It's still January but I'm running out of time to get at least one newletter out this month so here goes!
Still no news about any of our Councils offering to force a peer review on the housing need number that I referred to in previous emails (see https://www.wantageandgrove.org/newsletters.php if you want to refresh your memory). Although Need Not Greed Oxfordshire http://www.neednotgreedoxon.org.uk/ have received a letter from Cllr Emily Smith (leader of the Vale District Council), in her capacity as Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Group reporting that there have been 'a number of discussions at the Advisory Group about how we can maximise opportunities for scrutiny by elected members, and openness with the public, within the timeframe agreed with national government'.
This sounds to me like leading up to the usual political whitewash before selling us down the river for 100,000 new homes in Oxfordshire.
I know I sound like a broken record but the the inpatient beds in the Community Hospital are still temporarily closed and we hear that patients are being released from the JR Hospital to a 30 bed hotel without nursing care but with some occupational therapy. I have been trying to get an update on the services offered at the Hospital (which are mostly temporary until they do the consultation on the closure of the inpatient beds). Other than the fact that the Maternity unit does not have a Maternity Ward open for births, but offers midwife led support pre-birth and to new borns (unless something happens on site), the only information I could get was the quote from the Oxford Health Trust website:
"The range of community-based services include children’s physiotherapy clinics and assessments for children aged 0 – 5 who have been referred because of speech, language and communication delays and disorders, Ophthalmology clinics, Perinatal, Adult Eating Disorders, Talking Space, Psychological Therapies, Neuro Development Clinic, Audiology Clinic, Podiatry Clinic, HealthShare Physiotherapy Clinic, Speech and Language Therapies."
The planning application for the extension to the Health Centre still hasn't been approved so suggestions that the new space might be open by the end of next year seem optimistic.
The Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee has been cancelled for next week. They were complaining at the last meeting that there were too many things to scrutinise so they must have decided not to bother to scrutinise anything - or perhaps the NHS has decided not to play ball and to ignore County and any oversight it might have.
For those who read my column in the Herald, you will already know that 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.
Grove Parish Council has written to the District Council with a number of suggestions for how to spend the money including:
"The sum received or agreed towards a new Sports Hall totals £2,778,654.30 [from the Grove Airfield Development]. The Parish Council is very aggrieved that some of this money could be spent on other Leisure Project around the Vale and not necessarily in Grove. The Parish Council insist that this money is spent in Grove on a new sports hall to be either located behind the Mably Way Health Centre or on the Development Site or co-located with the new Secondary School."
There is also about £340,000 reserved for all weather pitches across the Vale but the all-weather pitch planned for next to the Leisure Centre in Wantage can’t be built because King Alfred’s School has withdrawn their support.
And over £580,000 already received in OX12 for swimming pools with a similar amount to come so surely something could be done to add at least a learner pool to the existing Leisure Centre.
It seems as though everyone is conspiring to stop the millions of pounds received from and promised by developers being spent for the benefit of residents of OX12.
We really don't want this money to be spent in Abingdon - in reply to a Freedom of Information request we found that less than 0.5% of the people using the White Horse Leisure Centre come from OX12 so we don’t see why funds from here should be used there.
It's worth reading the draft minutes of Grove Parish Council to see what they are suggesting https://www.grove-oxon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/SFC-18-Jan-22.pdf. It's interesting to note that Wantage Council hasn't come up with anything or (as far as we know) have been in touch with any leisure groups in Wantage.
If you know any leisure groups who need funds then please contact the District Council to see if there are suitable funds available.
Other planning issues include:
There are going to be major roadworks at the Airplane roundabout from mid February. They will be enlarging and realigning the roundabout so expect there to be four way traffic lights there for about two months. Works are due to start on Tuesday 22nd February 2022 and finish on Friday 22nd April 2022.
While we're on the subject of roads, the next phase of the County Council Local Transport and Connectivity Plan is out for consultation. There are loads of documents available to review at https://letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/ltcp and a survey to complete (you don't have to answer every question). If you'd prefer to do the survey via a word document we have a copy so just get in touch. Responses have to be submitted by 16th March but don't delay ther's a lot to read. We'll aim to put a summary up on our website over the next few weeks.
The District Council is consulting on a new Planning Design Guide - https://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/planning/consultation-opens-on-guide-for-high-quality-sustainable-new-development/ There are problems with how this displays on the website so we're attempting to get a download copy and a word document of the survey. Responses to this have to be submitted by 1 March.
The Reservoir has raised it's ugly head again. Don't forget this will be the largest above ground reservoir in Europe (so something that has not been built before). It is likely to be 30m above ground so taller than anything else in the Vale. The reservoir embankments would enclose about 4 square miles and be 10.3 miles long.
I know this sounds silly but plonking a reservoir on low lying land will increase the flood risk. This area acts as a huge sponge when it rains and soaks up water from the surrounding area, thus reducing the risk of surface water flooding. As one of the technical reports says “there is not enough suitable land available within the overall site boundary to compensate for the flood storage loss.” The risk of breach will also mean that there is an additional flood risk.
Anyway, Water Resources South East (WRSE) - which includes Thames Water has just released its emerging regional plan for consultation and the deadline for responses is 14 March https://wrse.uk.engagementhq.com/.
So as you can see we are going to be busy completing responses to all of these consultations!
Other things this month:
As I have mentioned before some of the new residents of this area are now getting interested in the planning issues and lack of infrastructure so I'm using my weekly columns in the Herald to answer some of the questions. I've now finished Question 4 and answered question 5:
Question 1: What is the so-called 'need' for new housing in Wantage and Grove and who or what body has decided this?
Question 2: How many homes have been built since 2011 and how many have been approved to be built in the next five years?
Question 3: I hear that the District Council is now working on a new Local Plan. What will be the impact of this on Wantage and Grove?
Question 4: What infrastructure is going to be provided to match this huge increase in population, if any?
Question 5: Has the infrastructure kept pace with the increased population?
Rather than include the full answers here (and make this email seem even more like a book) see https://www.wantageandgrove.org/columns.php for the columns.
Now that we are all out and about again don't forget that you can check for road works which may delay your journey at https://one.network/
That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group