District starts petition against ‘One Oxfordshire’, parish yet to decide
Steeple Aston Parish Council will decide at its March meeting whether to support or oppose the proposal to do away with a layer of local government to create ‘One Oxfordshire’.
This proposal from Oxfordshire County Council, which would do away with district and city councils, is aimed at saving money. But it is strongly rejected by Cherwell District and others. They have requested a meeting with the Secretary of State to put their case. Cherwell has also started a petition against the idea.
It argues that the district council is strong and financially sound . It has protected all frontline services without increasing the cost to residents. It says that plans for a unitary authority would mean local voices would be lost and that decisions affecting the district would be made by people at a county level, who would prioritise the needs of Oxfordshire over those of Cherwell.
Villagers in Middle Aston have been quicker off the mark than their Steeple colleagues. Edward Dowler, the Chairman of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, feels strongly in favour of Cherwell’s stance. He has signed the petition and forwarded the following message to many Middle Aston residents, who are thought to have signed the petition too.
On February 24th, Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council sent out the following message:
“Earlier this month I wrote to you all to inform of you Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to disband the area’s city and district councils (including Cherwell) and replace them with a single unitary authority for all of Oxfordshire.
“At the time, I told you that Cherwell, Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District were united in their opposition to this. That still remains the case and earlier this week, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, to request a meeting before any decision is made. We are now awaiting a reply.
“In the meantime, Cherwell has set up a petition to stop the proposals from going ahead and since its launch last night more than 220 people have now signed it. I would encourage each of you to also show your support in opposing these proposals by adding your own name to the petition and encouraging friends and family to do the same. The signatures gathered will be used as evidence in our ongoing effort to protect the future of Cherwell District Council and services to our residents”.
As of March 10th there were over 1,100 signatories to the petition. If you would like to add your signature, please go to https://www.change.org/p/stop-plans-for-a-unitary-authority-in-Oxfordshire
Governors consult on academy status for village school
The Governors of Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School in Steeple Aston are consulting with parents, staff and others on the conversion of the school to academy status as part of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST).
Parents and carers were invited to meet with representatives of the Trust, governors and the school’s leadership team on Tuesday,17th January. This meeting formed part of a period of open consultation during which governors are seeking the views of staff, parents/carers, Church and community representatives and the children.The consultation is expected to end on 4th February.
Chair of the Governors, Lise Boote wrote to parents: “The Governors consider that becoming an academy as part of ODST will bring many advantages to Dr Radcliffe’s School. It will support us in our continued journey of improvement with access to high quality school improvement services; it will help us ensure that the ethos and values at the core of our school will remain intact; it will give staff and governors more freedom of choice about how the school develops and we believe it will help us to better withstand educational changes at a national level.”
She said that in practical terms academy status will change some things behind the scenes. The Governors feel these changes will enhance the running of the school but otherwise parents and children will see very little difference. There will be no impact on the curriculum or admissions policy. The Governors will continue to work closely with the Diocese, the Local Authority, the schools in The Warriner Partnership and other local primary schools who have converted to academy with ODST. There will be no change to the name of the school, the school uniform or term dates.
ODST is a not for profit organisation set up by the Diocese of Oxford in 2012. Dedicated to providing excellence in education, it allows schools to develop and share best practice and work in support of one another whilst benefiting from central support services. There are currently eighteen primary schools working with ODST and it is planning to expand this to around 30 schools over the next year.
To see the full consultation document and other information, go to the school website www.dr-radcliffes.org.uk and look under Key Information.
For more information about ODST, go to their website www.odst.org.uk.
Extra policies and local green space added to Mid-Cherwell Plan
Following recent public consultation on the Mid-Cherwell Development Plan, new policies on light pollution, protection of trees and hedgerows and adequacy of technical infrastructure have been added to the list.
And a new timetable will now allow for a further period of public consultation from 30th April to June 9th before the plan is submitted to Cherwell District Council. And members of the public will be invited to attend a meeting of the Forum on May 17th. If all goes well, there will be a referendum on the final plan in February next year.
Meanwhile, after a heated discussion at February’s Parish Council meeting, it was decided that the old sandpit behind the houses to the west of Grange Park should be proposed for designation as an additional “Local Green Space” in the village.
Local green spaces are those areas which benefit the local community because of their recreational value, beauty, tranquillity, historic significance or richness of wildlife. The designation, if finally approved, does not depend on agreement by the landowner.
In his monthly report, Parish Council Chairman John Coley writes: “During January over 300 people braved the weather to show their support for the Neighbourhood Plan and to ask many questions. Most of these were answered on the spot by Forum members, and all of them will influence the policies and the Plan document that is now being reviewed.
“Traffic-related issues were most commonly raised with concerns about speeding, increasing volumes of traffic – especially HGVs on country lanes, and the need for more bus services. Our Traffic and Transport working group has been gathering proposals from each of our parishes to develop an overall traffic mitigation scheme that can be included in our draft Plan. This will need to be successfully negotiated with CDC, OCC and major developers at Heyford Park if it is to have the desired effect.
“Ideas put forward at these events for additional Plan policies will be considered at the March Forum meeting. There has already been wide support for a new “dark skies” policy controlling light pollution – particularly from street lights in new developments. Others might be to control the loss of existing trees and hedgerows, together with other biodiversity-related policy: a further new policy would seek to protect important views in and across the neighbourhood.
“Some of our policies seek to protect the traditional rural character of the villages and the whole neighbourhood. To have real effect, the rather elusive concept of “character” needs careful definition, and to that end MCNP has received Government support to commission consultants AECOM to carry out a “Heritage and Character Assessment” of the Plan area. This is now under way. This document, when completed, will be an important plank of “evidence” supporting our policies. Parish councillors and local historians have been gathering relevant documents which detail the heritage and the history of our villages, which AECOM will use as a foundation for their recommendations.”
To see the revised proposals, please click here
For more information about the Forum, go to their website: www.mid-cherwell.org.uk
Villagers examine Neighbourhood Plan policies
Steeple Aston residents had the chance to examine detailed proposals from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum at a meeting in the Village Hall on January 24th.
The meeting was one of several held during the month so that residents of the 11 villages included in the plan could have their say on the policy proposals before they are presented to Cherwell District Council, hopefully in April.
Steeple Aston Parish Councillor and Chair of the Forum Martin Lipson told the meeting that the aim of the plan was to restrict development to within designated areas in order to enable the villages and the landscape to retain their historic character.
In addition to these policies, the Forum has developed a Community Action Plan to move forward with issues that are not strictly part of the planning remit, such as requiring utility providers to improve their services in the area.
After submission to the district council, the plan will be sent to an independent examiner who may require changes before a referendum can take place. It is hoped that the process will be completed by the end of the year.
In his monthly bulletin on the progress of the Plan, Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “We can look forward to 2017 as the year in which all our work on MCNP comes to fruition. As you know, we are starting the year with community engagement meetings. They will tell us, after all our drafting and discussions, whether any of the policies need adjustment to meet with your approval.
“Local Green Spaces have been nominated by many of our parish councils and these will now go into the Plan. These will add extra protection from development to valued community spaces.
“We have been instrumental in setting up a group meeting for all those Cherwell parishes who are in the process of forming Neighbourhood Plans (Cherwell District Council having declined to set this up). The first meeting to share experiences and knowledge gained will be “in the middle of February.
“The Plan Forum has received Government funding to commission a consultancy firm to undertake a Heritage and Character Assessment of all the larger settlements in the neighbourhood area (and their surroundings). The report will sit alongside our policies to make sure that future development fits in with the special ambience (lovely word, that) and history of our part of Oxfordshire. This will take place over the next few weeks, ready to go into the Plan Report.”
To see the draft policies proposed, and the Community Action Plan, please click here
For more information about the Forum, go to their website: www.mid-cherwell.org.uk
Draft planning policies published before community meetings
Draft policies produced by the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum have been published in advance of a series of community engagement meetings to be held during January. Villagers should have already received a leaflet summarising the policies and inviting them to a meeting to discuss them.
The Steeple Aston meeting will be on Tuesday, January 24th at 7.30pm in the Village Hall. But if that date isn’t convenient, you are welcome to attend any of the other meetings listed below.
Steeple Aston Parish Council Chairman, John Coley writes: “All 24 draft policies have now been published, and community engagement meetings in January 2017 have been announced. You should have a leaflet summarising the policies together with a lot of additional information, and you can see the full policies on www.mid-cherwell.org.uk
“In January, we will be holding our final round of community engagement meetings. At each of the events below there will be a display of the final draft Policies of the Neighbourhood Plan, together with maps showing the proposed Settlement Areas and nominations for Local Green Spaces that our parish councils want to see incorporated in the Plan.
“There will also be opportunities for discussion with members of the Neighbourhood Plan Forum representing your community, and a question and answer session. Each meeting will cover the same neighbourhood-wide agenda for all 11 parishes, so you are welcome to attend whichever is most convenient.
Saturday, 14th January 2.00 – 4.00pm, Reading Room, Upper Heyford
Sunday, 22nd January 10.00am – 12.00pm, Village Hall, Ardley
Tuesday 24th January 7.30 – 9.00pm, Village Hall, Steeple Aston
Wednesday, 25th January 7.00 – 9.00pm, Nicholson Orchard Barn, North Aston
Thursday 26th January 7.00 – 8.30pm, Village Hall, Somerton
Saturday, 28th January 10.00am – 12.00pm, St. Mary’s Church, Lower Heyford
Saturday, 28th January 10.00am – 1.00pm at Heyford Park Community Centre
Saturday, 28th January 3.00 – 5.00pm, Village Hall, Kirtlington
Monday, 30th January 7.30 – 9.00pm, Village Hall, Fritwell
“We have had wide-ranging meetings with Cherwell District Council to persuade them of the need for certain policies and to ensure that they all comply with national and local planning legislation. After the January meetings, MCNP has to make the full draft Plan document publicly available, in the run-up to formal submission in the Spring.”
If you aren’t able to attend a meeting, you can still read the policies and leave your comments on the Forum’s website www.mid-cherwell.org.uk