The outline application for 2500 homes on the brown field site at Grove Airfield and the outline application for 1500 homes on Crab Hill green fields have both been recommended for approval by the Planning Department. Negotiations with the developers on infrastructure funding continue...
Is the Oxford Garden City what the Government has in mind?
According to the latest news, the secret Whitehall report recommending that two new cities are built in southern England is proposing Yalding, Kent and Gerards Cross, Buckinghamshire. So no government funding for properly planned developments in Oxfordshire. We remain in the hands of developers who seem to get to build what and where they chose.
Open Letter to Matthew Barber, [show detail]
On BBC Oxford on the 5th December 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.