News Archive 2019

APRIL

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 The Parish Council wishes to see the application withdrawn so that the scheme can be modified accordingly.”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“In the opinion of MCNP Forum, the scheme should therefore be withdrawn so that it can be amended to avoid as many of these concerns as possible before re-consideration, or else the application – if unamended – should be refused.”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

TO ALL RESIDENTS OF STEEPLE ASTON

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
richardmacandrew.steepleaston@gmail.com


MARCH

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: https://oxfordshireplan.inconsult.uk/consult.ti


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  s.e.palmer@btinternet.com


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.


JANUARY

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 charlottebartlett.steepleaston@gmail.com


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.