There are three items this week and then next week will be time for a regular planning update.
First - As part of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 the County and District Councils with the Local Enterprise Partnership in the guise of the Oxfordshire Growth Board (now called the Future Oxfordshire Partnership) have to approve new housing numbers for the period covered by the plan. These numbers are based on a document called the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment (OGNA) and should be based on a standard methodology dictated by the Government.
The OGNA has been produced by the same consultants that produced the figures for the 2031 Local Plan which has required over 7,000 new homes to be built around Wantage and Grove. We disagreed with the methodolgy used last time but found out about the document too late to be able to question it. Once again the consultants have decided that the formula recommended by the Government doesn't give enough growth and have adapted it. They propose three options:
Given the land protected as Oxford Green Belt and the areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) this is likely to join Wantage, Grove, East Challow and the Hanneys into one large town; combine Didcot, Harwell, Sutton Courtney and Appleford; merge Shrivenham with Swindon and make Abingdon, Shippon, Sunningwell and Radley into one large outer suburb of Oxford.
Many local campaign groups including Need Not Greed Oxfordshire and the POETS (a group of senior planning, environment and transport professional and academics focussed primarily on planning and transport in Oxfordshire) are asking the Councils to subject the document to an independent peer review. Don't take our word for it see the Need Not Greed Document.
If you agree that an independent review is necessary then please get in touch with your MP and County and District Councillors and ask them to organise this. Their email addresses are:
David.Johnston.firstname.lastname@example.org; Jane.Hanna@Oxfordshire.gov.uk; Jenny.Hannaby@Oxfordshire.gov.uk; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Ron.Batstone@whitehorsedc.gov.uk; Ben.Mabbett@whitehorsedc.gov.uk; Paul.Barrow@whitehorsedc.gov.uk; email@example.com; Amos.Duveen@whitehorsedc.gov.uk; firstname.lastname@example.org; Andy.Crawford@whitehorsedc.gov.uk; Patrick.Oemail@example.com;
Secondly - both GP Practice Patient groups will be holding their AGM's shortly:
For patients of Church Street Practice: on Wednesday 24th November 7pm at Wantage Methodist Chapel, there will be updates from a GP, Nurse Practitioner, Pharmacist and Operations Manager, plus a chance to view the health centre extension plans.
For Newbury Street Patients: Dr Rhodri Davies will be giving a talk and presentation on the Health Centre Expansion via ZOOM on Thursday 11 November at 8pm. Link to join Zoom Meeting: https://wantagetc-gov-uk.zoom.us/j/81797418153 Meeting ID: 817 9741 8153.
Thirdly - David Wilson Homes have contacted some of the residents of Grove asking for feed back about the the proposal to build 300 more homes in Grove (not in the current local plan). These homes would be built to the east of the A338 opposite Bellingers. You can give them your comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org I can only only paraphrase the response submitted by Barry Gooch, one of our members:
I will explain why we must now object to any further housing developments until further notice.
DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT INFRASTRUCTURE
Wantage & Grove is already seeing the largest proportion allocation of development of any town or city in the County of Oxford. Local Plan 2031 will see the number of households in Wantage and Grove increase by 109.4% over its 2001 size. The nearest percentage rise is scheduled for Bicester which will increase by 98.23% over the same period. However the Bicester development has been designated a Garden Town and so is receiving substantial funding to improve infrastructure and the already very good connectivity they enjoy. Wantage and Grove has received few funds to improve the poor connectivity or needed infrastructure.
This proposed development will push the percentage increase in Wantage & Grove to 114% without any of the much needed (and oft promised) infrastructure work being undertaken including improving the access roads to surrounding areas, reopening our hospital, increasing the number of doctors to reflect the greater number of patients, and/or providing a direct bus to the JR Hospital, the provision of a leisure centre with modern facilities for the town, adequate town parking to facilitate shopping, reopening a local train station, or attracting new well remunerated employment to the area.
Wantage and Grove is the only large conurbation in Oxfordshire without a local hospital since ours was closed on a flimsy excuse and has not reopened. Even Wallingford with a population 9,000 less than here and Thame with a population 8,000 fewer have many local medical services delivered through their own hospitals. As an example Wallingford is not the biggest hospital with a mere 22 beds, but they have local access to physiotherapy, audiology, continence services, podiatry, mental health teams, scanning and maternity beds. Additionally, the number of doctors in the town has decreased from the 2010 cohort yet the population has increased substantially including the building of a large number of homes for the elderly (presumably on the basis that we are near to the crematorium and have room in our graveyards) which are attracting pensioners from out of the area.
There are now at least 5 retirement homes with capacity for around 270 apartments and 8 nursing homes with capacity for up to nearly 400 residents and another two big homes planned for Crab Hill and Grove Airfield taking the total to over 500 residents. This has put additional strain on what was already an overstretched service where patients found it difficult to get an appointment and could even be sent to neighbouring towns for consultation and treatment prior to COVID.
CONNECTIVITY & EMPLOYMENT
Oxford City has two train stations with fast connections to the rest of the country. Every other District in the County has 7 or more stations in it except… you guessed it - the Vale of White Horse which has none – despite its large population. Money jointly allocated to a new station at Oxford Parkway and Wantage & Grove saw the former built and the money for Wantage vanish into thin air.
Being a commuter town you would think the bus service would be excellent. Unfortunately the opposite is true. Many villages in South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire and Cherwell enjoy cheaper TRAIN fares than our bus services into Oxford City. How can it be that a journey from Banbury or Henley to Oxford (both of which have direct and fast train links) which are at least 7 miles further out are the same return fare or less than Wantage to Oxford Connectivity is key to attracting employment to the area.
This is an issue which will become vital as we move to a low carbon economy. Wantage and Grove lacks the connectivity required to deliver well remunerated employment. In February 2019 Vale of White Horse District Council declared a climate emergency and they are permitting large numbers of new homes to be built in Wantage and Grove with a slogan of ‘sustainable development’. That is the biggest joke so far. If we put a fence around any of these large developments the residents could not cope. Why are you proposing to build new homes without heat pumps, solar panels, car charging points and similar low carbon technology which is being recommended by the Government? How are we going to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 if developers like you don’t start acting responsibly.
I'll be in touch again soon, but in the meantime you can access information about roadworks at https://one.network/ and if you don't get the Herald and would like to read our weekly columns, we include them on our website at https://www.wantageandgrove.org/columns.php after they have been published.
That's all for now.
Thanks for reading,
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group