Another month has flown past and all Covid restrictions have been lifted with the exception of the requirement to self isolate when "pinged". This one restriction seems to create havoc. Our brown bin collections have been withdrawn again (we're in a new Council year so the cancellation of services for August won't require the Council to provide any refund for the loss of services even after the cancellations in the early months of the 2021).
Anyway, what has changed since last month? Quite a lot, so settle down for a long read...
The Town Council has held it's first meeting where the public could attend this week since the beginning of May and produced a raft of reports showing what has been done since then. These reports can be obtained by writing to the Clerk - who has a new email address [firstname.lastname@example.org] but aren't available on the website.
We wanted to ask a number of questions and being helpful souls submitted them in writing. The Chair of the meeting decided that our questions would taken as read (sorry to any members of the public listening via Zoom - you didn't get to hear what we had asked) and would be answered by the Clerk in writing after the meeting.
So we've decided to show you our questions now and will circulate the answers when we receive them.
- In item 26 Report by Town Clerk on matters relating to the business of the Planning Committee
it states: “The amending of the Plan document for changes proposed by the District Council has not yet been completed. The document will be distributed to the Planning Committee members as soon as this work is finished” Yet according to the Council website:
“The updated draft Wantage Neighbourhood Plan published in November 2020 is undergoing further amendment in response to input from the survey that closed on 15 January and from the District Council Planning Department. The next version of the Plan will be published in early March”
Can we have an update as to when the next version will be published?
- According to the report, a document was distributed on 10 May ‘Call for Sites Local Plan’ which details sites put forward for development, for consideration in the Local Plan 2041. We don’t see this document on the Council website, can we see a copy of this please?
- The report also includes reference to an Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Event, 7pm, Thursday 19 August 2021- Is anything being done to publicise this event to the residents of Wantage?
- In item 27 Report by Town Clerk on matters relating to the business of the Leisure and Amenities Committee there is a section on "District Council Leisure Strategy (S106 funding) – Community Engagement" in which it states that
"The Deputy Clerk has contacted the District Council regarding S106 contributions available for Wantage and will look to engage with interested parties to encourage them to apply for the funds available. I will be seeking an update on the consultation with local sports groups about the future utilisation of funds.
"The working group, involving Grove Parish Council, to engage with members of the public to seek their views regarding the leisure facilities that are needed, has not yet been established. Grove Parish Council is to discuss at their full council meeting on 3 August 2021."
Can we have a list of interested parties being contacted to encourage them to apply for the funds available, please?
Are there any S106 funds which are at risk of being returned to the developer because of delays in this consultation?
How will the “Working Group” determine which members of the public to engage with regarding the leisure facilities needed?
- In item 28 Report by Town Clerk on matters relating to the business of the Promotion, Communication and Events Committee it states that "There is the possibility of holding an event in the Market Place where bikes could be brought in to give people the opportunity to try out various bikes including e bikes."
Is this event being sponsored by a company (or companies) providing the various bikes? If not why not?
- In the papers relating to Item 30 Policy Management and Finance we note that the balance on the Instant Access Account at the Co-op currently stands at over £500,000. We also note that the proposal to place funds across a number of institutions, so that no one institution held more than the amount protected under guarantee, was incorporated into the Treasury and Investment Policy in March 2020.
What action is the Council taking to implement this policy?
- In item 32 - Actions endorsed by the Emergency Consultation Panel between 3 May and 2 August 2021, Abingdon Eagles Foundation has received a grant of £3,000 towards the cost of basketball rings.
Will these rings be installed in Wantage?
If not why are the residents of Wantage providing this grant?
If these rings are being installed in KA’s why are the school not contributing at least 50%?
- We note that under item 6 Staffing of these Actions, "as the Deputy Clerk to take over responsibility for providing support to the Promotion, Communication and Events Committee, her working hours to be increased from 20 to 25 hours per week with immediate effect and that the Clerk is to proceed with the recruitment of a Parking/Market Attendant and a PA to the Mayor."
How many staff are now employed by the council?
How many hours do they work and what do they do?
What are the cost implications of these decisions on both staff costs and accommodation costs?
- In the same Actions it is reported that "DC have been instructed to proceed with the first batch of replacement signs at a cost of £2,055"
Are new street signs being paid for with S106 money? Could the list of names be made public ?
- In the minutes of the Traffic Advisory Committee meeting held on 29th April it states that "The school buses continue to park on Portway and Seesen Way. The legal agreement required to enable a parking area at Wantage Leisure Centre had not yet been finalised."
This has been a problem for years. The legal work holding up the solution at the moment has been ongoing for some time.- so long the planning permission for the parking and the football club all weather pitch ( a combined venture ) has run out.
What is the difference between a bus stop and a bus parking area ?
- In the same minutes Councillor Hannaby reported that she had registered her support with OCC for 20 mph speed limit in all built up areas in Wantage and Grove.
How is 20mph enforcement going to be monitored when 30mph is ignored ?
We understand that there won't be another Town Council meeting until October.
Now Planning Issues:
Grove Airfield Forum took place recently and we attended the meeting virtually. We are getting very frustrated with the lack of delivery of infrastructure by Persimmon and wrote a column about this for the Herald recently pointing out that they were in breach of their contract with the Planning Authorities - rather than repeat it all here see the column at https://www.wantageandgrove.org/column.php?id=222, but in summary they haven't delivered any sports pitches, community facilities or childrens play areas yet and some of each were due over a year ago.
More than 320 homes are now occupied and the next phase of development (169) more homes has now got permission.
Crab Hill Forum hasn't met for months so no update since our June email although we're told that they have started on the Wantage Eastern Link Road and they have submitted the application for a 72 room Care Home P21/V2040/RM. It will have only 22 dedicated parking spaces so I feel sorry for anyone who lives on the Cala Home development or who buys a home on the northern part of the St Modwen development because residents and staff will have to park somewhere and if they park on the Primary School pull-in or near the new Community Centre it will only be worse.
The application for an uplift of 10 additional dwellings on Park Farm, East Challow P21/V0738/FUL has been amended recently but we hope will be turned down as the site was originally only approved for 88 homes and any more has to be overdevelopment.
And health issues.
Still no news about the extension to the Health Centre.
E-Consult has been withdrawn by Newbury Street Practice for the time being to allow them to cope with the volume of the telephone enquiries. Don't forget that Newbury Street Practice got a new phone number 01235 639 521 and a new phone system last month.
Didcot Practice have suggested that Didcot residents might come to Wantage for a GP because they are in even more dire need than Wantage. The NHS were warned at least two years ago that Didcot’s existing practices were almost full. Since then the plans for a new Health Centre were turned down although the new application for 4,500 homes on the rest of Great Western Park do include funding for a new Health Centre but it could be 20 years away – Church Street have put a map of the area which they cover on their website and it doesn’t include Didcot.
Wantage Neighbourhood Plan - no news see our question to the Town Council above.
Finally, regarding the vacancy for a Town Councillor: The Mayor is progressing the co-option of another Councillor.
Don't forget that if you have to travel, you can access information about roadworks around here at https://one.network/ and if you don't get the Herald and would like to read our columns, we include them on our website at https://www.wantageandgrove.org/columns.php after they have been published.
That's all for now. Stay safe and if there is anything we can do to help you then please get in touch.
Thanks for reading,
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group