Heyford Bridge opens, but further closures needed

Heyford Bridge re-opened to traffic on Saturday, 9th December – a day earlier than anticipated. Residents of Steeple Aston were delighted that after six weeks of closure and the resulting lengthy diversions life would get back to normal.

However, their happiness was short-lived when it became clear that further closures would have to take place in the New Year because the road surface is uneven and could be a danger to cyclists.

Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Corkin posted the news on Facebook on Friday, 15th December. He wrote:

In the final couple of days, when the bridge was being resurfaced last week, it was discovered that a gas main was closer to the surface than expected. It looked for an afternoon that the bridge would have to remain closed while it was sorted, which would have been a nightmare. However, the engineers eventually decided a compromise could be found and the bridge reopened last Saturday. Today I received the following email from OCC:

“Further to a site inspection today, it has been decided that at least ten number of the new gully cover and frames need to be raised. This problem has resulted from the late modifications to the carriageway surfacing levels to provide sufficient cover to the gas main and its concrete protection slab, which was found to be higher than anticipated. It was initially thought by our consultants that the differences in level may be acceptable at the gullies as these have been positioned behind a solid white line, such that general traffic should not run over these. However, on closer review it has been found that the surfacing steps rather than ramps down to the gully covers and that these steps pose a significant risk to cyclists, who may cycle behind the white lines, especially if they get caught between phases of the traffic signals.

Warning signs are being put out today, indicating “Uneven Road Surface” and cones at the low gullies as a temporary measure until the gully covers can be arranged to be raised which is likely to be in the New Year. It appears that the road will need to be closed again for a short duration to rectify this problem, possibly as a series of overnight closures to minimise disruption. Sorry for the bad news, but it was a difficult balance between getting the road open on time and addressing the engineering problems around finding the gas main protection slab was higher than expected during the last few days of the planned works, and a review of the safety of the finished works has prompted these undesired actions. “

Words fail me, but I’ll push for overnight work rather than a full closure and will keep everyone posted as I know more.


Grain Store Café opens on ‘chicken sheds’ site

The much-anticipated new local café opened on Wednesday, 15th November at The Hatchery – the new name for the ‘chicken sheds’, Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston. The café is in the newly refurbished former grain store, hence its name.

Helen Taylor Sam Sinclair and Amanda Tosh in the cafe
L to r Helen Taylor, Sam Sinclair and Amanda Tosh on opening day

This is very much a local enterprise as its owners Helen Taylor and Emily Robinson, have both lived in Middle Aston for around 18 years.

Helen has given up her job as manager of White Stuff in Banbury to fulfil a long-held dream of owning a local café. She has lots of management experience. When she first came to the area she revived the Baby and Toddler group in Steeple Aston, which is still going strong today. But she’s always wanted to run a café here. When Middle Aston Limited took over the site, she asked them if she could have first refusal.

Emily, who worked at Dr Radcliffe’s for many years, is in charge of administration and business development. She will continue to work part-time at The Curiosity Box in Eynsham, but she loves baking so will be making some of the cakes on sale.

Chefs are hard to come by these days, so they’re pleased that their head chef is Amanda Tosh, formerly of Steeple Aston now living in Lower Heyford. And they have been lucky to recruit the very experienced Sam Sinclair as front of house supervisor. Sam recalls her very first job was at Fired Earth in Middle Aston many years ago. More recently she has managed the café at Chipping Norton Lido for the last three seasons.

Other local people who are involved are a variety of young people, including Helen’s son Teddy Taylor who will be chief barista. Steeple Aston photographer Nigel Francis is providing black and white photos of local scenes to put on the walls, and local garden designer Caroline Edwards is doing the landscaping for the outside seating area as well as the rest of the Hatchery site.

The emphasis on the local is carried over into their use of suppliers from Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. All the furniture comes from Second Time Around in Banbury. Coffee is from the Missing Bean and cakes (when they’re not made by Emily) will come from the Barefoot Bakery, both Oxford-based.

Their state-of-the-art coffee machine, however, comes from Italy. They’re calling her Florence as that’s where she comes from! Before the opening all the staff had intensive training in coffee making from the experts at Missing Bean.

The café, which has seating for 42 inside and 20 outside, will be open from 8.30 in the mornings (except for Sunday) serving breakfast sandwiches and muesli. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and of course cake will be available all day. Lunches will consist of toasties and soups and other light dishes. Everything will be available for takeaway.

It’s hoped that a friendly and welcoming atmosphere will attract a wide range of customers. Parents and children from the school are an obvious source, but Helen and Emily hope that local villagers of all ages will be tempted to pop in. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome.

The Hatchery owners, Middle Aston Limited, were keen to have somewhere for those working on the site and nearby to eat. Now with the opening of other new businesses, there are visitors attending yoga, floral and art classes already, with Pilates and a Wellness Centre starting in the New Year.

The café will also be a good stopping off point for weekend walkers and cyclists. They may be attracted by a special delivery of fresh doughnuts on Saturday mornings! Cyclists will find a bicycle maintenance station on site, and inside there’s a book exchange along with workstations for those who want to come with their laptops to take advantage of the free wifi.

The Grain Store website has full details of opening hours, forthcoming events and more. Keeping it in the family, the website was built by Helen’s other son Freddie, working remotely from Canada.

Online booking system starts at Health Centre

Poster about new system

From Monday, 6th November the new online system for contacting Deddington Health Centre will be live.

In future the fastest way to get help from a clinician should be by submitting an online form yourself or asking a family member to do so on your behalf.

You can use the online form to contact the Health Centre about anything you would normally telephone about. To find the form, go to…/appointments…/

It has been a difficult transition to the new arrangements, with few routine appointments with GPs available and long telephone queues throughout September and October.

In announcing the new system, called Total Triage, the Deddington Team wrote “This will be an online system where our clinicians will triage all appointment requests, ensuring that you are seen by the most appropriate clinician in a timely manner. We hope that this will help make better use of the valuable appointments we have available. Patients who are unable to use the online form will be able to ask the Patient Services team to fill it in on their behalf….

“….We are confident that our new system will improve our capacity and ensure that our patients are seen by the right clinician at the right time along with being a fair system for all based on clinician triage. It will take time to embed as we get used to the changes but our loyal and committed team will continue to strive to deliver the best possible service to our patients.”

Council accepts development site recommendations

Steeple Aston Parish Council has accepted the recommendations of the MCNP site assessment team on future development in the village There was a detailed discussion of the proposals at a Special Parish Council meeting on November 27th.

Councillors had already agreed that a total of 30 new homes on two or three sites would be acceptable for the period 2024 – 2040. Now they have agreed that two sites at opposite ends of the village would be their preferred choice. They are the field opposite Townend on South Side and the field bordered by Fenway and Coneygar Fields.

A third site behind the east and south sides of Grange Park would be held in reserve. The other possible site, the old sand quarry off Fenway, had been excluded by the site assessment team because of potential legal disputes.

These recommendations will now follow a tortuous route towards a local referendum some way into the future.  First of all, they will go into a consultation document from the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum (MCNP) on which views from the public will be sought early in the new year.   Then a revised plan will be sent to Cherwell District Council, which will hold yet another consultation exercise. After Cherwell’s further consultation on the plan, it will be sent to an examiner appointed by the Government.   The examiner’s recommendations will then be subject to the local referendum.

The parish council chair Angharad Lloyd-Jones was given delegated authority to agree the wording of the Plan policies for the sites. The Plan will recommend conditions for any development such as the number and size of housing, proportion of affordable houses, need for footpaths and environmental factors such as preserving trees. The meeting was assured that trees on the proposed sites would be protected.

The idea of a Community Land Trust, which would allow villagers rather than commercial developers to decide these issues was being investigated as a possible model for Steeple Aston. Apparently, such a model works well in Hook Norton.

At the end of the meeting Angharad thanked the four on the development site team – Martin Lipson and Paul Rodgers from Steeple Aston, Philippa Tickle from Duns Tew and Caroline Edwards from Middle Aston. She said she appreciated the huge amount of work and expertise they had put into the whole exercise.

You will be able to read a detailed account of the meeting and the discussions that took place in the January edition of Steeple Aston Life.

Read the  report from the site assessment team to the Parish Council and some amendments to the report made before the meeting.

Amendments to recommendations for special council meeting on housing published

The postponed Special Parish Council meeting to decide on the allocation of sites for  future housing in the village will be held on Monday, 27th November at 8.00pm in the Sport and Recreation Building. 

Steeple Aston Parish Council had planned to hold the meeting on 25th October, but it was postponed to give parish councillors and members of the public more time to read the lengthy revised report from the site assessment team. The report for discussion and decision at this meeting has now been published here as well as being emailed to all those who have attended public meetings on the subject.

Some amendments to the report have now been published following comments from embers of the public. None of them affect the Report’s recommendations.

The previous recommendation for developing the old allotments on Heyford Road has been ruled out by the landowner Charles Cottrell-Dormer. And the assessment team found ‘legal impediment’ made the Old Quarry site unavailable.

This decision to hold a further special meeting followed October’s regular parish council meeting, attended by 28 members of the public, which postponed a decision on potential sites for development.

The MCNP site assessment team in a detailed report suggested that two schemes of approximately 15 homes each, a total of 30 dwellings, should be supported for the period 2024- 2040.

They said that two sites at opposite ends of the village would be their preferred choice. They are the field opposite Townend on South Side and the old allotments on Heyford Road next to Nizewell Head. One further site should be held in reserve – the field bordered by Fenway and Coneygar Fields.

Councillors agreed that a total of 30 houses on two or three sites would be acceptable. But after considerable discussion and a suggestion that the team might have had ‘subconscious bias’ in their site selection, they were unable to agree on a list of sites for development.

At the meeting Martin Lipson, Chair of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum and Vice Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council explained that he had organised a four person team to analyse potential development sites. The purpose was to get the best development sites for the village rather than having sites determined by Cherwell District Council.

He said the team had used objective criteria and standard techniques for analysis of sites. He also emphasised that the selection process had many stages to go before any sites would be finally selected as policies for the Neighbourhood Plan.

Mat Watson, the owner of one of the rejected sites, is a Parish Councillor. He was allowed to comment at the start of the meeting as a member of the public but had to leave the meeting after that and could not vote on the sites because of a conflict of interest.

Mat said he felt his site (Number 4 – The Old Quarry) had had its disadvantages overstated.  He wondered if some of the team had held a subconscious bias against his site.

Richard Preston, owner of the site behind Grange Park (Number 3) questioned whether it was right to call his site ‘isolated’ because it was partly bordered by gardens. He also questioned the value of including the sites owned by Charles Cottrell Dormer of Rousham because he doubted whether he would agree to the development on the old allotments sites on Heyford Road (Numbers13 or 14).

After discussion, the assessment team agreed that to be certain they had been entirely objective they wanted to check out the accusation that there might have been some unconscious bias. They arranged to meet the following morning to look at this and would call another Parish Council meeting for the following Wednesday, when the checks should be complete.

The consultants (paid for by the government) had told the assessment team that the team needed to prepare a list of sites in order of preference. It was hoped that Wednesday’s Parish Council meeting would see a revised list of preferred sites for consideration by the councillors. They agreed that at present no site should be discounted.

The revised report from the site assessment team for meeting on November 27th

Amendments to the report


GWR U-turns on cuts to local train services

GWR have reinstated the two important commuter train services between Oxford and Banbury which were due to be cut from the beginning of December. They say this decision is in response to the views of residents, businesses and local councillors.

The proposed new timetable would have cut two well-used commuter services calling at Heyford – the one in the morning which arrives in Oxford at 9.05am, and the one leaving Oxford at 5.55pm. This would have left a gap of over two hours between trains at the beginning and end of the working day.

A petition to get the services reinstated had nearly 900 signatures. It argued that the cuts would lead to a significantly longer day for users, who include schoolchildren as well as workers, and/or to an increase in road traffic.

Announcing the change, GWR Business Development Portfolio Director Tom Pierpoint said: “We’re grateful to local residents, businesses and Oxfordshire County Council for highlighting the importance of these services, and I’m pleased we’ve been able to find a solution that will retain them both in our December timetable. 

“We do sometimes have to make changes but it is clear that these services play a vital role for our communities in Tackley, Heyford, King’s Sutton and Banbury, and I’m really glad that we have been able to keep them in the timetable.”

The rethink was welcomed by Oxfordshire County Council. Councillor Judy Roberts, the Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Development Strategy said: “GWR have listened very carefully to what local rail users have said and responded really well. Both of these services are very well patronised and link villages as well as towns. They’re exceptionally valued by the communities they serve and ideally timed for commuters.”

All change at the Horticultural Society as show stalwarts step back

Richard Preston has retired as chair of the Steeple Aston and Middle Aston Horticultural Society after 45 very active years working with the society. The enthusiastic organiser and ‘voice’ of the Spring and Summer Shows, Richard will be a hard act to follow.

Also sorely missed will be his wife Daphne, winner of too many cups to count and Summer Show champion for the last five years. She has retired as Treasurer and Hanny Nicholson has also retired as President after 60 years working with the society.

Mary White, one of the committee members who has fortunately not retired, reports that all three of them will retain their links with the society, while several new members have been recruited to take their places. She writes:

Another successful summer show, business as usual…but no. Richard and Daphne Preston have decided now is the time for them to take a step back and let others take up the challenge of running what is the ‘biggest and best flower show in North Oxfordshire’ as Richard may have said before!

This is a major change for us. Richard has chaired the Society, and has been its driving force for many years, masterminding countless successful shows. He has been associated with the Society since around 1978, with his family having been involved since the 1860’s.

Fortunately, Richard and Daphne have kindly agreed to advise as needed and Richard has also agreed to be our president. Daphne will be a vice president. We are pleased to say that Hanny Nicholson has also agreed to be a vice president, so continuing over sixty years of involvement with the Society.

Encouragingly, no fewer than five new committee members were appointed at the recent AGM. Graham Clifton is now chair, and other committee members continue in their usual roles. New recruits Claire Coysh and Eleanor Evans have volunteered to take on the demanding job of field officer with help from Rebecca Lewin (publicity) and Vicky Clifton who continues as show secretary. Another new recruit, Eleanor O’Connor, is now our treasurer.

We hope, with all these new people and new ideas, that the Hort Soc will go from strength to strength but the shows are only ever as good as those who enter them and come to visit. Please let us know if there are any changes you would like to see.

You can contact us through our Facebook page:

Or email Vicky

Chicken sheds expansion given the go ahead

Chicken sheds site plan

Three new industrial units are to be built at the ‘chicken sheds’ site – Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston. And work has already started on rebuilding the old scout hut even before planning permission was granted.

Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee approved the plans at their October meeting, though they were told that the council’s Enforcement team was investigating the work that has already taken place.

This application by the site owners Middle Aston Limited was for a smaller development than the plan for 25 new business units which created a lot of concern in the village and was rejected by the planning committee in April 2022.  

But Steeple Aston Parish Council and several others objected to the new application. The parish council said the plans represented a 30 per cent increase in floor space. It still had the same concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety as in the previous applications. Local district councillor Eddie Reeves told the committee of the parish council’s views and said that if the application was approved, it asked for mitigations to address them.

The Highways Authority had expressed concern as well, but their objection was withdrawn when a new footpath within the site to join the existing Beeches footpath was suggested. This means that pedestrians coming from Steeple Aston will hardly have to walk on the road to get to the site.  

Patrick Bradshaw of Middle Aston Limited told the planning committee that they had decided to refurbish existing buildings and now sought approval for just three additional units. Since the refurbishment, he had been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and positive feedback he had received especially from local villagers. Some residents were already creating new businesses which would provide employment for local young people.

There has certainly been more activity on the site recently. It has been renamed The Hatchery. Already Egg Box Storage, Lisa Jane Art Studio,which has classes for both children and adults, and Youfloria, a plant workshop and yoga studio have opened. The Grain Store Café is expected to open soon, and there are plans for beauty rooms and a Pilates studio in the pipeline.

The three new buildings will be at the back of the site and not visible from the road. They will be used for storage, warehousing and offices.

Petition started to save important Heyford trains

A petition has been started to try and  save train services from Heyford to Oxford and Banbury, which are set to be cut by GWR from December.

The proposed new timetable cuts two well-used commuter services – the one in the morning which arrives in Oxford at 9.05am, and the one leaving Oxford at 5.55pm. This leaves a gap of over two hours between trains at the beginning and end of the working day.

These services, which also stop at Tackley and King’s Sutton, are used by workers and schoolchildren. The organisers of the petition argue that if these services are cut more people will have to drive, adding to further congestion on the roads.

More information and sign the petition

Future housing plans go to council on Monday

Recommendations for future housing development in Steeple Aston will go to Monday’s Parish Council meeting for approval.See below.

The MCNP site assessment team in a detailed report suggests that two schemes of approximately 15 homes each,  a total of 30 dwellings, should be supported for the period 2024- 2040.

They have said that two sites at opposite ends of the village would be their preferred choice. They are the field opposite Townend on South Side and the old allotments on Heyford Road next to Nizewell Head.

One further site should be held in reserve – the field bordered by Fenway and Coneygar Fields.

Martin Lipson, Chair of the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Forum and Vice Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council writes:

The site assessment team has now completed its work and the reports below, which include the team’s recommendations, are going to be discussed at the Parish Council meeting next Monday, 16th October. There are three documents (see below)1. the report itself, 2. appendices to the report containing the individual site assessments amongst other things, and 3. a spreadsheet of all comments so far received either at the September public meeting or by email following the meeting.

Please note that there is still quite a long way to go before any final decisions are taken about sites in Steeple Aston, or in Kirtlington where a parallel exercise is being undertaken.

The Parish Council’s views will go to a meeting of the MCNP Forum, and then the draft Plan containing any proposed site allocations and aspirations for the use of other sites will go out to public consultation in November.

Once public comments and those of statutory bodies have been received, a Submission version of the Plan will go to Cherwell Council, probably in February/ March 2024, following which they will conduct another consultation.  There are therefore still several further opportunities for you to respond to what is being proposed.

You are welcome to attend the meeting on Monday, and may be permitted to speak if you wish, at the discretion of the Chair. Alternatively, you can still submit comments to the team at

The meeting will be held in the Sports and Rec building off Fir Lane, beginning at 7.30pm.

Report by the site assessment team to the Parish Council 

Appendices to the Report

Spreadsheet of public comments

Potential Development Sites     
Comments by 23 Sept 2023        
Subject Site Comment Source  
Traffic 1 Fir Lane not suitable for additional traffic After  
Traffic 1 Make already bad traffic worse 13-Sep  
Hatch End 1 Use for housing After  
Hatch End 1 Good location for housing After  
Owners comments 1 Suitable for young as near school. Perhaps suitable for up to eight small or starter homes 13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 1 Close to existing roads After  
Impact on existing residents 1 None, so good After  
Coalescence 1 Already happening, so unimportant After  
Isolation 1 Close to school After  
Traffic 2 Fir Lane not suitable for additional traffic After  
Hatch End 2 Use for housing After  
Hatch End 2 Good location for housing After  
Impact on existing residents 2 None, so good After  
Owners comments 2 Not specially keen to develop housing but interested to hear comments 13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 2 Close to existing roads After  
Coalescence 2 Already happening, so unimportant After  
Isolation 2 Close to school After  
Distance to shop 3 For the elderly this might prevent them getting to the shop with its social benefits After  
Distance to bus stop 3 On other side of village to bus After  
Distance to bus stop 3 Could bus route include a stop on Northside 13-Sep  
Traffic 3 Fenway Grange Park corner too tight for consrtuction traffic After  
Traffic 3 Fenway already rat run to school and difficult to pass After  
Traffic 3 Horses on road, more dangerous with more traffic After  
Traffic 3 Entry onto Fenway – a ingle track road with already dangerous corner  After  
Traffic 3 Fenway traffic means not suitable for OAPs 14-Sep  
Other benefits/losses 3 Destroy heritage parkland After  
Pull down house 3 House have to be pulled down for access After  
Pull down house 3 House have to be pulled down for access After  
Sewers/drains 3 Grange Park sewers already having problems After  
Isolation 3 Lead to isolated community, especially unsuitable for the elderly After  
Isolation 3 Backland site lead to isolated community After  
Isolation 3 Not suitable for elderly 13-Sep  
Mobile Coverage  3 Poor mobile coverage, dangerous for elderly After  
Balance new development 3 Share new development around village  After  
Owners comments 3 North is protected, suitable for bungalows,  access by knocking down house, questions if backland 13-Sep  
Village Entrance 4 Hurt initial impression of village After  
Distance to school 4 Close to school After  
Distance to bus stop 4 On other side of village to bus After  
Direct frontage 4 Could widen current entrance After  
Traffic 4 Fenway already rat run to school and difficult to pass After  
Traffic 4 Horses on road, more dangerous with more traffic After  
Traffic 4 Entry onto Fenway – a ingle track road with already dangerous corner  After  
Traffic 4 Fenway akready has traffic problems 13-Sep  
Other benefits/losses 4 Loss of calcareous sand grassland After  
Other benefits/losses 4 David Machin survey After  
Legal/restrictive covenants 4 There are restrictive covenants on houses down Fenway After  
Legal/restrictive covenants 4 Not identified in criteria After  
Legal/restrictive covenants 4 Not identified in criteria  After  
Cherwell 4 Cherwell turned site down for development recently After  
Mitigating 4 Plant trees to screen Grange Park houses After  
Isolation 4 Backland site lead to isolated community After  
Balance new development 4 Share new development around village  After  
Tree Preservation Order 4 Can put 50 houses in while retaining TPOs After  
Spoil view  4 Bridle way appreciated, spoil its view. After  
Spoil view  4 Whole of one side of Grange Park view damaged After  
Owners comments 4 Target housing type to village needs 13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 4 Could take all 50 houses After  
Distance to bus stop 5 On other side of village to bus After  
Traffic 5 Fenway already rat run to school and difficult to pass After  
Traffic 5 Horses on road, more dangerous with more traffic After  
Traffic 5 Entry onto Fenway – a ingle track road with already dangerous corner  After  
Cherwell 5 Cherwell turned site down for development recently After  
Balance new development 5 Share new development around village  After  
Green field 6 Shock at considering green field site After  
Village Entrance 6 Hurt initial impression of village After  
Distance to bus stop 6 On other side of village to bus After  
Traffic 6 Fenway already rat run to school and difficult to pass After  
Traffic 6 Horses on road, more dangerous with more traffic After  
Traffic 6 Entry onto Fenway – a ingle track road with already dangerous corner  After  
Traffic 6 Good access to main road 13-Sep  
Balance new development 6 Share new development around village  After  
Spoil view  6 Bridle way appreciated, spoil its view. After  
Owners comments 6 Thoought good for young families 13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 6 Favour some on 6 and some on 7 After  
Preferred site/s 6 Preferred despite altering village entrance After  
Preferred site/s 6 Worse than 1,2 and 7 but advantage of double track road to A4260 After  
Village Entrance 7 Hurt initial impression of village After  
Distance to bus stop 7 On other side of village to bus After  
Traffic 7 Fenway already rat run to school and difficult to pass After  
Traffic 7 Entry onto Fenway – a ingle track road with already dangerous corner  After  
Balance new development 7 Share new development around village  After  
Owners comments 7 Why not in settlement area as there are bungalows and cottage there  13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 7 Favour some on 6 and some on 7 After  
Preferred site/s 7 But need mitigating tree planting to ptotect view from footpath After   
Village Entrance 8 Hurt initial impression of village After  
Village Entrance 8 Change entrance of village After  
Distance to school 8 Encourage walk to school if housing close to school.   After  
Bungalows 8 Elderly need bungalows on flat ground and near shop and bus After  
Direct frontage 8 Goes out to relatively large road After  
Mix of housing 8 Bungalows suitable for site 13-Sep  
Footpaths 8 No footpath into village centre After  
Traffic 8 Chicane is dangerous so don’t add to traffic using it Before  
Other benefits/losses 8 Need access to back of Hill House through current gate to Burwell field After  
Other benefits/losses 8 Cannot sell house 13-Sep  
Environmental 8 Section 41 protected species    
Tree Preservation Order 8 All trees on roadside have TPOS After  
Preferred site/s 8 Next best after 6 and 7 After  
Preferred site/s 8 8 better than 3,4, 5, 6 as frontage to larger road, bus, shop and pub easier, construction traffic easier After  
Preferred site/s 8 Least bad After  
Traffic 9 Chicane is dangerous so don’t add to traffic using it Before  
Distance to shop 13 Close to shop and no hills to get there After  
Distance to station 13 Walkable to station After  
Distance to bus stop 13 Bus stop very close After  
Direct frontage 13 Good wide frontage to larger road After  
Rousham 13 Investigate if site is visible from Rousham After  
Rousham 13 Tall trees probably protect Rousham from deveopment 13-Sep  
Owners comments 13 Not available because be visible from Rousham 13-Sep  
Preferred site/s 13 Frontage to larger road, near station, close to bus stop, on flat to shop, plant trees to protect Rousham After  
Preferred site/s 13 Best for everyone if developed here After  
Rousham 14 Investigate if site is visible from Rousham After  
Rousham 14 Ask Cottrell Dormer to think about site after checking visibility After  
Rousham 14 Use GIS software to see if visible from Rousham 13-Sep  
Rousham 14 Tall trees probably protect Rousham from deveopment 13-Sep  
Owners comments 14 Not available because be visible from Rousham 13-Sep  
Traffic   Split housing to balance out extra traffic After  
Community Land Trust   Favour Community Land Trust to ensure development best for village After  
Community Land Trust   Favour Community Land Trust to ensure development best for village After  
Community Land Trust   Favour Community Land Trust to ensure development best for village After  
Village Entrance   Retain hedges After  
Village Entrance   New building needs to be attractive After  
Village Entrance   Townend site already damaged entrance to village 13-Sep  
Distance to bus stop   Could bus have stop on main road opposite Fenway 13-Sep  
Bungalows   Village needs some bungalows for elderly After  
Direct frontage   Less disturbance for others if site has road frontage After  
Mix of housing   Need mix of size, type and price of housing After  
Mix of housing   Include some small developments soecifically for elderly and separately for young After  
Mix of housing   Need affordable/starter homes After  
Mix of housing   Need affordable/starter homes After  
Number of houses   Is the number fixed? After  
Number of houses   Oxford Cambridge arc out of date After  
Number of houses   Research type and number needed 13-Sep  
Traffic   Increased traffic should be first consideration of any development After  
Traffic   Traffic increase for whole village After  
Traffic   Traffic increase for whole village After  
Traffic   Traffic already bad, any development make worse After  
Traffic   Could Fenway be widened and footpath added 13-Sep  
Other benefits/losses   Iplans should include more walking routes and open spaces After  
Other benefits/losses   Biodiversity net gain offsetting. (eg diocese land at Cow Lane After  
Other benefits/losses   Will we get Section 106 money 14-Sep  
Legal/restrictive covenants   Take account of restrictive covenants 13-Sep  
Sewers/drains   Sewers have caused problems befor. Check After  
Sewers/drains   Already inadequate 13-Sep  
Balance new development   Share new development around village  13-Sep  
School   Force children from outside village to give up places to new households? After  
School   Move school 13-Sep  
School   Investigate moving school After  
School   Highly unlikely tmoving school would be agreed 13-Sep  
School   Roughly half children at school come from Steeple Aston 14-Sep  
Environmental   Encourage water collection use for grey water.  Possibly Section 106 money? After  
Environmental   Protect hedges.  Encourage hedge planting around new houses After  
Environmental   Retain old hedges  After  
Environmental   Insist on rainwater collection, heat pumps and solar tracking  panels for new houses After  
Definition of settlement area   Why doesnt settlement area include buildings like schools After  
Definition of settlement area   Why doesnt settlement area include buildings like schools 13-Sep  
Weighting   Are criteria weighted? How?  Is choice of site dependent on these criteria? After  
Weighting   Should criteria be weighted 13-Sep  
Criteria   Should some sites be ruled out instantly eg such as where no safe pedestrian access After  
Other Sites   Should Steve Ward’s garage’s  land have been considered After  
Other sites   Steve’s garage  After  
Other sites   Telephone exchange After  
Other sites   Rectory Homes interested in extending behind Steve’s garage After  
Other Sites   Could Hopcrfts, Middle or North Aston be considered After  
Other sites   Are there any  brown field sites available 13-Sep  
Other sites   Millbrook Spinney sloping but convenient for amenities 13-Sep  



Report by the site assessment team to the Parish Council 

Appendices to the Report

Spreadsheet of public comments


Heyford Bridge to close in October for six weeks

The postponed closure of Heyford Bridge for resurfacing and drainage works will now start on Monday, 23rd October. The bridge will be closed for six weeks until Sunday, 10th December.
Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Corkin explained on Facebook: “Following recent conservation work to the bridge, the next step is an extensive rebuild of the road-deck to improve drainage and prevent further damage by water ingress to the listed structure….. There will be pedestrian access across the bridge during this time, via the south footway.”
Work to prop up the Medieval Grade II* Listed Bridge, which collapsed earlier this year, was completed without the road being closed. This road closure for resurfacing and drainage work was expected to start in July, then postponed until September.
The closure means there will be a lengthy diversion for drivers coming to and from Steeple Aston to Bicester and the M40. The alternative route for traffic is via B4030 > A4260 >B4027 > A4095 > B430 > B4030 and vice versa.

Packed meeting supports selection of housing sites

Martin Lipson, Chair of the MCNP and Vice Chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council reports:

A packed public meeting in the Village Hall on September 13th provided much food for thought about possible future housing sites in Steeple Aston. The event was jointly organised by Steeple Aston Parish Council and the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan (MCNP) Forum.

There were underlying concerns expressed by several people about whether the narrow streets of the village could cope with any more traffic from expanding the population. If that problem can be overcome, though, there was clearly strong support for the principle of selecting a site or sites on which homes could be built.

map was displayed showing 16 possible sites, which the MCNP assessment team was looking at. Of these, 7 had already been declared by their owners as “unavailable”. So the focus was now on the remainder, many of whose owners were present at the meeting. Some of them spoke in favour of using their land for relatively modest schemes aimed at meeting local needs, although a view was also expressed that a more ambitious approach was needed to “square-off the village” by extending westwards on several sites.

Others in the audience were concerned about the appearance of more new development extending the village out into open countryside. Whether or not a site was connected to the existing village settlement was a point of contention for some, with views expressed that the definition of the settlement area could be changed, while others said that community cohesion was an important aim.  

Several people were not impressed by the prices of the new houses at Townend by developer Rectory Homes – out of reach for many.  This prompted the response that MCNP’s aim, working with the parish, was to establish a community-led housing organisation that could deliver what was needed locally at affordable prices. This aspiration would be dependent on the co-operation of landowners.

There were contrasting views from some about walking distances from some of the suggested sites to the village amenities – shop, bus stops, Village Hall and playground – which must of course be a factor in any decisions.  A dramatic idea to move the school to a new site briefly entertained the meeting as a solution to traffic problems, but was quickly met with questions about who would pay?

The nine sites now in consideration were reviewed one at a time, and some useful comments were made which will help the assessors. Since the meeting, more comments have been received from those present, and from some who were not.

Recommendations will be discussed at the Parish Council meeting on October 16th, and members of the public, as always, are welcome to attend. In November, MCNP will be consulting on changes to the Neighbourhood Plan which will include draft proposals for more homes in Steeple Aston, so there will be further opportunities for comments or objections, before decisions are made. Indeed, nothing will be decided until well into next year, when the Plan will go to a local referendum.



Site map

See the map of the sites along with a description and report from the assessors.   

Views are welcome at

Site assessments published before village meeting on housing

A list of 16 possible development sites in Steeple Aston is now up for discussion at a public meeting to be held on Wednesday, 13th September at 7.30pm in the Village Hall. An update from the assessment team, has been published along with a map of the sites and the checklist of criteria used in their selection. See below

Originally a list of 17 sites for possible new housing in the village was been shown to parish councillors, and their owners were approached to see if they are interested in developing their land, either now or in the future.

This search for sites for potential new housing in the village was prompted by Cherwell District Council’s recent publication of a Local Plan that said Steeple Aston had to take an extra 47 homes by 2040.

That Plan has now been withdrawn, but councillors assume that something similar is likely to be re-issued in the autumn and that means the village should get ahead and look for possible sites. A well-attended public meeting in February agreed that the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan team should start the process of looking for suitable sites, though there would be no guarantee on the numbers of houses to be built. 

Martin Lipson, Chair of the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum. is leading a team of people from both inside and outside the village,  put together to ensure objectivity and transparency between parishes and within parishes.

At July’s parish council meeting, Martin Lipson, who is also Vice Chair  of the council, explained what has happened so far. Councillors were shown in confidence a map of the sites being considered for development in Steeple Aston.

Julia Whybrew who was reporting the meeting for SAL wrote, “Although I was meticulously not shown the map, it was clear from across the room that the potential development sites, shown in bright blue, almost entirely encircled the village.

“When Cherwell had previously called for sites here for housing only four had been put forward. This time 17 are being considered. After discussion it was agreed the owners of the sites would be approached this month to ask if they had any interest in developing them, either now, in the foreseeable future or ever. Those where the owners did not wish to sell would be removed from the exercise and a public meeting will be called in September to consider the suggested pros and cons of the resulting possibilities.

“Both the initial map, and the revised version taking landowner opinions into account, will be available to all before the public meeting. The sites that might be developed should be identified in a priority order by the time of the September meeting.

“Apparently, there are 31 criteria for selecting the priority of sites for development and the idea is that these should be as objective as possible. The criteria are wide and concepts such as the traffic consequences of a potential development will be part of the decision making process.

“Consultants are going to be asked to do a parallel assessment of the possible sites for their environmental impact and the results of both exercises will be considered together. Sites will not be put on the priority list unless they are large enough for five or six homes.

“Martin made it clear he knew giving an order of priority for the sites ‘may raise the temperature’ but he emphasised that there will be many opportunities for comments and consultation before the plan finally goes to an examiner in about a year from now.”


Site map


Sunny Summer Show attracts 800 visitors

Richard Preston. Chairman of The Horticultural Society writes:

With the sun doing its utmost to shine, the marquee full of exhibits and Robinsons Close full of stalls and games, the 131st annual flower show began on August Bank Holiday Monday.

With over 700 exhibits, which is around average for our show and approximately 800 visitors, which is well over the average, the show began. Accompanied this year for the first time by a photographic exhibition in the S & R Centre, there was so much to see and do.

Apart from the high quality of exhibits (the judges’ comments, not mine) there was so much to do and see from smashing some plates to riding on Steeple Aston’s own steam railway. Ice-creams and burgers were aplenty on the field and the village hall was busy serving homemade cakes and tea.

And what about the dogs? The Dogs for Good charity handled numerous entries from dogs of all breeds and the eventual winner was Bella with Betsy Walton. Congratulations to Bella and of course, Betsy and all the dogs and owners that entered.

In the marquee and across at the Village Hall, there were winners in all 140 classes, but the overall winner was Steeple Aston! Since the flower show first started back in the 1860’s, Steeple Aston and Middle Aston has put on a flower show second to none in this area. Many things have changed but the support from the villages has remained constant and this is what living in a rural community such as ours is all about.

It is always a challenge to find the money to continue but with the small but dedicated committee, we do just that. Although there are a few bits and pieces to come in yet, we will have covered our expenses yet again, which are over £3,000 to put on the show.

Thanks have to go out to not only to the committee but to all those wonderful villagers who give their time to making this show happen. There are too many to mention individually but you all know who you ae so THANK-YOU! One thing that did help immensely was the kind offer by the owners of Hatch End by providing much needed additional car parking.

If you would like to help, make this event even bigger and better next year, how about attending the AGM in the Village Hall committee room on Wednesday, 20th September at 7.30pm?

Again, thank-you to everyone who supported the flower show in any way.

See all the winning entries in the Summer Show results 2023

Thanks to Catherine Crook and Paul Honigmann for their pictures in Photo Gallery.

Click on the first one to enlarge, and navigate using the arrows.


MP criticises GP service, now new booking system to come

Victoria Prentis at Deddington Health CentreOur local MP says that the level of service at Deddington Health centre is not good enough – and the GP partners there agree with her. But there is hope of some improvement soon with new GPs joining the practice and a new online system for booking appointments to be introduced in November. 

In the meantime, however, there will be what’s acknowledged to be a difficult transition to the new system. With a few exceptions, no routine appointments with GPs will be booked 6th November.  Some book on day appointments will be available to be allocated by priority of need. The surgery says medically urgent issues will still be dealt with appropriately.

More details are available on the Deddington Health Centre website.

Victoria Prentis the MP for Banbury, who is also Attorney General for England and Wales, visited the health centre recently to discuss the situation.

She reported on her Facebook page as follows:

“I recently visited Deddington Health Centre to sit down with the GP Partners and Practice Manager at one of their weekly meetings.

“The Partners and I agreed that the current level of service is not good enough and that the situation needs to improve. Deddington is facing similar challenges to other surgeries across the country, but the rate of population growth we have seen in North Oxfordshire in recent years has clearly amplified pressures on appointment availability.

The difficulties the surgery has faced with staffing hasn’t helped: a handful of staff have moved on and recruiting replacements has been challenging. However, I was reassured to learn that they have new GPs starting soon which it is hoped will bring much-needed additional capacity.

“A concern regularly raised with me by patients is the Health Centre’s telephone system. The system was updated earlier this year to give patients more information on waiting times. The Partners are currently evaluating further possible enhancements which they hope could mark a major improvement on appointment allocation.

“I agreed to raise the Partners’ concerns with the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board, who oversee primary care locally. I will be meeting the Head of Primary Care Infrastructure and Places Director next week to discuss what can be done to improve the situation.”

Latest parish councillor comes on board

Matthew Watson is the latest recruit to the parish council. He was officially co-opted as a councillor at the July meeting, leaving one further vacancy on the council to be filled.

Matthew (known as Mat) has only been in Steeple Aston for just over a year but is keen to get involved in village life and meet local people. He moved here from London with his partner Jo and two-year-old daughter Grace in March 2022.

Mat comes originally from Walsall in the West Midlands. He studied Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and then spent three years training as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But he decided that although the training had been useful, the accountant’s life wasn’t for him Instead, he retrained as a journalist working initially on an evening paper in Southend. From there he joined Auto Express magazine as a motoring journalist.

He is currently Chief Content Officer for carwow, an online platform for buying and selling cars. Mat describes it as “a dating agency for people looking to change their cars”. In this job, he continues to write about cars as well as commissioning others to do reviews for the website. But he is best known as the face of the carwow YouTube channel, which has an astonishing 5.8 million subscribers. You can see Mat’s reviews and more at

The company has its head office in London Victoria but also operates in Germany and Spain, so Mat finds himself traveling quite a lot for work. Jo works from home part-time as a project manager in the IT department at Burberry.

The couple decided to leave their flat in Queen’s Park, London so that their daughter Grace could grow up somewhere more rural. After a wide search, which included the South Coast as well as Oxfordshire, they found their new home in Steeple Aston – The Old Quarry House on Fenway. As many villagers know this property has a large woodland area with many mature trees. Mat has happy childhood memories of Walsall Arboretum, so enjoys spending time there. He also hopes that it will provide a wonderful environment for Grace as she grows up.

As a parish councillor. Mat hopes he can usefully contribute some financial and business expertise, as well as his knowledge of the media. But he is aware that he is still learning the ropes. He wants to meet more villagers and hear about their concerns. He says, “Please stop me and have a chat. I can usually be found in the play area with Grace at the weekend.”

Mat and his family are pleased with their new home and love the village. But there are a couple of improvements he’d like to see – better broadband, and an improved mobile phone signal especially near the play area and the Village Hall.

He will be campaigning for improvements in both – and against one other regular visitor to the village: the dreaded Blandford Fly!



New head for Dr Radcliffe’s School

There is to be be a new headteacher at Dr Radcliffe’s following the retirement of Frances Brown who retired in April after 15 years at the Steeple Aston primary school. Rob O’Malley will be taking over as Headteacher in September.

Long-standing Deputy Head Guy Briggs is Interim Headteacher for this term. But, to the sadness of many, he too has decided to move on at the end of the year.

Lisa Boote, Chair of Governors writes:

portrait of Frances Brown
Frances Brown

“After 15 years of being our Headteacher Frances Brown reached the hard decision to retire from headship and left Dr Radcliffe’s in April. Frances was an incredible Headteacher who showed selfless dedication to our school and led the school team and community with empathy, inspiration, commitment and compassion and in so doing gave our school the opportunity to flourish and be admired.

“Frances has left the school in safe hands with an experienced team of teaching staff, support staff and Governors. For the Summer term, Guy Brigg Deputy Head and Year 6 Teacher agreed to be Interim Head Teacher supported by Sarah Goldsworthy and Becky Roberts as Interim Assistant Heads. With the support of our Academy Trust – Oxfordshire Diocesan Schools Trust, the Governor’s made the decision that it would be best for the whole school community if Guy, Sarah and Becky led the school through the Summer Term and a new Headteacher to start in September.

Rob O'Malley
Rob O’Malley

“I am delighted that after a rigorous recruitment process Mr Rob O’Malley has been appointed as our new Headteacher and will lead Dr Radcliffe’s into a new chapter in its history.

“Mr O’Malley comes to us as an experienced Headteacher. Originally from London, he has taught in schools in Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes and has been the Headteacher of two Milton Keynes schools for the last 12 years. He looks forward to joining Dr Radcliffe’s and working with the children, families, staff, Governors, Rev. Harriet and the local community. We eagerly await the arrival of Rob and look forward to welcoming him to our vibrant school community.”

In a letter to parents earlier this month, Lisa wrote of her great sadness at Guy Briggs’s decision to leave full-time teaching after 23 years at the school.

She wrote: “The decision to leave has not been an easy one and it has taken Guy a great deal of time to reach this position. Guy is an exceptional teacher, educator and leader; his classroom presence inspires all those who have been taught by him and his work with the arts and around diversity, equality and inclusion has enriched our school community immensely. He has shown selfless dedication to our school and the teaching profession and has been pivotal in ensuring that Dr Radcliffe’s has flourished and is recognised as an excellent school.

“We have been privileged that he has chosen to stay at Dr Radcliffe’s for so many years and although sad at his leaving, he believes that the time is right for him to leave us to pursue other avenues in his career.”

More information about Dr Radcliffe’s School.

Lots of new attractions at the Church Fête

Steeple Aston Church Fête on Saturday, 8th July had several new stalls and activities including Graham Porcas’s steam train which had proved so successful on Coronation Day. Fortunately, the weather was much better than in May, and a big crowd were able to enjoy all that was on offer including beer and cold drinks from Vicky and Craig of the Red Lion.

With no Whit Races this year, it was good to see lots of kids getting involved in the races (results below). And a special highlight was the Tug of  War between local firemen and local Dads! Pictured here in action are the victorious fireman.

Fête organiser, Martin Dale writes:

The day dawned bright and early but Graham and Martin got there first. Graham, of course driving a tractor pulling – YES! -a Church on a trailer!! This was placed at the head of the fete and made everything feel like a village square – wonderful.

This presaged a beautiful day and a very happy event as you can see from the fantastic photographs that Nigel has taken. All the stalls and events did well and the rumpus during the children’s races and welly wanging had to be heard!

Meanwhile the Jubilee Brass band gave us some splendid editions of popular music whilst Eileen’s announcements kept us informed of what was next.

And what was it? Perhaps the dads versus the firemen tug of war – epic! Guess who won – yes the firemen.

New to us this year were : Vicky and Craig our publicans from the Red Lion – what a welcome pint that was for me! ; Graham Porcas with the Steeple Aston Express steam train – many happy customers there , do come again! ; a range of craft stalls including the ever popular Sustainable Steeple; Rebecca’s home crafts(delicious piccalilli – nearly all gone now – need a regular order there) and Indian block printing plus this year Michael Clarke’s lovely wooden garden implements and Helen Raine with her bees.

Our Prize draw was both a huge work and a huge success – many, many thanks to Chris and Ray Clarke and Claire Hall. The prizes were super and very popular.

Thanks also to Claire and her helpers for the Children’s races, the wellie wanging making a welcome return; and the children’s tug of war. And to Rachel Blair and her crew for the ever changing and popular Children’s area- it seemed bigger than ever this year – also to Michele Bowden-Maunder and the Brownies for their two jewellery stalls,

And Fiona where would we be without your delicious ice cream on such a hot day. What a joy it is that you sell local ice cream from North Aston Farms.

Did you get a winning ticket on the Shayler Family’s bottle stall? I actually did. First time.  Many thanks to them and all their helpers. Or perhaps a book  or two was more your scene at the stall run by Mary, Adrian and Bridget – thankyou to them for giving us this chance to buy quality books at cheap prices.
Round it all were cars and tractors looking their smartest. The children just love climbing on the tractors and pretending to drive them – is this the beginning of a new agricultural revolution? Our son loved tractors as a boy – now he has one!

Our rector and husband John are keen cyclists – so what do you do with old inner tubes? Yes – cycling hoopla . I had a go. Inner tubes are difficult to throw – they’re so floppy without their tyres. Nonetheless a great new attraction.

Sally Cooper once more immaculately displayed and sold out of her wonderful jams and pickles very quickly – good thing I got there early to buy some lemon curd- thanks as always.

Our WI. were resplendent in their sashes though what went on in their gazebo was a mystery to me – but I am a mere man and dare not enter!

New this year was a small but important stall run by Rachael from Trussell Trust Banbury Food bank with information about its ever-important work which we support at the church. Thank you Rachael.

No fete is complete without our throwing and firing events…the shooting gallery  and those three stalwarts – Aunt Sally, skittles and Coconut shy – great stuff!

And to round off everything – a welcome cuppa with stunning cakes this year – in the hall – thankyou to Shirley and all her helpers. And never forget those behind the scenes such as our two gatekeepers Malcolm and David who have regularly now welcomed people for a number of years – thankyou.

Altogether and hugely happy and successful day – thank you all!

Kids Races 2023 Results

Running Races

Under 5s:                     1st Emilia Joyce                      2nd Harper Oliver                    3rd Bella Burrows

Age 6-7 (Round 1)      1st Ottilie Maclean      2nd Frankie Burrows               3rd James Anthony

Age 6-7 (Round 2)      1st Rupert Hogg                       2nd Isobel Coysh                   3rd Olivia Clarke

Age 8+ (Round 1)        1st Amelia Bailey        2nd Digby Ferguson                 3rd Jack Grace

Age 8+ (Round 2)       1st Nancy Alcraft        2nd Shayan Kularajakaran       3rd Ralphie Bailey


Sack Races

Age 6-7                       1st Ottilie Maclean      2nd Frankie Burrows   3rd James Anthony

Age 8+            1st Alan Wyszkowski  2nd Hugo Wyszkowski 3rd Freddy Burrows / Harriet Hall    

Thanks to Nigel Francis for all his photos. See them in the Photo Gallery. Click on the first one to enlarge and then use the arrows.

Photos of the races and Tug of War

Photos of the Fête


Angharad takes over as council chair

The new chair of Steeple Aston Parish Council is Angharad Lloyd-Jones. She replaces Richard MacAndrew, who resigned in May after nearly five years in the post.

Angharad was co-opted on to the council in January 2022. Since then, she has been busy with projects including the opening of the Community Orchard and organising the village celebrations for the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Angharad moved into the village four years ago with her husband Justin Grainger and their daughter Seren, now seven years old. Four weeks after they moved in, they were joined by their son Aneurin.

Unfortunately, soon after he was born, lockdown started. This meant that the family were not able to join in village life in the normal way. But Angharad says it was a happy coincidence for her, meeting many friends and neighbours out and about in the village, and as they walked past her house.

The family had known the village for six years already as they bought their cottage in a dilapidated state, and it took a long time to negotiate its renovation with the local authority and then for the work to be done.

Despite her very Welsh name, Angharad was born and educated in Liverpool. However, she spent most of her weekends in North Wales where her family came from. As a proud North Walian, she has chosen to give Welsh names to both her children.

After secondary school in Liverpool, Angharad took a degree in history at Sheffield University. Her career since then has been in business development in charities and the creative industries. This included several years at Harper’s BAZAAR and Esquire, and a long spell at the Royal Academy of Arts. Her last job was as Director of Business Development and Marketing at M&C Saatchi Talk.

Angharad’s original interests in joining the parish council were the built environment, its history and architecture. However, she’s come to realise that what parish council work really does is fulfil a curiosity about people and how to make things work.  With two young children of her own at the village Pre School and primary school, she also has the concerns of families particularly in mind. She has been involved in plans for the play area since becoming a councillor.

Outside work she has an interest in contemporary craft and design and has a collection of contemporary ceramics.

More information about the Parish Council

Heyford Bridge propped up but closure postponed

Work has been done to prop up the historic Heyford Bridge temporarily after its collapse earlier in the year. Further repairs to the Medieval Grade II* Listed Bridge will continue for the next six weeks or so. But the bridge closure for resurfacing and drainage improvements planned for July has now been postponed until September. The bridge will then be closed for about  five weeks.

Here is an update from Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Corkin:

Following the reported wall and parapet failure OCC have completed the installation of a temporary propping system in the field to the North to prevent further deterioration of the Grade II Listed structure (week commencing 11th April).

• They have since arranged for vegetation clearance along the full length of the retaining walls on the North and South of the bridge, and completed a detailed survey to identify further defects that require addressing. In parallel, discussions have taken place with the CDC Conservation Team, to agree materials and workmanship requirements. A trial panel was completed in early May and feedback sought, following which an order has been placed for “Ashlar” smooth faced limestone to be used in the areas of historic stone. The newer “formed” rubble faced stone on site shall only be used for the more recent areas of repair in very localised areas (agreed with CDC conservation). I have queried this and await further information.

• The required lime mortar has arrived and the quarried stone is due anytime, meaning that our subcontractor will re-mobilise very soon to undertake the repairs to the failed areas. Additional re-pointing to more widespread areas shall also be undertaken whilst the weather is optimal.

• A Listed Building Consent Application, including the additional areas of repair identified during the early May 2023 surveys, has been submitted to CDC on 30/05/23, with reference number: PP-12190644. It has been agreed that the urgent areas of repair can be completed prior to the formal Listed Building Consent being obtained, based on the agreement of materials and workmanship with CDC.

•The repairs shall be undertaken during the next 5-6 weeks from the field to the North of the bridge, with no impact on the road.

OCC tell me they intend to return in late September this year to complete the resurfacing of the bridge and drainage improvements for a period of approximately 5 weeks, once the stone repairs have cured. A full road closure and diversion route shall be required. This differs from the original closure date of July and I have queried this. (There have been historic issues with inadequate drainage and this has led to the rubble core of wall washing out through the path of least resistance and the outer thin skin of stone on the sides of the bridge have de-bonded and in places fallen into the meadow below. The current proposal will introduce grates at regular intervals along the carriageway (connected to pipes within the bridge) to take the surface water and dispose of this via stone chutes supporting short pipe lengths based on the historic detail.)

Sunny Open Gardens day enjoyed by 400 visitors

Six Steeple Aston gardens and the Church Allotments were open on Sunday, 4th June and raised over £3,000 for the National Garden Scheme. This was quite an increase on last year’s total of £2,383.

Organisers Richard and Daphne Preston report:

“On a beautiful, sunny afternoon at the beginning of June, six gardens and The Church Allotments, opened up their gardens to the general public in an effort to raise funds for the National Garden Scheme (NGS) and what a result! Nearly 400 adults visited Steeple Aston along with some children and a few dogs and enjoyed walking around our village, admiring, not only the ‘open gardens’ but the splendour of our village and, not forgetting the amazing teas provided in the Village Hall for all those visitors.

“The end result was a grand total of £3,195 raised that included a magnificent £415 as a contribution from the village hall management committee from the proceeds of tea sales. A massive thank you has to go out to all those garden owners that toiled endlessly to make their gardens look amazing, to the allotment holders who received praise from all who ventured onto the site and of course, to all those people who made cakes and helped with the teas on the day.

“I will leave you with one quote from a visitor who had never visited our village before. “What a wonderful, welcoming village Steeple Aston is, and the gardens are simply the icing on the cake for the perfect afternoon.” This is one reason why Steeple Aston is such a special place to live.

“Thank you to all concerned.”

You can find more information about gardens open throughout the country on the NGS website


Cricketers raise £56,000 for Lord’s Taverners charity

Peter Higgins, the Chairman of Steeple Aston Cricket Club writes:

“Steeple Aston CC played the Lord’s Taverners for the third and final time on Sunday, 21st May at Great Tew CC. It was 1-1 in the previous two games and despite the village losing by 16 runs, it was a fantastic match.

“The Taverners brought a very strong team, captained by Rob Andrew, former England fly-half, and also featured eight more rugby internationals (including Marcus Smith, Will Carling and Gavin Hastings) as well as two England cricketers and one World Champion ballroom dancer – Brendon Cole from “Strictly Come Dancing”.

“In front of a crowd of 700 plus we sold a £1,000 worth of tea and cakes and in total raised more than £56,000 for the Charity. The Lord’s Taverners mission is to give disabled children the chance to play cricket with all the mental and physical health benefits that sport brings. The charity really does transform children’s lives for the better.”  

More details to come soon in the Cricket Chairman’s monthly report.

See lots of photos from Nigel Francis in the Photogallery. Click on the first photo to enlarge and then navigate using the arrows.

Object to revised chicken shed plans, says council

Steeple Aston Parish Council is encouraging villagers to object once again to further revised plans for new building at the ‘chicken sheds’ –Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston.

Back in February, the parish council and others objected to a proposal from the owners, Middle Aston Limited, to build three new storage, warehousing and office units and to replace the former scout hut building on the site.

This application was for a smaller development than the plan for 25 new business units which created a lot of concern in the village and was rejected by Cherwell District Council’s planning committee in April 2022.  But the parish council said this was still a 30 per cent increase in floor space, and the same concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety applied as in the previous applications which were rejected by the planning authorities.

Now the developers have made some changes to their plans. They now confirm that they will not build the footpath along the road requested by Oxfordshire County Council, but will make a connection from the site to The Beeches footpath instead.

They also plan to reduce the number of parking spaces from 28 to 14, and instead increase the amount of cycle parking. This is in line with OCC’s recent guidance that unfortunately applies urban standards to rural situations.   

The parish council discussed these changes at its May meeting and concluded that these changes were likely to make the development more dangerous. They were concerned that the reduction in parking spaces would lead to more parking on Fir Lane. This extra parking on the road would make it even more dangerous without the footpath that Highways authorities had asked for.

Councillors are urging all villagers who objected in the past to resubmit their objections, as these changes are classed as a “reconsultation” and earlier objections don’t count.

It is easy to submit comments on to the CDC website

The deadline is currently June 2nd but councillors are going to ask for an extension to the timing for comments and they will try to contact those who wrote in before to see if they will make similar comments again.

Organiser reports on Coronation Day in Steeple Aston

Steeple Aston bellringers started the day by joyfully ringing the
church bells

Coronation bellringers

Photographer Nigel Francis checked out the party preparations 

See lots of photos of the parade and party by Nigel

See a video of the parade

Our very own King and Queen took a ride on the Royal Train with Graham Porcas

Organiser Helen Wright reports on the day’s events:

It was 70 years since the last time Steeple Aston put on a village parade to celebrate a Coronation – and Saturday 6th May 2023 dawned just as grey and wet as it did back in 1953.

Some taking part remembered previous parades (if not as far back as ’53!) – but on the day we were all able to reminisce with a look at Martin Lipson’s fascinating SAVA display looking back at village parades over the years.

This year’s parade left Robinson’s Close and headed for Paines Hill – with Jodie Hall as our “royal outrider” in a borrowed Twizy decked out in Union flags. Followed by a beautiful vintage Jaguar (dating from the 1960s) loaned to us by local charity Starter Motor and carrying our very own royalty – King John Williamson and Queen Julia Whybrew. We then had Daragh and Felix Cassidy and Woody Wright valiantly playing God Save the King on their French Horn, Clarinet and Cornet – trying to keep spirits high in the downpour! The WI had a brilliant float – even if the rain meant some of their plans had to stay under cover. Nick Powell drove his vintage tractor followed by Graham Clifton at the wheels of another tractor – pulling an impressive church on wheels! A brilliant homemade replica of St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church carrying representatives of the Church and the Bellringers. Next came the Toddler Group (that meet on Thursday mornings in the SRC) – they’d created some beautiful crowns to wear which were mostly under cover from the rain, though we’re told they’d had lots of fun making them!

The Allotment Association were also out in force (they don’t let a bit of rain stop them!) – and dressed as scarecrows they pushed wheelbarrows along the route carrying fruit & veg representations of the Crown Jewels. The dog walkers of the village were next – led by Rachel Marsden and a beautiful “Coronation Canines” banner. The Brownies (who meet on a Wednesday evening) as well as some Guides, followed, and they were in fine voice singing campfire songs with Brown Owl Fiona McCloone at the helm. Next, if it wasn’t so wet you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Disney Parade because Rebecca Holland and her family came dressed as the Shrek Royal Family – complete with pony and trap! And finally we had Charlotte Harris and Alexander on a pony in full regalia. It really was a sight we’ll all remember for many years to come.

So many in the village stood on their doorsteps to watch and wave flags, and many more followed the parade along Water Lane and North Side and back to Robinson’s Close, where the King and Queen had audiences with them all and awarded them with commemorative souvenirs; thankfully in the shelter of a marquee.

The event organisers Helen Wright and Josie Cassidy were made Dames (!!) before the gathered throng enjoyed hog roast, pizza, rides on Graham Porcas’s miniature steam train, Antonia Maclean’s glitter tattoos, bouncy castle, selfies with the King, Coronation cocktails (made by The Red Lion) and an 80s disco until late…

As well as all those already mentioned – huge thanks to all who helped set up and clear up, those led by Josie in our rolling road block, plus Angharad Lloyd-Jones, Nigel Francis, Cathy Fleet, Jenna Burwell, Amanda Rodgers – and to event sponsors Village Storage, Rectory Homes, 9-2-3 Jobs, Steeple Aston Parish Council, Cherwell District Council and The National Lottery Community Fund.

It really was wonderful to have the whole community together – all showing such amazing spirit in the face of such terrible weather! Cheers!

There is a selection of photos in the Photogallery

Richard signs off from the council with final report

Richard MacAndrew retired as Chair of the Parish Council with a final report presented to the Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council in May. His replacement will be Angharad Lloyd-Jones who was elected at the same meeting.

In his final Annual Report, Richard thanked all the many people who help keep the village going in both paid and unpaid roles. There were special thanks for the Parish Clerk and his fellow councillors, particularly his deputy Martin Lipson who, he said “has been a huge support and a purveyor of sound advice throughout my time in office.”

Richard has had a varied and interesting time as chair, having to deal with the effects of pandemic as well as normal parish council issues. Under his leadership the council was able to coordinate the support of villagers during lockdown with deliveries of food and medicine as well as learn to cope with meetings on Zoom!

But there have been plenty of important and interesting events over the past year, including the establishment of the Environment and Sustainability Committee (the ESC), and the donation to the village of the Community Orchard.

The council has also decided to sell the waste land behind the War Memorial with the funds raised going towards the development of the Pocket Park.

Richard reported that the recently introduced traffic and pedestrian system at the new South Side development Townend had been well-received by villagers and was thought to improve road safety. And work had started on considering other areas for housing development in the village following the publication of Cherwell District Council’s draft local plan (later withdrawn) which required the building of 47 new houses in Steeple Aston.

Other highlights of the year noted in his report were the very soggy Coronation celebrations and “a well-attended, and extremely useful, defibrillator awareness session to instruct people how to use the defibrillators in the village.”

Although Richard is leaving the council, he has volunteered to continue with some of his former responsibilities including making regular checks that the defibrillators are working.  The council’s speed detector runs on a battery that must be changed each month and he will continue to deal with this.  He will also liaise about two new speed detectors which are on order, though these will be solar powered so won’t need a battery change. 

In conclusion, Richard sent his best wishes and support to his successor and said, “I hope that the activities of the Parish Council and the developments we have enacted over the last four to five years have had a positive effect on village life. From a personal point of view, it has been a hugely enriching experience.”

Tories win Deddington seat, but lose district council

In the local elections on 4th May, the Conservatives hung on to the Deddington ward, which includes Steeple Aston. Our new councillor is Andrew McHugh. He had 1,280 votes compared with 796 for the Labour candidate Annette Murphy and 547 for the Liberal Democrats. There were also 300 votes for the Greens.

Councillor McHugh’s victory went against the trend both nationally and locally. Cherwell District Council was the only Conservative-controlled council in Oxfordshire before the elections. But the Conservatives have now lost overall control after losing five seats. They had been in control of the council for over 20 years.

The Conservatives are still the largest party on the council, but talks are now expected between the other parties to try and form a ruling coalition.

Councillor McHugh was previously on Cherwell District Council, representing Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote from 2016 until he stood down in May last year. He is a former Army Officer with a background in overseas healthcare and worked as the practice manager of a large GP surgery in Banbury.

Turnout in the Deddington ward was 39.65%. And the votes cast were:

James Hartley Liberal Democrat 547

Andrew McHugh Conservative 1280

Annette Murphy Labour 796

Linda Newbery Green 300


Vote for your district councillor on May 4th

Polling will take place in the local elections on Thursday, May 4th at the Village Hall between 7.00am and 10.00pm.

There is just one Cherwell District Councillor to be elected in the Deddington ward. The candidates are:

James Hartley Liberal Democrat

Andrew John McHugh Conservative

Annette Murphy Labour

Linda Iris Newbery Green

There are no parish council elections in Steeple Aston this time.


Accepted forms of photo ID


Spring Show attracts highest number of visitors

toddlers under the table
Young visitors making their own entertainment!

On a fairly grey Sunday at the end of March, Spring arrived in Steeple Aston Village Hall courtesy of many villagers and friends who discovered amazing daffodils in their garden, baked numerous cakes and created stunning floral art exhibits or handicraft items. Spring had arrived!

With over 360 entries, this was one of the best supported Spring Shows on record, thanks to all the wonderful people who took the time to enter something, be it a bowl of tulips or a photograph. Accompanied by what we believe to be the highest number of visitors ever to visit a Spring Show, what a way to kick off a new season. The tea ladies were kept busy serving up some delicious cakes and as I have always been told, if there is a gathering of more than three people, then there must be a raffle and what a raffle!

Congratulations to all the trophy winners and prize winners in all classes but most importantly, a big thank-you to all those who exhibited. As with all organisations, these events don’t just happen and it is thanks to a wonderful committee, this show is such a success.

On the subject of the committee, we are capable of organising a flower show, but we are also getting that bit older and come the Annual Show on August Bank Holiday Monday, we could really use some help. Even if for only a hour or so on the day. If you feel you would like to help keep the annual village show going, please let me or a committee member know. We have only been around since 1869 and for some of us, it feels just like that!

Thank-you to everyone who contributed in any way to preserve village life and traditions and hope to see you all on August 28th.

Richard Preston – Horticultural Society Chairman – 01869 340512

Spring Show results

More great photos Thanks to Nigel Francis

Preparatory work starts at Heyford Bridge

There has been lots of activity on Heyford Bridge recently with the arrival of  a  ‘welfare cabin’,  fencing and a temporary road surface. All this is in preparation for refurbishment works in July. However.local people are concerned that vehicles, including HGVs are still able to use the bridge.

Oxford County Councillor Ian Corkin explained that the current works  are ” in anticipation of the ecological survey, consequent vegetation management, full bridge condition survey and temporary remedial works prior to full restoration in July. All this work is necessary to ensure the bridge, which is Grade 2 listed and sits in a Grade 1 listed landscape, is appropriately conserved and repaired.”

At their March meeting, Steeple Aston Parish Councillors were shown photos of the bridge, part of which has now collapsed. They were told that Lower Heyford parish councillors were extremely angry about this. They had been warning the highways authorities that this would happen for years.

And local people are very concerned as they’re being told by Oxford County Council Highways that the 16th century bridge is still safe to use and won’t be repaired until the summer.  Ian Corkin  reported in March that engineers from the council had inspected the bridge and, despite the collapse, said they remain convinced that it is structurally sound and still doesn’t warrant a structural weight restriction. 

In a news release, OCC said: “Vehicles can continue to use Heyford Bridge in Lower Heyford, near Bicester, despite the impact of water damage to the structure.

As a precaution, temporary safety barriers have been installed to reduce the width of the carriageway. Maintenance teams are satisfied there is no need to close the road and no weight limits are required.

Oxfordshire County Council intends to carry out the stonework reconstruction work this summer, at the same time as it undertakes scheduled repairs to the bridge.”

Ric Fowles, Chair of Lower Heyford Parish Council, expressed the anger of local people when he   wrote: “The Parish Council cannot begin to express how angry and disappointed we are with Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council about the significant structural collapse on our Medieval Grade II* Listed Bridge. As it is part of the fabric of our community, we have petitioned you for years to prevent this. You have ignored us repeatedly, passing the buck for sorting it between each other, cancelling the repairs on several occasions. You have told us that the bridge was structurally sound, but you were lying and we knew that you were.

“Now, in a completely unfulfilling ‘I told you so moment’, we mere mortals were correct. Cllr Liz Leffman, Charlbury and Wychwood, I wrote to you to raise concerns about the way OCC do their business. You took months to respond and provided no leadership on the issue. We have written to Victoria Prentis and Cllr Ian Corkin who have tried but seem to be equally ignored by the authorities. While OCC and CDC have dragged their heels, the PC have sent hundreds of emails to you and our residents on this issue, yet you decided not to listen to the community. You have neglected your duties and now the repair costs will be significantly higher, which we will all foot the bill for. It is no wonder that you are financially struggling if this is how you manage the County.

“We have been let down by the local government system and you need to sort yourselves out and start listening. Properly listening. Not just fobbing us off. What is the point of local governance if you view it with such contempt. Shame on you.”

Villagers are particularly worried about the large number of heavy lorries still using the bridge. But for Steeple and Middle Aston residents the closure of the bridge in the summer will mean a lengthy diversions for those travelling to and from Bicester and Junction 9 of the M40.

First woman to be appointed as Rector

photo ofnew RectorThe Revd Harriet Orridge has been appointed as the Rector of Steeple Aston, the first woman to take up the role.  

She will have responsibility for the Benefice of Steeple Aston, North Aston and Tackley, but will live in The Rectory on Fir Lane, Steeple Aston.

The new Rector’s appointment was announced in churches on Sunday, 19th March, and it is hoped she will start work in June.

Rev’d Harriet has sent this message to her prospective parishioners:

Thank you for inviting me to come and join you as Rector. As a way of introducing myself, I’ve been asked to write a brief biography.

I grew up in South Buckinghamshire, before moving away to go to university in Sheffield. There I studied Biomedical technology, and met my husband John. After University, I trained as a science teacher, before taking a career break to be a full time mum to our three children (the youngest of which is celebrating his 21st Birthday). As a scientist I have always loved finding God in the minute details of our universe, which are too extraordinary to be an accident.

God called me to ordination on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of Women’s ordination. I have a passion for rural ministry, recognising that God loves everyone, and the importance and depth of relationships, and that can be built within smaller communities. Having completed my curacy in rural Leicestershire, we hopped across the border into Lincolnshire, where for 8 years I led a group of 4 rural churches. I’m currently working for the Wychert Vale group, whilst also helping cover services within the local area.

I am looking forward to coming and getting to know you all, and I’m excited to see what God has planned as we move forward together. Please pray for us as we move house and for the churches, and the wider communities of the Benefice and for our future ministry together.

God bless Rev’d Harriet


Lord’s Taverners Cricket Evening lifts local spirits

Villagers packed in to Steeple Aston Church on the evening of Friday, 10th March to enjoy a special treat – an hour of readings and music on the subject of cricket. The event was in aid of the Lord’s Taverners charity which helps young people with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds to develop their skills through sport.

The concert was the first of four events in aid of the charity organised by Steeple Aston Cricket Club.  There will be a Golf Tournament at Denham Golf Club on Tuesday, 21st March and a  Lord’s Taverners Pre-Match dinner at Great Tew CC on Saturday, 20th May, billed as an evening with Sporting Superstars. Then on Sunday, 21st May SACC will play a Lord’s Taverners team including famous sporting stars and entertainers. The umpires will be David Gower, Mike Gatting and Gladstone Small.

The fund-raising got off to a good start with over £2,000 raised at the concert. This review of the evenings entertainment is provided by “Amadeus”:

On a cold March evening a group of talented local musicians, and a distinguished actor from stage, television and film, provided Steeple Aston with a wonderfully light-hearted evening celebrating cricket and, more importantly, the charitable work of the Lord’s Taverners.

Under the musical leadership of local maestro Nick Cleobury we were given a joyous hour of music, readings and witticisms that lifted everybody’s spirits. The choir sang magnificently music from Benjamin Britten (Flower Song), Josquin des Prez (El Grillo/The Cricket), Peter Warlock (The Cricketers of Hambledon), Don Bradman (Every day is a rainbow day for me)  and Rodgers and Hammerstein (June Is Bustin’ Out All Over). Local singer, Rebecca Lewin, gave a beautiful solo performance with excellent support from the choir.

The Cricketers of Hambledon featured the superb solo voice of Charles Cunliffe, a young bass-baritone singer from the Royal Academy of Music Opera School.  Charles also treated us to a delightful rendition of The Green-Eyed Dragon (Wolsely Charles), combining his wonderful voice with excellent theatricality. A great future surely awaits this talented young musician.

Readings were presented with appropriate mirth and gusto by the celebrated actor Robert Powell (The Thirty Nine Steps, The Detectives, Dalziel and Pascoe). Robert gave splendid performances of Cricket Explained to a Foreigner (the one about ‘ins’ and ‘outs’), Seaside Golf (John Betjeman) and Lament and Triumph (Derek Walcott). Robert is a keen cricketer and a Past President of the Lord’s Taverners, and is now an Ambassador for the charity.

The fearsome Australian fast bowlers, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson were remembered thanks to an audio recording of Richard Stilgoes’s hilarious song Lillian Thomson, which deftly plays upon a merging/mishearing of the surnames of these two great Aussie sportsmen. A classic if there ever was one!

An evening celebrating cricket would not be complete without a recording of that most catchy theme tune for BBC’s Test Match Special (Soul Limbo). Thanks go to Nick and Heather Cleobury for such clever programming and giving Steeple Aston a highly enjoyable evening.

The seriousness of the evening was brought home by a short video presenting the work of the Lord’s Taverners. This remarkable charity helps raise the aspirations and potential of young people with disabilities, and from disadvantaged communities, by providing innovative, inclusive, and impactful cricket programmes. A collection at the end of the evening raised over £2,000, for which the Lord’s Taverners is truly grateful.

More photos from Nigel Francis are in the PhotoGallery. Click on the first one to enlarge and then use the arrows.

Read a copy of the Concert Programme

Villagers welcome reopening of The Red Lion

New landlords Craig Schindler and Victoria Sykes welcomed villagers back to The Red Lion on Friday, 10th March after a closure of nearly two months.

Landlords with Sue & Andy King

Pictured here are the first couple in the door when the pub reopened, Sue and Andy King, toasting our new publicans. Local artist Sue was quick off the mark persuading Craig and Victoria to display eight of her paintings in the pub.

Catherine Crook, who took these photographs, reported: “Craig and Victoria offered every customer their first drink on the house. Within a very short time the room filled, conversation buzzed and the log fire kept us all warm.  It was a great atmosphere and our new publicans were kept busy serving and conversing with local villagers and their guests.” 

            pub opening

The pub was only serving drinks for the first week. Food service started on Friday, 17th March. Times and menus Craig, who is a qualified chef, has been in the business for 10 years, most recently working at The Royal Lodge, Symonds Yat.

They are starting with a small menu of traditional pub food – fish and chips, burgers, steaks and risotto – and Sunday lunch. Over time they plan to expand their opening hours and offer lunches. The snug bar will be available for private dining, buffets, functions, meetings etc.

Both Victoria and Craig are originally from South Wales. Victoria worked in hospitality for many years. Most recently they have been learning their trade as temporary landlords in Devizes and Northleach.

They appreciated the very warm welcome from villagers on their opening night, but need the continuing support of residents  to enable them to expand their offering. They are waiting for their phone and email to be connected. So if you want to know what’s going on, the best thing to do is to pop in and say hello.

Opening Hours

Monday closed

Tues – Thursday 4pm – 10pm

Friday – Saturday 12 – close

Sunday 12 – 8pm

Now serving food – times and menus on their website



School and Parish Council object to chicken sheds plans again

Chicken sheds site plan

Steeple Aston Parish Council has objected once again to a planning application from Middle Aston Limited to develop the ‘chicken sheds’- Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston. The Governors of Dr Radcliffe’s Primary School have also objected again.

This application is for a smaller development than the plan for 25 new business units which created a lot of concern in the village and was rejected by the council’s planning committee last April.

The new application is for the erection of three new storage, warehousing and office units and the replacement of the former scout hut building, known as Unit 3. The new buildings will be at the rear of the site and out of public view.

However, the parish council says this is still a 30 per cent increase in floor space, and the same concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety apply as  in the previous applications which were rejected by the planning authorities.

The council also says that following a Freedom of Information request they have discovered that Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways officers who offered no objection to previous applications had no empirical evidence for their stance. They had not done a survey, nor had they observed the site at school drop off and pick up times.

The School Governors say that “the amount of traffic passing school is currently a problem and an increase in traffic is a cause of great concern now and in the future. As a Governing Body, and as a school at the heart of the community, our responsibility is the safety and safeguarding of our pupils.”

As well as the school, Fir Lane is home to the Pre School, playground, sports fields, Village Halland Sport and Recreation Centre, all of which generate traffic  – coaches, cars, cyclists and pedestrians as well as passing farm vehicles, vans and lorries. The parish council has included photos of the traffic at peak times in its comments.

The Parish Council’s objection comes under the following headings:

  1. Increase of use – the application involves a 30 per cent increase in floor area
  2. Pedestrian Safety and Dr Radcliffe’s School-  Pedestrian safety is already an issue, and there have been numerous near-misses of children walking in or crossing Fir Lane.
  3. Travel plan and vehicle movements – the developers’ suggestion that significant numbers of employees will walk, cycle or catch public transport to the site aren’t credible
  4. Construction period – no suitable routes for construction vehicles are acceptable
  5. Need for an extended footpath from the school to the site
  6. National Planning Policy Framework – “this application is exactly what the NPPF guidance seeks to avoid – a development that will have a negative impact on local roads, and fails to facilitate safe access on foot.”

Large numbers of villagers objected to previous applications for development at this site.  You can see the plans and make your own comments on the Cherwell District Council’s website.The deadline for comments is 16th March.

The Parish Council’s objection.

Dr Radcliffe’s School objection.

Public meeting agrees approach to additional village housing

Nearly 70 villagers attended a public meeting to discuss the district council’s suggestion that 47 more houses should be built in Steeple Aston in the next 15 years. After much discussion, the meeting agreed that the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan team should start the process of looking for suitable sites, though there would be no guarantee on the numbers of houses to be built. The following week Steeple Aston Parish Council endorsed this approach. See the presentation slides from the meeting.

Martin Lipson, parish councillor and Chair of the Mid Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum reports:

With 68 people in attendance on the evening of February 16th, the Parish Council’s public meeting on this controversial issue was a deemed a successful event. Martin Lipson presented the background to Cherwell’s forthcoming Local Plan consultation, a draft of which had revealed the proposed additional housing for “larger villages” such as ours.

One of the most interesting aspects of Martin’s presentation showed how Steeple Aston has grown over the last one hundred years:

Location Houses built Year completed
Heyford Hill 4 1923
The Crescent 24 1938
Nizewell Head 32 1950s
Jubilee Close 24 1964
Heyford Road 8 1965
Bradshaw Close 21 1969
Water Lane 5 1969
Grange Park 38 1970
Lawrence Fields 14 1998
Shepherds Hill 8 2003
Coneygar Fields 12 2014
Townend 10 2023
TOTAL 200 In 100 years


The above table does not include the 40 or so “windfall” houses on individual sites, and the 18 or so conversions from other building types that have occurred in the same period. Seen in this light, the suggestion that we might take some more houses over the next 15 years was perhaps easier to accept. Certainly, while no one present spoke against the principle, there was a view from some that the consultation would be an opportunity to object to the proposals, and that the parish council should consider doing so. There were several disparaging comments about the type and the prices of newly-built developer housing such as those nearing completion at Townend. Several people, though, spoke in favour of additional houses, wanting to see a sustainable future for the village, with a population able to continue supporting the shop, a pub, school, bus service and the other facilities we are so fortunate to have. The issue of the availability and future of local GP services was also raised, particularly key for those without access to transport.

The important question for many was how we could ensure that the right kind of homes were built on the right sites. The clear need was for older people to downsize, probably to single-storey dwellings if possible, and for younger people to have “starter homes” that were genuinely affordable. It was also important that any new buildings should be of good quality design and suitable materials for the local context.  

Martin explained that, if the community supported the idea, the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan team could take forward the next steps on selecting possible sites for housing in the eligible villages. Kirtlington was facing similar questions, and Fritwell too might be asked to have more dwellings.

A working group would be set up to determine the criteria for site selection, and then to evaluate a longlist of sites. The working group would have representatives from each of the parishes concerned, along with others to ensure objectivity. At the end of this process, the group would approach the owners of the small number of sites that are viable, to determine whether those sites might be available. If so, then an initial view could be taken of the numbers of homes suitable for each site. It would not necessarily be the number that Cherwell had put forward. The whole process would be published to maintain transparency and to keep people informed.

Delivery, too, could be controlled by a community-led development process, ensuring that the right homes are built. But that is a long way off and would need much more discussion in due course.

The meeting closed with general agreement that we should proceed on that basis, and await views from Kirtlington and Fritwell parish councils over the next few weeks. When Steeple Aston Parish Council met a few days later, it endorsed that view.

Presentation slides

NB It should be noted that much of Steeple Aston is a Conservation Area. This means that any changes, such as the building of new houses  or alterations to existing buildings are subject to  particular scrutiny and regulation. Read the most recent Conservation Area Appraisal for more details.

Sign up for the village Coronation Parade 


coronation logo

The organisers of the village Coronation Day celebrations are now asking people to sign up to take part in the Coronation Parade around the village. And they have recruited the experienced theatre director Catie Simpson to organise the event. If you want to take part, you need to contact Catie by Wednesday, 1st March. 

Organisers Helen Wright and Josie Cassidy have all the details, they write:

We wanted to give you an update on preparations for the Steeple & Middle Aston Coronation Parade and Party; as we’re hoping you might want to take part in some way!

As we don’t yet know the exact time the Coronation itself is taking place, our timings on the Saturday (6th May) are still tbc – however the fabulous Catie Simpson (who’s both performed in, choreographed and directed amazing shows around the world – including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium and Smut’s Saga at Duns Tew Village Hall) has agreed to look after our Coronation Parade, as our very own “Creative Director”.

We know some groups have already started constructing their entries and we have our very own King Charles and Queen Consort who will judge them on the day.

This parade is free to enter and open to everyone. We think it will be a fantastic way to both celebrate your group/club and raise awareness of it (you might even recruit some new members on the day!).

We also want to welcome individuals coming together (for example a school class of friends or a family or a street/close) or a more informal group with shared interests (for example a Book Club). Or if you’re affiliated to another group further afield that wants to join, for example Steeple Aston Brownies might want to invite Deddington / Adderbury Guides along too; or you might find that many of your team mates at Deddington Football Club or Banbury Rugby Club actually live in Steeple Aston so you want to come together etc.

However we must remind everyone that every individual and every organisation/group that takes part in the event does so entirely at their own risk!  

Do let us know if you have any questions. And please do spread the word and have those conversations!

If you’d like to take part then please read and agree to the Event Safety Notice, and then contact Catie  ( to register your interest.  Catie will be putting together a route and timetable for the floats and suggesting suitably regal themes for participants to follow. She will need to know how you plan on parading (whether that’s a float or a wheelbarrow, a bicycle or on foot) and the size of your group.

We want this to be a fun event which is open to everyone – so feel free to put your heads together with friends and neighbours and please get back to Catie by Wednesday, 1st March.

Following on from the parade there will be a party at Robinson’s Close – depending on how our fundraising goes this will either be in a marquee or in the Village Hall. There will be food and entertainment for all ages – we’re hoping to make this a day to remember for the whole community!

Speaking of fundraising – if you or your business or the organisation you work for would like to make a donation towards putting on this fabulous event, we have sponsorship packages from £50. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss options.

A final point is to say that all ideas and suggestions are welcome!

Thank you for your support.

Event Safety Notice


Have your say on Banbury traffic plan

While thousands of people protested recently against the introduction of traffic filters and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Oxford, there are concerns that a scheme for Banbury could lead to something similar. There is still time for villagers to have their say as the Banbury plan is out for consultation until 26th February.

Oxford is being divided into four areas, North, South, East and West and there will be traffic filters. When the filters become fully operative, cars without a permit will be able to drive unrestricted in each sector, but direct movement between sectors will only be possible by using the ring road. Banbury doesn’t have a ring road, but there are concerns that cars could have limited access to the town centre as a result of these proposals.

Cherwell District Council’s Banbury Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) is a 10-year plan, one of several being developed across Oxfordshire. It is designed to address the challenges of the climate emergency and health inequalities, and is part of the vision for 2an inclusive, safe and net-zero carbon transport system in the county.”

The district council says its ambition is “to create a cycling and walking network within and around Banbury that is accessible for all and where everyone feels safe when they are cycling and walking. This will ultimately make cycling and walking the preferred travel option for journeys within the area.”

The plan includes a Banbury Core Walking Zone of two kilometres from the Market Place and a network of cycle routes where there will be improvements to encourage more cycling. The proposed cycle route network will comprise 18 separate cycle routes within Banbury and seven routes serving the surrounding villages.

Oxford County Councillor Arash Fatemian believes these proposals could have adverse implications for those who live in villages further away from Banbury but need to travel there by car. He has encouraged Steeple Aston parish councillors to complete the consultation survey. He wrote: “Whilst this is about cycling and walking infrastructure (hence the acronym), if you consider the proposals, you will see that this will lead to significant disruption in Banbury.

“I would ask you to fill this in considering the implications for villagers and businesses that rely on Banbury for their work, leisure, retail and health. If the proposals are implemented, then entering and parking in Banbury will be severely limited and take much longer, making any business, retail, or residential visits a lot more difficult than at present.”

Read The Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and then complete the council’s survey


Pupils to lose their school transport from September

Oxfordshire County Council is withdrawing a number of Spare Seat Scheme bus routes from their school transport provision for economic reasons.

Among the affected routes are the 1-WA17 taking students from The Astons and Duns Tew to Warriner School and the 2-ML05 taking students from Steeple Aston and The Heyfords to Marlborough School.

The scheme allows parents with children not eligible for free home-to-school transport to pay to use spare seats on school buses. Currently parents pay £244 per term for a seat where available. The council said it was withdrawing the places where it was no longer cost-neutral to provide them.

This is not a complete surprise as the Warriner bus was threatened back in 2019, though the decision was eventually reversed. However, the local authority only agreed to guarantee the service for a year and there was talk then that the Marlborough bus might come under threat in future.

Now concerned parents have set up a Facebook Group called Save Our Bus Seats. Over 150 people joined the group in its first week.

The group is challenging the OCC decision and asking to see the economic justification for it. It is also trying to understand what alternative options are available for children in Oxfordshire’s rural communities to get to school.

They say: “Individual car journeys is not the answer, not only on environmental grounds but also due to unfair discrimination against key worker families whose shift patterns don’t fit school drop off and pick up times. The bus routes are for secondary school children who should have the ability to get to school without relying on their parents, to help with their growing independence. Some of the affected communities have no public transport within a safe walking distance and therefore no alternative.”

The Save Our Bus Seats Facebook page

Profile will start search for new Rector

The Benefice of Steeple Aston, Middle Aston, North Aston and Tackley has published a profile document as the first step in its search for a new Rector.

The position has been vacant since last July when Revd Marcus Green left to become Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford after nine years in office.  However, he had already been absent from the village with a period of sickness followed by a sabbatical.

In accordance with Church of England practice it was expected that there would be an interregnum of about a year until the appointment of a new Rector, but effectively the benefice has been without a leader for much longer than that. This has placed an increased burden on the churchwardens and others involved in the administration of all three churches.

Now the publication of the profile marks the start of the process of making a new appointment. In a Forward, the Rt. Revd Gavin Collins, Bishop of Dorchester writes that the benefice is seeking “a Rector who will be warm, welcoming to all and friendly.” He also says that applications from those who would increase the diversity within the benefice would be particularly welcome.

The 19-page document describes all three churches, their activities and parishioners. There are also sections on church finance and the Rectory in Steeple Aston where the new Rector will live. The section on the villages they serve describes Steeple Aston as an attractive and lively village.

Read the Parish Profile in full.

‘Chicken sheds’ owners apply to build three more units

Chicken sheds site plan

Middle Aston Ltd, the owner of the ‘chicken sheds’ – Hatch End Old Poultry Farm between Steeple and Middle Aston – have put in a new planning application to Cherwell District Council..

This is for a much smaller development than the plan for 25 new business units which created a lot of concern in the village and was rejected by the council’s planning committee last April.

This new application is for the erection of three new storage, warehousing and office units and the replacement of the former scout hut building, known as Unit 3. The new buildings will be at the rear of the site and out of public view.

The plans include the provision of 24 new car parking spaces and 10 new cycle parking spaces. The net increase in commercial floorspace at the site is 611sqm. The proposed layout is shown above.

The estate currently covers 2,246sqm of commercial floorspace. With the addition of the proposed new buildings the entire estate will provide 14 business units. The work to complete the site’s redevelopment is expected to take around 13 weeks.

Since the rejection of the larger scheme last April, the company have painted and refurbished the existing units and they have been let to a variety of local businesses. They announced in August that after meeting with representatives of the parish council and Middle Aston’s parish meeting that they would propose a development with lower intensity of use.

Comments from members of the public are due by 9th February, but Steeple Aston Parish Council has asked for a three-week extension. The application will go to the Planning Committee for a decision after that.

You can view the plans and make comments on the Cherwell District Council’s website.

Public meeting to discuss planned increase in new homes

Steeple Aston Parish Council has called a public meeting to discuss a controversial plan from Cherwell District Council to build nearly 50 more houses in the village over the next 15 years.

Martin Lipson, Chair of Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum, and Steeple Aston parish councillor explains:

Steeple Aston residents are faced with having to absorb 47 more new houses, in the newly-released Local Plan for Cherwell, which covers the period from 2020 to 2040. We are one of eleven ‘larger villages’ (a new classification) that are to share in the supply of 500 new houses across the District’s rural areas. While the main concentrations of new housing will remain as extensions of Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington and Upper Heyford, those rural communities fortunate enough to have adequate support services (bus connection, school, shop, etc.), such as ours, do not escape their share.

We are at an early stage of the adoption of the new Local Plan – its public consultation runs until March 17th and will go through various stages before it is written in stone, probably in late 2024. There will also be several opportunities for the public to comment on, object to, or indeed support its 88 draft policies, many of which are progressive and helpful to rural communities as well as to urban folk.

But local people may well question how a village such as ours can accommodate a 12% increase in its population in the 15-year period after the Plan is confirmed. When the Parish Council agreed in 2018 to the last increase in housing in the village, it was limited to 5%, or about 20 houses (10 of which are now under construction at Townend on Sixty Foot). It’s a big leap to now go from the 10  remaining to 47. Is it even possible?

In the draft document, Cherwell asks parish councils affected by these housing proposals to respond to the consultation, stating whether they wish to leave it to the District Council to decide on the sites that should be used for the additional houses, or – alternatively – whether they want the parish council to choose the sites themselves: for the local community to determine the location, number, and type of housing on sites that are considered suitable. This second option is only available to parishes that have, or will have, a neighbourhood plan, through which they can determine local needs more accurately and sensitively than would be done by the District.

Steeple Aston is, as most readers will know, one of the group of parish councils that make up the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan Forum, of which I am Chairman. So we are fortunate in being able to say – if we choose to do so – that the parish wants to control the next stages of the process. A review of our Neighbourhood Plan is also under way, so we have the opportunity to work with other local parishes (especially Kirtlington, which has a similar number of houses allocated to it) in deciding on these questions. Initial discussion at Steeple Aston parish council’s meeting in January supported this idea, and decided that there should be a public meeting for parishioners to better understand what might be involved. See the advert above for details.

At the same time, the Government has published its intentions to change the way in which housing need is calculated, and so the numbers behind the Local Plan, which have generated the figure of 500 for the larger villages, could change. There is much water still to flow under this particular bridge.

Red Lion closes again

Once again, Steeple Aston’s Red Lion pub has closed. Landlords Charlene and Ryan Keogh announced their departure in mid-January. Their last night was Thursday, 19th January.

Villagers responded with disappointment to the announcement on Facebook. Many paid tribute to the Keogh’s attempts to attract business and make the pub an attractive place to go. Charlene responded, “We would like to say a big thank you to everyone that has supported us.”

This is the third time that landlords have resigned since long term hosts Mel and Sarah Phipps left in 2019. The Keoghs were popular in the village but had trouble finding a permanent chef. Support from customers was said to be patchy, though they had some very successful events, most recently the carol singing on Christmas Eve.

The pub, which is owned by Hook Norton Brewery, will be shut temporarily until a new landlord is recruited. Edwin Pope, the Operations Manager at the brewery, says he is currently interviewing interested parties.