Council (PCC)
    • Royal British Legion (Poppy Wreath)
    • Steeple Aston Church Allotments Society
    • Steeple Aston Recreation Trust
    • Steeple Aston Village Archive (SAVA)

These contributions are allocated based on the receipt and objective review of a completed application form. Applications are welcome from any organisation or society which is village-based or provides services to the village. Application forms can be found on this village website here or can be obtained from Cathy Fleet at  Applications are considered once per financial year and the deadline for submission for the next financial year is 31st October.  

  • Administration – c. £8000
    We always aim to keep the administration fees as low as possible.

    • Parish Clerk’s salary and expenses (legally required)
    • Insurance (legally required)
    • Audit Fees (legally required)
    • Training (including legislation and best practice)
    • Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan

Parish Councillors are all volunteers and, other than in exceptional circumstances, do not claim any expenses. As such, time spent reviewing planning applications, responding to correspondence, assessing and reporting potholes, liaising with highways, dealing with disputes and assorted other activities are dealt with at no cost.

This year we are also looking at what additional funds may be open to us to apply to for specific projects. Further updates will be provided on this in the monthly Parish Council Report published in Steeple Aston Life.

Our 2018/19 accounts (as well as previous years) are available for you to review in the Parish Council section of this website here  and you are always welcome to attend our Parish Council meetings, held on the third Monday of each month at 7.30pm in the Village Hall Committee Room.

If you have any additional questions regarding how we spend the funds we receive via the precept, please contact Amanda Rodgers at or 07793 553150 or Cathy Fleet at

Council has till mid-August to comment on Southside development

Steeple Aston Parish Council has been granted a one-week extension to enable councillors to comment on a proposal for 10 new homes to be built on Southside opposite the entrance to Hill House.

The developers Rectory Homes ( have submitted a new application for planning permission on the site. Following objections to their previous applications, the new proposal is for a mix of houses of different sizes.

There will be 2 two-bedroomed and 5 three-bedroomed houses, and 3 houses with four or more bedrooms plus 33 parking spaces or garages. Because there will be only 10 houses, there won’t be a requirement for the developer to include affordable housing in the mix.

There have also been changes proposed to the provisions traffic on Southside and for pedestrian access, which, according to the developer, have been agreed with Oxfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority.

The Parish Council has requested and been granted an extension of time for submission of comments until 16th August. The proposed determination date is 25th September.

When the original proposals were discussed last year, it was clear that neither the Parish Council nor other commentators were hostile to some development on this site. But there were three major objections to the scheme which the Parish Council summarised 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 already caused several near misses.

Rectory Homes have tried to address these concerns with the change in the mix and size of the houses and their plans for traffic and pedestrians as discussed with the Highway Authority. The footpath plan consists of a new pedestrian footpath from the development, and then a 1.5 metre wide buff coloured and cats eyed section on the side of the road, a “virtual footway” or shared space on which pedestrians would have priority. This would be on the opposite side to the Red Lion pub and would be slightly raised.  If there were no pedestrians on it, it could be used by motor vehicles. 

In addition, traffic coming into the village would be slowed down by putting in a barrier making the road one way with priority for vehicles leaving the village.  Large and clear signage is also part of the proposal so that pedestrians should be visible to those leaving the village and to those manoeuvring the short one way section. 

Despite these changes several residents have already made their objections known to the planning authority, Cherwell District Council. They are mainly concerned about the safety of pedestrians and drivers with a dangerous increase in traffic at a site where visibility is already an issue. Steeple Aston Parish Council will make its views known shortly.

The plans, associated documents and comments by members of the public and others can all be seen on the CDC website here.


Council Chair reports on a year of “stability and consolidation”

In his first Annual Report as Chair of the Parish Council, Richard MacAndrew describes the last year as “one of relative stability and consolidation”  – a contrast with all the change and disruption of 2017-18.

He describes Steeple Aston as a “vibrant community” and says that the Parish Council is committed to making sure that it remains so. The aim is to ensure that the village has the quality facilities it needs so that village organisations and services can continue effectively to serve the needs of the community.

In the report Richard thanks the many people who, both paid and unpaid, have helped the village over the last year. There is particular praise for Martin Lipson and John Coley for their tireless efforts on the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan, which after an overwhelming endorsement by the electorate will influence planning decisions in the area until 2031.

The report details the various issues dealt with by the Parish Council over the last year. The list includes planning applications, parking and potholes. There has been progress on dealing with potholes in the village, and the council has recently been in consultation with the Highways department about a possible new drainage system for The Beeches, which may provide a long-term solution to the pothole problem there.

The report also gives details of other work done by the council this year, and looks forward to a major refurbishment of the Village Hall in the year to come.  To read the full report, please click here.

Tory Hugo Brown returns as local councillor 

Conservative candidate Hugo Brown was re-elected as a District Councillor for the Deddington ward in the election on Thursday, 2nd May.  Steeple Aston is part of the Deddington ward of Cherwell District  Council following recent local government changes.

Mr Brown was the only Deddington councillor up for re-election this year. The other two Deddington representatives, Bryn Williams and Mike Kerford-Byrnes, will be in office until May 2022.

The turnout in the election was 38.47 per cent. Mr Brown was opposed by three other candidates. The Green Party candidate polled second highest, with the Liberal Democrat third and Labour in fourth place.

The votes cast were as follows:

Candidate Party Votes Elected
BLISS, Aaron James Green 523  
BROWN, Hugo Michael Hubert Conservative 1376 Elected
DAVIS, Nigel Geofrey Liberal Democrat 477  
MURPHY, Annette Labour 382  

Planning application for The Beeches withdrawn

The application for planning permission to build up to eight houses at The Beeches on Heyford Road in Steeple Aston has been withdrawn. This followed a message from the planning officer dealing with the application that he had an “in principle” objection to the development.

Steeple Aston Parish Council, on the other hand, was not against the principle of building of some houses in the grounds of The Beeches, but it did object to the proposal on the basis of the mix of houses proposed. Others including the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum and the Highways Authority had more wide-ranging objections.

Agents acting on behalf of the owner Adrian Shooter asked Cherwell District Council for more time to respond to the various objections, but they were refused.

Bob Neville, the Senior Planning Officer dealing with the application wrote in an email to the agents, “With minor development proposals such as this application, extensions of time are only likely to be appropriate when it is clear what needs to happen to achieve a positive outcome, and there is agreement on the timescale within which this can be achieved. As discussed, highways matters are just one of a number of issues that all contribute to the proposals being considered unacceptable and even if these matters were to be satisfactorily addressed (which in my opinion (in relation to highways only) would require amended plans increasing the size of the access, not just Speed Survey and assessment of the visibility splays). However, the fundamental issue is that the principle of development is not considered acceptable being contrary to the Council’s rural housing strategy and not representing a sustainable form of development; as such we are unlikely to get to a position where we would be considering a positive outcome.

“If you believe you can address all of the matters that have been raised during the application then I would advise withdrawing the application and resubmitting once all the appropriate information is available; however I would advise that in my opinion this would be very difficult to achieve and unlikely that such a resubmission would receive officer support given that the principle of development is not considered acceptable. In light of the ‘in principle’ objection I see no reason to extend the application beyond its statutory target date of 09.05.2019 and will be preparing my recommendation early next week.”


Parish Council responds to South Side parking ideas

The Parish Council is grateful to residents who have responded to their recent letter about parking problems on South Side, and is going to investigate some ideas for improvement.

A letter was sent to every household in the village at the beginning of April asking villagers to park carefully after careless parking on South Side  meant the S4 bus has encountered difficulties getting through.

They also asked for suggestions from residents about how to deal with the problem. They have had a number of responses, and have now sent the following message:

“The Parish Council would like to thank everyone who has taken the time and trouble to write to them about parking issues: either in response to the letter to the whole village, or in reply to the previous letter which was circulated to specific residents on South Side.

“A number of useful suggestions have been made especially on the subject of parking on South Side:

  • It might be possible to widen South Side by cutting away some areas of the grass bank on the southern side of the road. This would allow more room for parking and ease the access for buses and larger vehicles.
  • It might be possible to cut out some areas from the pavement to make parking bays.
  • Painting white lines to discourage parking in certain places is still an option and is favoured by some residents.

“The main problem with the first two suggestions is expense. We will consult with Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department to find out whether either of these ideas is feasible; and, if so, whether they have the funds to expedite them. If they think the ideas are workable but cannot afford them, we will look at other possible ways of financing the work.

“In the meantime, the Parish Council is still open to, and would welcome, other ideas.”

Richard MacAndrew

Chair, Steeple Aston PC 

Heather takes over as Editor of SAL

Heather Sherkunov is taking over from Cathy Lawday as Editor of the local magazine Steeple Aston Life. She will edit the June issue of the magazine, with some help from Cathy.

Heather, 34, is a newcomer to the village, moving here in September 2018 with her husband Yury and Manchester terrier Evie. She hopes that taking on SAL will help her to get to know local people and get involved in village life.

Heather was born and brought up in Blackpool, so the move to rural Oxfordshire is a big change for her; it’s also a big change for Yury who comes from Moscow. He has been in Britain for 12 years and until recently was an academic at the University of Lancaster. Trained as a theoretical physicist, he now works for Oxford Technical Solutions in Middleton Stoney.

Heather has a degree in journalism from the University of Central Lancashire and has experience of working in a local newspaper as well as in public relations and communications. Her most recent post was as Head of Internal Communications at Lancaster University. So she brings plenty of publishing experience to her new role.

The couple decided to move south partly to be near Heather’s sister who lives in Buckinghamshire. Her mother has also moved to live nearby. When Yury found his job they started looking for rented accommodation nearby and found Steeple Aston by chance. But Heather immediately took to the village. She says she doesn’t miss the bright lights of Blackpool – or even the seaside – though it will always have a special place in her heart.

She adds “Perhaps it’s the attraction of the opposite, the countryside here is stunning, I just love the fields and the views, it is so beautiful and so different from what I’ve always known.” The couple hope to buy a house in the village in due course.

Heather regards taking on the editorship of SAL as quite a daunting task, but she has edited lots of newsletters in the past. She knows Cathy will be a hard act to follow, but her qualifications and experience give her a head start.

She says “It is a very good magazine, really very impressive. I don’t feel I need to do a big overhaul and will get a couple of issues under my belt before I think of any changes.

What I would like to know is what the community enjoys about the magazine, so I will try and get more feedback from readers if I can.”

If you have any views about SAL, or if you just want to welcome Heather to her new post, you can email her. She has now taken over the editor’s email address –

Local children perform in MYCO’s ‘The Wedding Singer’

A number of children from Steeple Aston will appear in the Musical Youth Company of Oxford’s production of a 1980s musical comedy at the Headington Theatre in April that will transport audiences back in time to the decade of big hair, yuppies and spandex.

Based on the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore film, ‘The Wedding Singer’ is packed with toe-tapping tunes and choreography that pays tribute to era-defining music videos such as “Footloose” and “Thriller”.

One of the local performers is Lucas Lluna, who lives in Bradshaw Close. He says: ‘So far The Wedding Singer has been an experience full of surprises and moments of laughter and excitement. Many members of the company were in doubt as they had never heard of The Wedding Singer before. However, as we have got closer and closer to show week the thrill has grown throughout the company as the show improves more and more. Personally I feel The Wedding Singer will be phenomenal and I am privileged to be a part of the experience in putting on a fabulous show. I definitely would recommend coming to watch.”

The show tells the story of the heartbroken Robbie (the Wedding Singer) as he attempts to find love and to climb out of his funk after being left at the altar. Sweet Julia, along with her eccentric friend Holly and Robbie’s overly-friendly Grandma Rosie, tries to help, but the singer seems to only be making matters worse for himself; ruining weddings; stamping on love and allowing Julia’s powerful fiancé Glenn to entice him into a world of greed.

Nicola Blake directs the show, with choreography by Jess Townsend and musical direction by Dan Knight.  ‘The Wedding Singer’ is Nicola’s first MYCO show as Director, but she is no stranger to MYCO.  She joined the cast as a teenager in 2002 and starred as Dorothy in ‘Wizard of Oz’.

Nicola Blake says: “The eldest member of the cast was born in 2000 so they’ve all had great fun visiting the 80s and learning iconic era-defining dance moves such as the ‘worm’ and the ‘running man’!  MYCO is an extremely professional group of youngsters that has brought incredible energy to the rehearsal process. It has been an honour to work with the company.”

MYCO is a teenage musical theatre group based in Oxford, with over 50 members from schools and colleges in and around Oxford. The group celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018.  In 2017 the Company was awarded the Youngstars Award for ‘Best Youth Production’ by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association for their production of ‘The Hired Man’.

In another local connection, the Deputy Head and Year 6 teacher at Dr Radcliffe’s School, Guy Brigg is Resident Creative Director for the MYCO and has directed and choreographed many shows at the Oxford Playhouse and New Theatre, Oxford. He directed ‘Godspell’ last year and is back in the hotseat for next year’s production of ‘Chess’.

The show starts on Tuesday, 9th and runs until Saturday, 13th April nightly at 7:30pm. There is a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.

Venue: The Theatre at Headington, Headington School, Headington Rd, Oxford, OX3 7TD

Prices: £15.00 – £22.00

Box office: Tickets are on sale via  or call 01865 686 481.

Objections lodged to housing plan for The Beeches

Steeple Aston Parish Council is among several objectors to aspects of the plan to build up to eight houses at The Beeches on Heyford Road.

Parish councillors discussed the recently lodged planning application by Adrian Shooter, owner of The Beeches, at their April meeting. They had previously seen a presentation on the proposals at the February meeting.

Councillors decided to object on the basis that the mix of housing proposed (mostly 5-bedroom houses) is not what is most needed locally. In their objection, they say “For a scheme of eight houses, the mix should be no more than two 4- or 5-bedroom houses, four 3-bedroom houses, and two dwellings of 1- or 2-bedrooms. The Parish Council wishes to see the application withdrawn so that the scheme can be modified accordingly.”

The Parish Council does not, however, object in principle to the development of up to eight homes on this site, as long as the mix of houses is amended.

Other objectors have, however, expressed greater concerns to the planners at Cherwell District Council. Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum said that the plan might be acceptable in principle as it’s reasonable number in respect of the total of extra dwellings for Steeple Aston (20 up to the year 2031) set out in MCNP policy.

They write ”However, the application scheme: a) does not respect the historic pattern of settlement growth, b) could be regarded as not immediately adjacent to the settlement area, c) does not have a street frontage, d) has insufficient smaller dwellings to address local need, and e) would fail to encourage integration of its residents with the existing local community.

“In the opinion of MCNP Forum, the scheme should therefore be withdrawn so that it can be amended to avoid as many of these concerns as possible before re-consideration, or else the application – if unamended – should be refused.”

Oxfordshire County Council, the Local Highways Authority, objected on several grounds including the lack of a footpath, problems with the collection of refuse and road safety. There is a further objection from experts at OCC who say the proposal is contrary to policy on mineral safeguarding.

Some local residents are also concerned about wildlife as well as traffic, overcrowding.on the site and other issues.

The deadline for the decision on the planning application is 9th May. To view the application and all the associated documents on the CDC website, please click here.

Please park considerately to save bus says council 

Steeple Aston Parish Council has taken the unusual step of writing to all residents asking them to park carefully after careless parking on South Side has meant the S4 bus has encountered difficulties getting through.

Councillors are particularly concerned that the bus may be lost, but emphasise that the emergency services, school buses, delivery and agricultural vehicles also need to be given safe access as they go about their business in the village.

Several villagers came February’s parish council meeting to suggest that white lines should go on various pinch points on South Side. But there was considerable disagreement at the meeting about the best approach. So councillors said they would consider the options suggested, consult residents  and talk to both the bus company and the Highways authorities.

The letter below is the result of their investigations. If you have any views on this, or any suggestions that might help, they’d like to hear from you.


The Parish Council has decided to take the unusual step of writing to all parishioners about the parking problems in the village. The S4 bus has had difficulty getting through the village recently, on one occasion having to reverse along South Side, turn around and go along Northside. A number of trouble spots have been drawn to our attention. These are: Southside from the shop along as far as Greenacres, Fenway and Northside near the junction with Water Lane, many places along Northside, and the narrow stretch of road from halfway up Paines Hill going towards the church.

Our prime concern is that we should do everything possible to ensure that Stagecoach continue to run the S4 bus service through the village. However, it is also extremely important to ensure access for school buses, delivery vehicles and agricultural vehicles to allow people to go about their daily, working lives.

Most people who live in the village are aware of the issues and do their best to park considerately, but we would like to emphasise some basic guidelines:

  • Please park off the main thoroughfares if you can. Obviously not everyone is able to do this but, if you have off-road parking, please use it – particularly during the daytime when there is the most traffic.
  • If you have to park on the road, please make sure you leave enough room for buses and other large vehicles to get past; and fold wing mirrors when you park.
  • Please tell visitors and tradespeople of the problems that can be caused by inappropriate parking, and explain or show them where it is best to park.
  • If you are having deliveries that will involve vehicles blocking the road for any length of time, please try and ensure they come at times which will not inconvenience the bus service.
  • Please remember that emergency vehicles need to get through. If a fire engine, out on an emergency call, finds its path blocked by a parked car, it will simply knock the car out of the way.

We have consulted Oxfordshire County Council Highways Department about the possibility of putting white lines on particularly problematic stretches of road in the village. These white lines, also known as Access Protection Markings, indicate ‘no parking’ areas, but they are only advisory, not mandatory. OCC have said they would look favourably on applications for white lines in certain places. We have consulted some residents along South Side on the possibility of white lines, and have received letters and representations of both support and opposition. It would be very helpful to know the views of other villagers regarding any of the problem areas, and possible solutions.

In the meantime, the Parish Council would like to appeal to your good will, common sense and community spirit to maintain clear access along the roads. We sincerely hope that this appeal will keep the roads clear for traffic through the village and safeguard the future of the bus service, and that no further action will be necessary.

Richard MacAndrew, Chairman, Steeple Aston Parish Council

Warriner school bus saved for now 

Local parents are relieved to hear that the bus that takes their children to The Warriner School in Bloxham has been saved for the time being at least.

Under new rules, Oxfordshire County Council had told parents there would be no bus provided from September. Parents currently pay £700 per child per year for the bus, but to find a replacement themselves would have been much more expensive.

Now the council has come up with a plan to keep the bus running for at least a year and maybe longer.

Local parent Shirley Palmer explains that the council made a mistake in denying a North Aston child free transport to The Warriner. This decision was reversed on appeal. Therefore, with one child now needing free transport to The Warriner plus around 25 paying under the “spare seat” scheme, the council came up with a plan to combine the Heyford Park bus with the Warriner route to give a financially viable option.

Under this plan, North Aston and Middle Aston children will get on the bus earlier, visit Heyford Park School and then return to Steeple Aston for one stop at The Dickeridge at 8am before going to the Warriner. (Or alternatively, the North and Middle Aston children can get on in Steeple Aston at 8.00am).

The return journey from The Warriner will be the same as the current journey (stopping at North Aston, Middle Aston and The Dickeridge in Steeple Aston).

This route is guaranteed for one year and will be subject to review after that, but provided the child in North Aston stays at The Warriner there should be sufficient numbers for it to run for five years.

But there may be further trouble to come as Shirley also understands from the OCC transport and admissions teams that the bus to the Marlborough School is also at risk. It will definitely run for the 2019-2020 academic year, but again it is dependent on just one child from Steeple Aston having the right to free transport and a letter concerning this will be sent to parents using this route soon.

Below is the proposed route timetable for the Warriner bus that OCC will be putting out to tender soon.

2-HP03/1-WA04 proposal Students AM MTWTh Fr
Middle Barton – Barton Garage Bus Stop HP 07:15 16:40 14:40
North Aston – Jct. of Somerton Road HP/W 07:25 16:35 14:35
Middle Aston – Jct. with Middle Aston Lane HP/W 07:30 16:30 14:30
Steeple Aston – Church/Jct. Fir Lane HP 07:35 16:25 14:25
Steeple Aston – The Dickeridge Bus Stop HP 07:36 16:24 14:24
Steeple Aston – The Crescent Bus Stop HP 07:37 16:23 14:23
Lower Heyford – Bus Stop opp. Kingdom Hall HP 07:40 16:20 14:20
Heyford Park Free School – Specialisms Campus   07:48 16:12 14:12
Heyford Park Free School – Officers Mess Campus   07:50 16:10 14:10
Steeple Aston – The Dickeridge W 08:00 15:49 15:49
Middle Aston   N/A 15:39 15:39
North Aston   N/A 15:35 15:35
Warriner School   08:20 15:15 15:15


Voters back Mid-Cherwell Plan by over 90 per cent

Local villagers voted overwhelmingly to approve the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan in a referendum held on Thursday, March 21st.

In all 1,231 people, that is 90.2 per cent of those who voted,, were in favour of the plan which will now guide decisions on future planning applications in 11 parishes including Steeple and Middle Aston and the development site at the former RAF Upper Heyford until 2031. Only 128 people voted against the plan.

Turnout for the referendum was 24.8 per cent on average across the neighbourhood. Steeple Aston polling station had a slightly higher turnout of 26 per cent. But Middle Aston had a much higher turnout rate than Steeple Aston at around 50 per cent.  Postal votes made a significant difference to the outcome, with a much higher response rate than polling station voters.

The Plan was devised by the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum, which included representatives from all the villages. It was the subject of extensive consultation throughout the area over the past four years.

John Coley, one of the Steeple Aston representatives on the Forum has been reporting back on the plan’s development on this website and in Steeple Aston Life for all this time. He had his own special way of encouraging villagers to vote in the referendum as pictured here.

Martin Lipson, the Steeple Aston parish councillor who chaired the Forum said, “Many thanks to all across the neighbourhood who took the trouble to vote. The turnout was better than some other neighbourhood plans, even those where only a couple of parishes were involved. In our case, it was perhaps to be expected that, spread across eleven parishes, turnout for our plan would be diluted to an extent.

“However, the important thing is that a 90 per cent vote in favour leaves no doubt that our local communities care deeply about the future of our villages and rural Oxfordshire in general. We now hope and expect that the support shown for our Mid-Cherwell plan can be harnessed to good effect when decisions are being made about development – both major and minor – in Cherwell and the wider county.”

Robert Jolley, Cherwell’s assistant director for planning and economy also commented. He said: “Neighbourhood planning is a powerful process which allows communities to have a greater say over the future of development in their areas.

“This plan is different because it’s the product of cooperation by a large number of parishes and organisations who have recognised that they represent a distinct area of our district.

“Cherwell District Council is happy to have facilitated the process and the Plan itself will now go forward as council policy.”

The Plan policies ensure that Steeple and Middle Aston will be better protected from unwanted development, with indicative limits on the numbers of new homes permitted. Other benefits include the protection of rural views and of 24 designated ‘Green Spaces’.

To see the Plan on the council website please click here.

Your chance to comment on Oxfordshire’s future

There is a public consultation taking place on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, and residents are asked for their comments by 25th March.

The plan will set out the development framework for the county for the next generation. At this stage, the consultation is on the Vision and Objectives, and doesn’t include specific targets. There is also a consultation running simultaneously on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report.

CPRE Oxfordshire believes the underlying assumptions must be challenged now, otherwise the Plan will be fundamentally flawed. It is campaigning for residents to take this opportunity to have their say on the future of the county, and has written to parish councils explaining its views as follows:

“Our question is – who is the plan for? It takes as read the 100,000 houses our Local Councils have already signed up to deliver by the mid-2030s (in exchange for £215 million from the Government) – a 40% growth in housing stock. Although not spelt out in the Plan, after 2031, the Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor proposals envisage another 250,000 or so houses – doubling Oxfordshire’s housing stock and population by 2050.

“The inevitable conclusion is that this is not a plan for us – Oxfordshire residents of a rural county – but a plan for developers and big business.

“The countryside is not just a ‘nice to have’ – it is a social good in its own right, providing food, water, clean air and more, and vital to our physical and mental well-being.

“This shouldn’t be about how much development we can cram in over the next 30 years.

“It should be about what Oxfordshire actually needs and how that can best be accommodated over time, within its social and environmental limits.

“This plan should be led by the needs of existing Oxfordshire residents and their families, working to ensure that anyone living in Oxfordshire in 2050 can still experience and enjoy the rural character of the county that exists today.”

CPRE Oxfordshire’s detailed commentary on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 is available on their website here.

To find out more about the Oxfordshire plan and to register your comments by 25 March, visit:

Man injured in car crash near Steeple Aston

A man was seriously injured after a car crashed on the B4030 near Steeple Aston on Wednesday, 6th March. To read the Oxford Mail report, please click here.

Parents worried over loss of bus to Warriner School 

Parents of children attending The Warriner School in Bloxham are concerned that there will be no transport to the school from September. This is despite the fact that the Astons are in the school’s catchment area and Dr Radcliffe’s School is part of The Warriner Partnership.

A group of parents attended the February meeting of the parish council to ask for help. But councillors weren’t able to provide any assistance, and the parents are now asking villagers to come up with any ideas that might help to get their children to school.

This complex situation has come about because Oxfordshire County Council has announced that in the future, following changes to their school transport policy, they will now only be providing free home to school transport to the student’s nearest school.

The nearest secondary school to the Astons is at Heyford Park, Therefore from September 2019, there will no longer be any students with a statutory entitlement for free school transport to The Warriner School. This means that the county council no longer has a legal obligation to provide transport from the Astons to the Warriner School. Currently the parents of children who don’t qualify for free school transport pay £700 a year for them to travel on the Warriner bus under the “spare seat” scheme.

However, the county council seems to have declared this new policy without taking into account the new admissions due to start in September, and also without considering that Heyford Park School is actually full and from 2020 will not have an entry at age 11. The next nearest school is Marlborough School in Woodstock, but Steeple Aston is not in its catchment area. So parents face the dilemma of having no choice but to send their children to The Warriner, but having no transport to take them there.

The parents discussed various alternatives with the councillors such as providing a community bus with volunteer drivers, contracting a bus to make the journey or using taxis. But all the options will be much more expensive.

Steeple Aston parent Shirley Palmer explains: “This leaves the year 6 parents (who weren’t informed of this lack of bus when they chose to put The Warriner on their choices list) and the 27 children using the bus in a difficult position. We are currently looking at alternatives, but the cost is a problem and we don’t want to add to the traffic congestion in Bloxham by all driving.

“In many cases, parents have said that they would have to give up work or it would make their working lives excessively difficult, even with a car-share scheme.

“We are trying to do our best to keep The Warriner School, the catchment school, as a viable option with travel for the current and future years, but if you can offer any suggestions or help, then please contact me.”

Shirley’s email address is

Villagers urged to vote in March 21st referendum

Members of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum are urging villagers to support them by voting for their Plan in the referendum on Thursday, 21st March.

You will be able to vote in person between 7.00am and 10.00pm in the Village Hall. For the Notice of Poll, and details of how to register to vote, to apply to vote by post or by proxy, please click here.

A majority vote in favour of adopting the Plan will be legally binding and will mean that until 2031 all planning applications in the 11 parishes covered will have to be weighed against the 16 policies that have been approved by the independent examiner.

The Plan policies ensure that Steeple and Middle Aston will be better protected from unwanted development, with indicative limits on the numbers of new homes permitted. Other benefits include the protection of rural views and of 24 designated ‘Green Spaces.

Members of the Plan Forum, chaired by Steeple Aston parish councillor Martin Lipson, say that they have worked hard on behalf of residents in the 11 villages to achieve all that has been asked of them following consultations over the last few years. They say “Please vote on Thursday, March 21st to support Mid-Cherwell’s Neighbourhood Plan, drafted by local people with your interests at heart. You can make a difference – its real local democracy at work.”

The Plan documents can be viewed at the Village History Centre at the Village Hall in Steeple Aston on Saturday between 10.00am and 12 noon and at the Red Lion during opening hours. To see them online, please click here.

And for more details about voting etc in the flyer that has been delivered to all households in the Plan area, please click here.


Environmental campaign continues over Oxbridge Expressway

Environmentalists have promised to continue their campaign against the proposed growth corridor around the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway despite a rejection by the courts of their first claim.

Though the final route of the Expressway has yet to be decided, one of the two proposed routes comes very close to Steeple Aston, and there is concern that plans for extensive development along the route may impact the village.

The alternative routes can be seen on this map. Highways England is developing two viable route options for a public consultation expected in the Autumn:

  • Corridor B1 – a central corridor broadly aligned with the proposed East-West Rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the west of Oxford, and close to Steeple Aston
  • Corridor B3 – a central corridor broadly aligned with the proposed East-West Rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the south east of Oxford.

In November last year Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)  issued a claim in the High Court, challenging the government’s failure to commission a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) as part of the process of selecting a ‘Growth Corridor’ (within which the Expressway and associated housing will be built).

They say that these assessments are required under European law, and that the true environmental impact of the scheme hasn’t been properly considered. They argue that the proposals threaten “wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands, hedgerows alive with birds and butterflies, and gentle undulating ridge and furrow fields which have survived from the Middle Ages”.

In January the High Court refused BBOWT’s claim on paper, but the campaigners say they will now renew the application for permission to be heard at an oral hearing, where the grounds can be argued in front of a judge and they hope the decision will be overturned.

They are raising funds for the legal costs involved. You can read more about their claim, and donate on their website here.

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

New Emergency Plan for Steeple Aston

Oxfordshire County Council has been helping Parish Councils to revisit and review their Community Emergency Plans.  A copy of Steeple Aston’s new plan is available here.

The Parish Council, whilst trying to anticipate all emergency situations believes the most likely emergencies to affect Steeple Aston will be heavy snowfall and/or prolonged power cuts.

The OCC Emergency Planning Unit have issued several very useful information brochures to help us all be better equipped to deal with these situations.  These are explained here with links to each one.

Are you ready?   

The aim of this booklet is to give clear practical advice to help everyone, their families, their businesses and communities to prepare for and respond to an emergency.  Much of the information is common sense, but it has saved lives in the past.

To download the booklet, please click here.

Utility Failure Priority Services

This brochure is a guide to extra care priority services by utility companies.    Anyone in receipt of a state pension, or who is disabled, or who has a child under the age of five may benefit from joining the utility priority care registers.

Anyone who relies on one or more or the following will also be eligible to join: home dialysis, oxygen concentrator, artificial ventilator, stair lift or adjustable bed.

Once you are registered for the free priority service your local supplier will do all they can to prevent your supply from going off.  If you are cut off they will make sure your service returns as a matter of urgency.  In the meantime extra assistance may include hot drinks and food, charging points, generators, bottled water delivery or temporary heating and cooking appliances.

To download the brochure, which includes information on how to register, please click here.

As the biggest power supplier in this area, SSE  have their own brochure with information on how to register for their Priority Services. To go to their website, please click here.

Snow Guide 

This is a simple guide with practical advice on the best way to clear snow to improve the safety of the area. The brochure also explains the legal situation regarding clearing snow for neighbours.  There has never been a case where anyone has been sued for clearing snow from pavements.  However occupiers of properties have a responsibility to ensure their paths are safe for visitors and everyone is encouraged to do that little bit more.

To download the guide, please click here.

Lions Message in a Bottle

This is a simple but effective way to keep all emergency medical and contact details where they can be found easily and quickly by the responding services – in the fridge.

There are many people in the village who take regular medication who have these clever bottles already, but anyone who has small children in the house is also encouraged to have one.  Emergency Services are responding to calls more and more, where either the adult, before collapsing, or a child has dialed 999.  Once on the scene they are unable to get vital information that could have been kept in the bottle in the fridge.

For more information, please click here.

Safe and Well Visit

If you would like Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to visit your home to advise on how to reduce risks in your home please click here to fill in a request form.

Preparing to Evacuate

Hopefully nobody will need to leave their home, but here is a practical guide to what to consider should the need arise.

To download the guide, please click here.

If you would like a hard copy of any of these brochures or a Lions message in a bottle, please contact Parish Councillor Charlotte Bartlett on

Neighbourhood Plan will go to a referendum on 21st March

The Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan has “passed its exams” and will be put to a public referendum, albeit with several modifications, on Thursday, 21st March.

You will be able to vote in person between 7.00am and 10.00pm in the Village Hall. For details of how to register to vote, and to apply to vote  by post or by proxy, please click here.

Mr Richard High, the examiner, said in his report that the Plan has met the “basic conditions” to proceed to a referendum. But he did require several changes to the plan, including the deletion of some proposed green spaces.

However he was extremely complimentary about the Plan and the way it was put together. He wrote, “The preparation of a neighbourhood plan for 11 parishes and a substantial growth area is a major undertaking, in terms of the need for joint working, effective project management and the amount of research and evidence required. I have found the Plan and its supporting documents to be very clearly presented, with carefully constructed policies which, with few exceptions, take their relationship with other development plan policies in to account…………It is also evident that there has been much joint working between the MCNP Forum and CDC and extensive consultation of other agencies.”

Steeple Aston councillor, Martin Lipson is Chairman of the MCNP Forum. He said, “I’m very pleased at the overall outcome. I hope people will see that some of the policies that have been approved bring a positive aspect to planning to set alongside the more protective ones. There were some disappointments in the examiner’s report, but fewer for Steeple Aston than for some other parishes. Over the plan period to 2031 there should be some real benefits for the neighbourhood and for our parish.

“Of course, people still have to get out and vote on the day, once the referendum is announced, but I’m confident from the feedback that we’re receiving that there is widespread support for adopting the neighbourhood plan, and the Forum members are very grateful for that support. In the run-up to the referendum, we’re planning various ways to ensure that voters know what they will be voting for.”

Sixteen of the 18 policies proposed in the Plan have been approved by the Inspector. The highlights include:

  • All five of the proposed village settlement areas have been approved unaltered, and the limits on the numbers of new dwellings in these villages have also been accepted.
  • An important policy on the impact of development on views and vistas in the neighbourhood plan area remains, albeit with some slight change to wording.
  • The non-coalescence zone for Upper Heyford village has actually been extended by the examiner.

However some villagers will be disappointed that the Inspector deleted six of the 30 proposed local green spaces including the Old Quarry site in Steeple Aston.

You can find out more on the Forum’s website here.

To read the Examiner’s report on Cherwell District Council’s website, please click here.

Five men and two trucks for one pothole! 

Nearly two years ago, the plight of Steeple Aston’s potholes went viral worldwide when two parish councillors floated a collection of yellow ducks in them one rainy day.

That publicity persuaded Oxford County Council to take action, and the potholes in question outside the former White Lion pub on Southside were eventually properly repaired.

But the many remaining potholes in Steeple Aston have been largely ignored, except that someone has been along painting white lines around them.

Then early in the New Year there were signs of progress. Some pothole repairers were spotted outside Dr Radcliffe’s School in Fenway.

Former councillor Richard Preston was not impressed though. He recalls all that happened. “Yesterday, two lorries and five men arrived at a hole in the road outside the school to “repair” an existing pothole that had got a white line around it.  After some time the “repair” was made and they moved off to what I guess was another white line!

“The government announced late last year that it was to award £7.5 million towards the pothole issue in Oxfordshire.  On BBC local news this morning it was suggested that within the next 15 years about a third of Oxfordshire’s roads would become unfit.

“If it takes five men and two vehicles to complete a very poor repair then no wonder the roads in Oxfordshire are in such a state.  Look at the photos taken this morning to make up your own mind as to the quality of the work paid for by the tax payers of this county.”

Old Quarry site to be deleted from green spaces list 

The controversial site of the former Sandworks at Old Quarry House must be deleted from the list of Local Green Spaces in the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan, according to the recent report of the independent Inspector.

The Plan proposed the designation of 30 Local Green Spaces in the Mid-Cherwell area where development should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. The Inspector, Mr Richard High, visited all of them and concluded that six should be deleted, including the Old Quarry site in Fenway, Steeple Aston. 

In his report he noted that sand working finished on the site around 1960 and since then it has been left undisturbed. He writes: “In parts of the site the undergrowth has clearly been cut back, but in other parts it remains overgrown. The site has clearly been colonised by many trees which are now semi-mature and there are larger mature trees close to the northern boundary. There is no public access to the site, but I was given access on my visit and walked around the whole site. The area is clearly visible from the gardens and rear windows of houses in Fenway and Grange Park and glimpses into the northern part of the site can be obtained from the footpath on the northern boundary. “

The Inspector notes that representations were made on behalf of the owners of the site against the designation of the site as a Local Green Space on the grounds that it is not of historic significance, that an ecological assessment concludes that it is not of great significance, and that many trees on the site are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). However, they do acknowledge that a small area at the northern end of the site is designated as a priority habitat.

He said many representations had been made in favour of the designation as a Local Green Space, on the basis of its wildlife value and its secluded, wilderness character. In fact, over half the representations in response to publicity on the Plan supported Local Green Space designation.

He concluded: “There is no doubt that the site in its present unused state is attractive as a wild and secluded place in which there is potential for increased biodiversity. It may have been the intention of the previous owner that it should be a recreational resource for the village but that is clearly not the intention of the present owners and designation as a Local Green Space would not in itself facilitate this. There is no reason in principle why a privately-owned site that is not accessible to the public should not be designated, but for this to be justified it is important that the site is demonstrably special to the community it serves.

“I understand that those who live in houses that overlook the site would prefer that it was not developed, but that is not a sufficient reason for designation; indeed, if the site is not designated it does not follow that it would be considered suitable for development, particularly as it is a large site outside the settlement area. To justify designation, it must be demonstrably special in some way to the community it serves. Although the Parish Council has supported the designation, almost all the representations received ….were from the occupants adjoining the site.….. While there is undoubtedly a range of wild and plant life and this has been recorded by qualified person, it has not been demonstrated to be of particular ecological significance. It is difficult to see how the site functions as a community asset, given its lack of visibility and the lack of access to it. This is a large site …. on the edge of the village and I am not persuaded that there is a clear justification for its designation as a Local Green Space.”

Steeple Aston councillor Martin Lipson, who is Chairman of the MCNP Forum comments, “The Old Quarry site behind the house and its modest back garden is now officially excluded from the village settlement area. This should offer some protection, as land outside the designated settlement has a presumption against development. The examiner mentions the exclusion in his comments, which is not insignificant.

“It is clear that the examiner was influenced by the fact that most of those who submitted letters of support for green space designation live immediately around the site, but he had to be satisfied that the local community as a whole cared about it. People elsewhere in the village do not seem to be as exercised about the potential loss of this valuable habitat, but perhaps that will change if the owners do go ahead with an application for development.

“Through the efforts of the late Andy Allen and others, the site is now extensively protected with swathes of tree protection orders, one of which covers the entire north end of the site closest to the Beeches footpath. These TPOs should limit the ambitions of a developer, and we will then have to see how much the policies of Cherwell’s Local Plan and the new Neighbourhood Plan impact on those ambitions.

“It’s worth noting that the other three Local Green Space designations in the village – Robinsons Close, the Allotments, and the field on Paines Hill – have all been approved, and will therefore now be protected from any development “which does not relate to or complement their importance to the community”.”

To read the Examiner’s full report on Cherwell District Council’s website, please click here.