News Archive 2019


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.