Long Wittenham villagers gave their backing for the parish council’s work on drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) that would shape the development for the next 20 years.
More than 60 people filled the main hall of the village school on April 12 to hear about the council’s progress in its negotiations with two land owners towards the NP which would include a new school and village hall on land off Didcot Road.
Parish councillor Peter Rose, who chairs the council’s NP Steering Committee, said he was very encouraged by the public’s response. He said: “I was very pleased with the positive attitude of villagers towards our efforts in what is a complex issue involving two land owners. But with public support we can now move ahead with confidence in our discussions.”
Two possible sites are in the frame with one, on the corner of Fieldside and Didcot Road, the subject of a possible planning application by developers for houses. The council is in discussion with the developers but is also in talks with a landowner on an adjacent site.
Both schemes would involve at approximately 40 homes with some, affordable properties. The development would fund new village facilities and also provide the sort of housing identified in the recent village survey.
The idea is to sell the present school and village hall sites in the High Street for housing and a village green on part of the existing playground. The money would help pay for a new village hall and primary and pre-school.
Parish council chairman Steve Brown said he was very encouraged by the public’s response. He said: “It was a very constructive meeting covering many issues over two hours. We are pleased the public is taking a deep interest in the future of the village. It has given us encouragement to move forward.”
The audience wanted to hear about progress and what alternative fall-back proposals were being examined, for example redeveloping the hall and the school on their current sites and a time scale before a detailed proposal was put forward in a referendum. Peter Rose said a further public consultation would be held later this year when he hoped to present a detailed proposal.
Several villagers said it was important that the council was not side-tracked by exploring alternative plans that would serve to delay progress. Head teacher Carol Dunne said she supported a new school and pre-school members said it was important a new school incorporated facilities for younger children.
Bill Symonds moved a vote of thanks to Peter Rose and his colleagues for their hard work in moving the village forward and his comments received loud applause. He said: “Don’t stop now and throw the baby out with the bath water. Don’t get distracted with other ideas at this stage. We must go forward as the future of the village is at stake.”
The council’s Steering committee is continuing its talks with land owners and its advisers Savills. There will be another public meeting in the summer and it’s hoped to have detailed proposals to put before the public in a referendum before the end of the year.
If 51% of villagers approve the NP in the referendum then it will have the force of law.
Peter Rose said: “We still have much work to do before we will be in a position to present a plan. The position in our negotiations with land owners is fluid and can change.
“It’s vital however that we continue and adopt a Neighbourhood Plan so the village is not at the mercy of developers coming into the village with their own ideas on how Long Wittenham is shaped in the years ahead.”