News this week is not about roadworks but about health services.
Wantage Community Hospital is closing to ensure long-term safety.
"Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will be closing Wantage Community Hospital and relocating services currently provided there to alternative local settings from early this summer. This is a planned closure, required on safety grounds, to permanently eradicate the risk of legionella in the hot water system.
Raised levels of legionella have been detected in the hot water system at Wantage and we have been applying effective short- term treatments to the system. Currently there is no legionella risk present. However, because pipework at WCH is old, corroded and hot water circulation is poor, legionella will recur unless the plumbing for the whole site is replaced."
This problem has been known for a long time and we are a little suspicious about the need for a "early" closure when there is a planned "consultation" later in the year.
As the press release states: "The closure will take place before a major public consultation planned for this autumn to determine the future provision of bed-based and ambulatory care for older people and adults with multiple long term conditions in Oxfordshire. We have set aside funds to carry out the necessary plumbing works once the outcome of that consultation is known."
So why is it closing earlier?
A campaign to save the hospital has been set up and you can sign the petition here
OxLEP – Oxfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership – the unelected private company that is driving the economic growth in our county – is holding a public consultation on the ‘Refresh’ of the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).
The consultation runs until Friday 20 May and is being hosted on the OxLEP website.
The public were not consulted on the original SEP – the economic strategy for Oxfordshire. When it was drafted in 2014, OxLEP promised a public consultation on its growth plans, but cancelled this due to ‘lack of time’!
But while the public are finally being given the opportunity to comment on some aspects of the Plan, the overall growth targets are not up for debate.
The Police Counter in Wantage Library has closed from the end of March 2016
Quote from Thames Valley Police:[show more]
"In times of austerity we need to look at ways to transform how we deliver services to be as effective and efficient as possible whilst maximising opportunities to prevent crime, protect the public and bring offenders to justice.
The way people interact with us is changing. More people chose to engage with us on the phone or online. A total of 86% of people told us they prefer to contact police on the phone in a non-emergency, based on a survey of 9,187 people.
Therefore, we are proposing to close a number of front counters in the Thames Valley as we improve our communication with the public by other means while ensuring that in the main you will never be further than ten miles from a front counter.
The public can still contact us via phone, our website, social media or community messaging service.
Front counter services from 1 April 2016:
Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Abingdon, St Aldates, Banbury, Newbury, Reading, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead and Slough open from 8am and 10pm, seven days a week.
Amersham, Witney, Bicester and Bracknell open from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Kidlington open from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Bletchley, Newport Pagnell, Wolverton, Buckingham, Chesham, Gerrards Cross, Cowley, Henley, Didcot, Thame, Wantage, Faringdon, Wallingford, Carterton, Woodstock, Chipping Norton, Wokingham, Windsor and Pangbourne are scheduled to close."
For information on the status of the Local Plan Examination click here
The NPPF fails to protect against unsustainable development, reports Government committee - See the full report
Vale District Council commits to a feasibility study on a "new Settlement in the Vale"
At the Council meeting on 16th July 2014 the Councillors agreed to commit to a feasibility study and a public consultation for one or more new settlements in the Vale as solutions to our long term need for housing. This is outside work on the Local Plan so in addition to the 20,560 which are likely to be in the Local Plan, we could expect a further development of up to 30,000 new homes. This could double the number of homes in the Vale in the next 20 years. Where will the funding for the infrastructure required come from?
As Councillor Richard Webber said at the meeting:
"From an average build rate of 550 houses per annum, (last year 400 and only once in the last 30 years 700), we are now in the Local Plan for consultation seeking to achieve an average build rate in excess of 1000 new homes per annum. With the advent of the SHMA, the number could go up by another 3-400 per annum. If Oxford City wins its fight to pass over some of its SHMA allocation to the Districts, we could be over 1500 per annum, nearly 3 times our current average. Not for nothing is Oxfordshire the home of Alice in Wonderland."
Little boxes on the hillside ....[show more]
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company
Open Letter to Matthew Barber, [show detail]
On BBC Oxford on the 5th December 2013 you promoted the development at Grove Airfield with the news that you have secured £49 million to help to mitigate the impact of these new homes in the area.
£49 million pays for some (but not all) of the necessary infrastructure to support the 2,500 families, 6-7,000 people and 5,000 cars and all the services they require.
This development will include “in the order of 35% affordable homes (of which 30% is affordable rented and around 5% shared ownership”. As Councillor Bob Johnston said at the planning meeting, these 750 rented properties will take half of those on the housing list for the Vale. So where are the social services and transport plan necessary to support them? We know that around 100 people are on the list in OX12 so the rest would prefer to live somewhere else in the Vale. There are few bus services and no other form of public transport to enable these people to get to the communities in Abingdon, Faringdon, Botley, Didcot or any of the other villages in the Vale with which they have connections.
What about the number of young people who want to buy (probably by shared ownership) in the area? Will “in the order of” 5% (probably less than 125 homes) be enough? How do you know?
What about the significant number of retired couples who moved into Wantage and Grove when the last major developments were built to house the workers from Harwell? These people have had their families and now want to down-size from the 3-4 bedroom houses to 2-3 bed bungalows with smaller gardens. Where are they going to be accommodated?
The proposed conditions state that the Northern Link Road must be built before the 1501st house, so what guarantee do we have that these developers making so much profit out of our communities will not stop after 1500 homes, leaving existing roads congested for ever?
The television programme mentioned that the first homes will be completed in 2017. Steven Sensecall (Kemp & Kemp) said at the planning meeting that the first primary school would be started when the first home is started, so we can’t expect any school places to be available until 2018 at the earliest. Primary schools in the area are at capacity now and other developments continue to build more homes with consequential need for primary and secondary school places. Mr Sensecall went on to say that adequate schooling helps to sell housing so why will the secondary school not be built until Phase 2? We know that King Alfred’s Academy will be full with the 2016 intake so what will happen between then and sometime in 2020-2025 when the new secondary school is built and occupied? If the site for the secondary school will be given to the County Council along with a contribution towards the funding of the new school, can’t the school be started earlier?
The Community Hub in the centre of the development will be home to a mix of community uses, retail, offices, a library, a place of worship, the first primary school and car parking. It may include a Children’s Centre, Adult Learning Centre and space for pre-school children. Surely if we need 2 primary schools we need space for a similar number for pre-school children? Where will these facilities be accommodated?
We understand that the floodlit training ground by the Denchworth Road will be lost as part of this development and will be replaced by one on the new development. The proposal from the officers to the planning committee also states that taking into account the changing ways that the community facilities and services are likely to be provided over the life of the development, the negotiations for S106 contributions for social, community, recreational and leisure activities have been pooled to enable one multipurpose Community Hub to be provided. This may be great, but the Vale is responsible for leisure facilities and the Wantage Leisure Centre is over stretched and in need of more than £1m of maintenance now to maintain existing services. The Beavers, Brownies, Guides and Scouts have waiting lists which means that children can’t join because there is no accommodation. There is also no suitable accommodation for after school clubs for existing children so what will happen to any additional children from any housing developments which do not provide such facilities?
Where are these people going to work? No additional business developments are planned in Wantage and Grove in the near future. All jobs are likely to be in Milton Park or Harwell at least 10 miles away. At the moment there is one bus an hour from Wantage and services via Grove are being withdrawn. Roads are too dangerous for cyclists and the off-road cycle way is in need of repair. Are these homes going to be purely for the unemployed? Or are you planning to amend the planning regulations for parking to allow sufficient space for people to park the cars they will need to get to work?
Roads around Wantage and Grove are rural A roads and when there are problems on the A34 or A420 we get all the traffic through our area. This can, and often does, bring the whole area to a standstill. Yet the Highways Department considers this to be acceptable.
The Highways Department want the Northern Link Road to be completed by the end of the second phase so until then all traffic (including construction traffic) will continue on existing roads. The A417 to the A34 has the worst pothole record of any “A” road in the County already and all this additional traffic can only make it worse. As this development has the approval of the County and the Vale District Council we need better solutions for cars, cycles and pedestrians than the additional traffic lights and tinkering with junctions proposed.
You and previous administrations have let our services, infrastructure and facilities decline so that everything is stretched to breaking point and you expect us to calmly accept 200 houses at Stockham Farm, 133 on Monks Farm, 85 at Chain Hill, 71 at Each Challow, 50+ on smaller developments in Wantage, nearly 100 in the Hanneys and now 2,500 at Grove Airfield, not to mention another 100 at Stockham Farm, possibly two more developments in Challow, 1,500 at Crab Hill and who knows what else without any tangible improvements to the area in the next 3-4 years!
You appear to expect us to reduce car usage, but you and your colleagues at the County allow a reduction in bus services. We have no adequate cycle ways along the major routes in and out of the area, but you allow a minimum number of parking spaces in each development. For what purpose? 10 miles to Harwell or Milton Park is too far to walk!
The National Planning Policy Framework proposes that planning should “find ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives”.
You are our elected representatives and we urge you to represent us and ensure we are not swamped with houses without the investment in infrastructure to put in place what is needed, when needed and not 3-5 years later.
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group
And his reply.