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Column 19th September 2018

Inspector assessing long discussions on village development

The last week of the Vale Local Plan Part 2 Examination has now finished and included some very long discussions.

The most contentious topic was that of the proposal to build 1,000 more homes on the northern edge of the Harwell Campus (half on brownfield and half on greenfield). This discussion about the need for these homes and the use of part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was reported in the Herald a few weeks ago. It continued for about 6 hours with the District Council, supported by OxLEP (Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership) and the UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority),  maintaining that the Innovation Village can’t be built elsewhere.

The ‘work-live-play’ concept for knowledge rich but financially poor employees at Harwell sounded very reminiscent of the homes built when Harwell was first commissioned.

Other discussions covered the plans for 400 more homes between Grove Airfield and the railway line.

This was confused by a new paper produced by the County and District Councils proposing to work towards the reopening of Grove Station on some site to the north of Grove yet to be determined.

The District Council then suggested that all new development in Grove will be guided by a Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) for the village, including this area north-west of Grove.

The District Council will work with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), Grove Parish Council, and other relevant stakeholders to prepare this CDF for Grove that will ensure proposals are considered holistically.

This sounds a bit like a new Neighbourhood Plan for Grove written by the District Council but without the public consultation.

Another item discusses was a request from OCC that an additional highway scheme is safeguarded for improvements to the cinder cycle trackway from Steventon to Milton Park.

Of course no land is safeguarded for the cycleway proposed in the OCC Strategic Transport Plan from Grove and Wantage to Steventon along the route of the railway.

Many of the other policies were discussed briefly but this wasn’t a consultation and it was easy for a tired Inspector to ignore most comments in exactly the same way as the Council does in preparing the plan.

They did agree to amend the definition of retail frontages in Wantage to include sites on Limborough Road but ignored all requests for better policies on public parking in settlements and air quality improvements and connected cycleways.

The inspector has now gone away to deliberate on his findings.


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