What a difference a month makes.
In early February, Coronavirus was something happening on the other side of the world with very little impact on Oxfordshire. Now we have several cases and need to make sure that we take precautions like washing our hands thoroughly when we get home.
February was also the wettest month here since I started keeping records but the Brook didn't flood very much at all so thanks have to be given to Mark and the Letcombe Brook Project volunteers.
I've spent several days recently while it's been so wet making sure that our record of planning applications is up to date and that we know what is happening. I can report that since the 2011 Census about 2,500 homes have been given full planning permission in OX12 and a further 4,750 have received outline planning permission. Another 450 are either included in the local plan or have applications being considered. So in total 7,700 homes are planned for OX12 on top of the 11,500 homes included in the census.
This is all before the District Council start their new Local Plan and bow to the pressure from Dandara to allow another 800 homes to be built between Wantage and Grove and East Challow in the hope that this funds the Western link Road from the Airplane to Haynes.
We were told by NHS England in 2012 that the extension to the Health Centre was imminent - still not even agreed funding.
Our hospital was still open to in-patients for rehabilitation and respite - still temporarily closed since 2016.
The Wantage Eastern Link Road was going to be finished by 2020 - not started yet but might be finished by 2022-2023.
An £18m new leisure centre would be built in Wantage by 2020 according Matthew Barber (Leader of the District Council) in 2017 - now unlikely to happen at all.
New cycleways would be built joining Wantage and Grove to Harwell and Milton Park - still possible but don't know when.
Grove Railway Station was included in the Network Rail plans in 2011 - now being considered for 2028-2030.
New Schools would be built on Grove Airfield quickly to take the pressure off King Alfreds and our existing primary schools - a primary school will open on Crab Hill later this year but those on Grove Airfield are still years away.
Bus services are limited and generally slow even though they block Wantage Market Place regularly. Getting to Didcot can't be done on public transport in less than 40 minutes and the last bus is 8.45pm unless you want to go via Abingdon so don't try to spend an evening at the Cinema or the Cornerstone.
Parking in Wantage is a nightmare - unless you want to park on a double yellow line - even then you will have difficulty finding a space. Moving from police responsibility for inforcement to civil enforcement is being considered and might happen by 2022. Then you won't be able to find a space anywhere and travelling by car to shop or work in Wantage will just be a joke.
I mentioned this year's AGM in my last email. We were planning to have the Leaders of the County and District Councils and our new MP (David Johnston) participating in a question and answer session on 22 May in the Beacon from 7pm. Emily Smith (Leader of the Vale) will join us but Ian Hudspeth (leader of the County) has been invited to the Monaco Grand Prix and has decided he'd rather be there than with us so will be sending along Yvonne Constance instead. David Johnston will still be coming along but says that he is there mainly to listen. I think he should learn a lot.
Now, the Vale are holding a consultation on the how the public can get involved in the planning process. Your can have your say on the "Statement of Community Involvement" here.
You probably know that Blanshards will close as soon as the majority of the current stock is closed. It seems to have been here for ever. I know that I don't do much sewing but where else can I get that exact colour of cotton or those buttons that I need? I will miss it. In this new era of recyclingand sustainability I would hope that more people will be upcycling or repairing clothing or even making their own in future and it will be harder without shops like Blanshards.
Finally, don't forget that Wantage Market Place will be closed for the Freedom Parade on 21 March when the sailors from the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be in town. For updates on other road roadworks see https://one.network/ (previously Roadworks.org).
Thanks for reading.
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group