APRIL

May election for one district councillor only

At the local elections on Thursday, 5th May villagers will be able to vote for a Cherwell District Councillor to replace Mike Kerford-Byrnes, who is retiring this year.

But there won’t be an election for Steeple Aston Parish Council as only six people have been nominated for the seven vacancies. All six of the current parish councillors are standing again, but there will still be a vacancy.

Details of the parish councillors nominated.

There are four candidates contesting the Cherwell vacancy from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.

Details of those nominated as district councillors for the Deddington ward.

Voting will take place in the Village Hall from 7.00am until 10.00pm. The count will be on Friday, 6th May.


MARCH

Spring Show attracts record number of visitors

Daphne Preston & Dorothy CliftonRichard Preston, Chair of the Horticultural Society writes:

After an absence of three years, the last Spring Show was in 2019 if you can remember that far back, we were able to bring the joy of Spring and all things bright and cheerful back to Steeple Aston.

Over 300 exhibits adorned the tables in the Village Hall on Sunday, March 20th, which is well above the average for this show. Record numbers came along during the afternoon to view the abundance of Spring blooms, amazing cookery, handicraft, photography, and the superb children’s exhibits.

Pictured here is Daphne Preston, winner of the Mead Trophy for most points in show with Dorothy Clifton, and below is Daphne’s winning floral art arrangement on the subject “Yellow”. Other winners were Julia Whybrew and Victoria Clifton for the WI Cup; the Handicraft Cup went to Janet Coley and the Bedding Family Trophy to James Walker.

A very large and generous raffle, along with a competition and a stall for Sustainable Steeple helped the day along and not forgetting the fabulous as ever, teas served in the committee room.

Just to mention a massive thanks to the committee of the Horticultural Society who work tirelessly to make this event happen. One of the biggest thanks must go to the wonderful people who entered something as that is what enables the show to take place. It was so encouraging to see so many “new” names at this show and we hope to see you all at the Annual Show that will be with us again on August Bank Holiday Monday celebrating its 130th show.

The full Spring Show results

Lots more pictures in the Photo Gallery. Many thanks to Nigel Francis.


New tenants for Red Lion after six-week closure

The Red LionSteeple Aston’s Red Lion pub will close for structural repairs on the Thursday, 10th March for around six weeks. When it re-opens, hopefully at the end of April, new tenants will be in place.

Chris Gates, who took over the pub last May on a one-year lease, has decided not to continue. His wife Naomi’s coffee shop, a Bit on the Side,  will also close.

Edwin Pope, Operation Director at Hook Norton Brewery, which owns the pub, said that significant structural issues and damp were discovered when they were refurbishing the residential accommodation above the pub last year. He anticipates that the remedial work will take four to six weeks, so he is aiming to re-open “bright and fresh and new” on April 28th.

He says there are two potential new tenants wanting to take over the pub, and he will encourage existing staff to reapply for their positions.


FEBRUARY

Community Orchard to go ahead, subject to law

Steeple Aston looks likely to get its own Community Orchard following a decision by the Parish Council at its February meeting. The council agreed to accept the gift of the orchard from former resident Sarah Lucas subject to lawyers being able to transfer the ownership of the land to the council without problems.

The land is accessed from Water Lane by the gate pictured here. It’s surrounded by a low wall and contains shrubs, trees and grass.

Local residents Shirley Palmer and Elen Wade-Martins are keen to take responsibility for the orchard and lead a group of volunteers to maintain and improve the environment as a village asset. They wrote a detailed plan which was considered by the Parish Council.

In it they say, “We feel that with some imagination this small space could be the catalyst for a nature-friendly, community-building, sustainable project.” Their main aims are:

  • To encourage wildlife.
  • To make available a quiet, contemplative space that is accessible to all in the community.
  • To hold community events that are related to encouraging an appreciation for local wildlife, trees, hedges and sustainable fruit and that raise funds for the orchard.
  • To plant fruit trees and make the fruit freely available to the community.
  • To build up a community of volunteers who care for and take pride in the orchard.

Shirley and Elen have been in touch with organisers of community orchards in Woodstock and Kirtlington so they already know much about what needs to be done. They plan to fundraise to buy more plants for the area and cover the costs of maintenance.

Councillor were concerned about costs to be incurred before they could hand over the orchard to the volunteers. They had been told the most urgent problem was to remove a pine tree.  But the recent storms beat them to it and the tree came down without their help, thereby reducing the cost of its removal. There will be charges for a solicitor to transfer the ownership of the orchard and at the most it might cost about £2,000 or possibly a bit more, for the Parish Council to accept the gift. 

It was agreed that the Parish Council should appoint lawyers to look into the transfer of ownership, and that the scheme will go ahead unless the lawyers’ searches throw up anything unexpected.

See the full Orchard Plan


‘Chicken sheds’ development – decision delayed again

Edward Dowler, the Chair of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, has written an update on the application to build 25 new business units at Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston and asks villagers worried about this to contact district and county councillors.

Since Edward wrote this, it has been announced that the decision on this application has been delayed once again.It will come before the planning committee on 7th April, so there’s more time to contact your councillor.

He wrote:

On 2nd December 2021 Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee discussed the application to redevelop the Chicken Sheds (officially Hatch End Industrial Estate). I was invited to speak, as Chair of Middle Aston Parish Meeting, and Mike Kerford-Byrnes, one of our District Councillors, made an impassioned and influential contribution to the debate.

Whilst the developers have made some significant and welcome changes to the proposed appearance and configuration of the site, a very serious issue remains: the volume of additional traffic that will be generated, and its risk to road safety, particularly in relation to Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School. It is our contention that the Highways Team at Oxfordshire County Council has accepted at face value the developers’ assumption that there will be few additional journeys to the site and failed to recognise the dangerous situation that can already be seen every school day at drop-off and pickup times.

Please excuse a short diversion into the history of the site. In 1996, an application to change its use from a chicken hatchery to a small industrial estate was refused by CDC, on grounds of highway safety. A renewed application in 1997 was granted, but with the very exceptional provision that each and every change of tenant or specific use in any unit on the site required CDC’s prior permission, on grounds of highway safety. As we all know, there has been no improvement in the condition of the road in the intervening years, and traffic volumes have of course increased.

At the Planning Meeting, it was noted that the Highways Team, in its statutory consultation submissions in July and October 2021, had imposed an obligation on the developers to create a footpath along Fir Lane from the school to the entrance to the site. This looked like an acknowledgement of the safety issue, and a helpful if partial remedy. However, in November 2021 a further submission removed this obligation, in exchange for the creation of a footpath wholly within the development site. No-one could explain, at the meeting or indeed subsequently, how this would increase pedestrian safety on Fir Lane.

The Planning Committee resolved, on 2nd December, to defer a decision on the application for three months, for further consideration. So what has happened to date?

  • Richard MacAndrew, Martin Lipson and I met the developers on 23rd December to see whether there was any scope to amend their proposals to help address our concerns. Sadly, the discussions did not result in significant progress.
  • We have been made aware that the OCC Highways Team has been asked to re-examine the developers’ calculations on increased traffic flow.
  • I have asked the Team to explain the rationale of the withdrawal of the obligation to create a footpath on Fir Lane, in exchange for an internal site footpath. So far, the only explanation offered is that the developers baulked at the cost of the obligation

The matter will next be considered by the CDC Planning Committee on 10th March 2022. If, like me, you feel that the road safety issue remains as a grave concern, please do contact our local District and County Councillors to express your view.

Contact details for local councillor


Community Orchard plan goes to the council

A plan for a Community Orchard in Water Lane, Steeple Aston will be considered by the Parish Council at its February meeting.

The land has been offered to the village by former Steeple Aston resident Sarah Lucas. It’s surrounded by a low wall and contains shrubs, trees and grass. It is accessed from Water Lane by the gate pictured here.

Local residents Shirley Palmer and Elen Wade-Martins are keen to take responsibility for the orchard and lead a group of volunteers to maintain and improve the environment as a village asset. They have written a detailed plan for the Parish Council.

They say, “We feel that with some imagination this small space could be the catalyst for a nature-friendly, community-building, sustainable project.” Their main aims are:

  • To encourage wildlife.
  • To make available a quiet, contemplative space that is accessible to all in the community.
  • To hold community events that are related to encouraging an appreciation for local wildlife, trees, hedges and sustainable fruit and that raise funds for the orchard.
  • To plant fruit trees and make the fruit freely available to the community.
  • To build up a community of volunteers who care for and take pride in the orchard.

Shirley and Elen have been in touch with organisers of community orchards in Woodstock and Kirtlington so they already know much about what needs to be done. They plan to fundraise to buy more plants for the area and cover the costs of maintenance. 

If the Parish Council decide to take on the land, they will need to ensure the walls are in a safe condition, and to arrange for some initial tree work, before management of the orchard can be handed over. This could prove costly, but Shirley and Elen suggest that they could fundraise locally and apply for grants if the council can’t afford to fund the work required.

The full Orchard Plan will be available in due course.


Storm Eunice causes damage to village shelters 

Our villages may not have suffered as badly as some areas nearby when Storm Eunice visited on Friday, 18th February. There were extensive power cuts and road closures in much of North Oxfordshire, and a roof blew off a building in Banbury landing on the railway line.

But the woods at Middle Aston House took a battering and there was damage in Steeple Aston, as Richard Preston reports. He said: These photos are of the damage Storm Eunice caused to our field shelters on Friday. One is beyond repair and the other may be ‘turned over 180 degrees’ but not sure how it might land! This might be a lesson learnt as not to face the shelters with openings towards the south or the west! At least the horses are safe.”

The shelters were in Richard’s field between Grange Park and Dr Radcliffe’s School. There are six horses in the field, two of them belonging to Richard’s daughter Clare. Richard says horses are much to sensible to hang around near sheds when a gale is blowing, so no rescuing was needed.

Do you know of other storm damage in Steeple and Middle Aston? Do send photos if you have them to editor@steepleaston.co.uk


Concerns about bonfire smoke in Pre School playground

Once again, staff at Steeple Aston Pre School are concerned about the smell and smoke from nearby bonfires that keep coming in to their playground. There is particular concern for staff and children who have asthma. It is also thought that the embers and acrid smoke that the bonfires produce can be dangerous to the development of pre-schoolers, aged from two to four and a half.

The manager Ann Buswell said: “Today it looks as if it’s coming from over in the churchyard direction as we look from our playground. We had an article in the Steeple Aston Life about it before, and it seemed to be addressed for a period of time. But these last couple of weeks it has started up again!”

The previous complaints were in Autumn 2020. At that stage Cherwell District Council said that there are no laws against having an occasional bonfire, but it is an offence for the smoke, or the smell of the smoke, to cause a nuisance. The council asked residents not to have bonfires during the pandemic.


JANUARY

Edwina Kinch retires from SAL

The Committee of Steeple Aston Life were very sorry to say farewell to the Chair Edwina Kinch who retired at the January AGM after a long association with the magazine stretching back to the 1980s.

Members expressed their grateful thanks to Edwina for all her work over the years, commemorated in a special SAL leaving card. In their farewell comments, members paid tribute to Edwina’s excellent chairmanship, her kindness, her efficiency and her charm. Her long experience and her knowledge of village life over many years have proved invaluable.

As one member said, “You must be so proud of SAL’s development from humble beginnings to the amazing publication it is today – all down to you.”

Steeple Aston Life started in 1973 as a Parish Council initiative under the guidance of George Ennis, the headmaster at Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School, and Paul O Sullivan, who was the first editor. The O’Sullivan family produced the magazine for its first ten years.

In 1983 responsibility for the magazine was transferred to a committee. Edwina took on responsibility for production and collation for five years before taking on the role of editor in 1988. When she finally retired in 2013 after editing more than 300 monthly issues, she became Chair of the SAL Committee.

A fuller version of this article including an appreciation by  Cathy Lawday, Edwina’s successor as SAL editor, can be found on page 20 of the February edition of SAL.