The question I want to try to answer this week is ‘Has the infrastructure kept pace with the increased population?’
This is an easy one – the answer is a resounding NO!
I first started getting interested in the scale of development and the associated infrastructure in 2011 and census data from the time shows that the population of Wantage and Grove was 18,505 and there were 7635 households.
Since then approximately 2,500 homes have been built in OX12 and a further 2,400 will be built in the next 5 years.
If we assume that the number of people in a household hasn’t changed, the population has risen by over 6,000 people already and will grow by almost the same number again in the next 5 years.
Our Health Centre has not expanded at all yet but if planning permission is granted we should end up with an additional 18 consulting rooms within 2 years.
The Community Hospital is hosting a number of clinics but the inpatient beds are still temporarily closed (and patients are being released from the JR Hospital to a hotel).
The mid-wife led maternity unit hasn’t got sufficient staff to allow births, the nearest palliative care beds are in Wallingford and we don’t have a local Minor Injuries Unit (the nearest is Abingdon).
Wantage Health and Wellbeing Centre was closed by the County Council in 2017 and is getting more derelict by the day.
Surely something could be done to improve the health and care services in this area?
Since 2011 we have one new primary school which opened September 2020 so should now have pupils in at least two year groups.
We have also seen existing schools expand as much as they can.
Some money has been made available to existing sports clubs but the latest rumour suggests that the new Leisure Strategy being developed by the District Council has hit the skids and is not expected to be completed anytime soon.
We believe that councillors are now trying to find ways of spending the money obtained from developers for the ‘new leisure centre’ in ways which meet the legal agreements before the time limits are reached and they have to refund the money.
So schools may just about be providing enough places for children living here but money available for leisure infrastructure isn’t being spent and health and care services remain badly stretched and understaffed.