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Column 15th May 2019

New council should stick with residents' wish list for future

It is now over 5 years since the Town Council received approval to go ahead with the Neighbourhood Plan on 6 January 2014.

In autumn 2014, a resident’s survey received 1,580 responses.

The residents said that over the next 20 years they wanted Wantage to maintain the good things about the town and resolve the problems of:

  • The lack of good infrastructure
  • The scale of development with insufficient thought for facilities required
  • The lack of school places
  • The limited range of shops and excess of charity shops
  • The traffic congestion, poor roads and parking
  • The poor bus service (with the exception of the Oxford service)
  • The state of the pavements and streets.

Key messages from the responses suggested that the plan should improve the green infrastructure of the town and improve the town centre and parking.

The plan was prepared and consulted on several times in 2015 and a final version went to a Planning Inspector in spring 2016.

In his report the Inspector explained that in his view whilst a number of policies would meet the basic conditions for the draft neighbourhood plan, many weren’t backed up by sufficient evidence.

We believed that there was a significant amount of evidence which may have not been presented properly and that with more work to improve the presentation, a new version could have been completed within 6 months.

At a meeting in September 2016, the Town Council decided they no longer needed the help of any volunteers and would complete the Neighbourhood Plan themselves.

Hopefully our new Town Council will now revive the plan and will keep the policies which meet residents’ aspirations.

This means including a town centre policy which reflects the views of the townsfolk and all of those who use the facilities of the town and an employment policy which encourages employment to come or at least stay here.

The Plan must show the footpaths and cycleways and those areas where improvements are required in these networks so that developer funds can best be spent to best effect.

The Plan can recognise the Green Open Spaces which do exist and which are special to our town and which have sufficient evidence to support the designation.

The Plan may not be able to do anything about the bus services, but parking was a big issue in all responses received and the Plan should look at ways of improving parking provision both for the town as a whole and on new developments.

 


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