It’s all change on the Long Wittenham Parish Council. At the annual meeting on 20th April Gordon Rogers was elected chairman and Martin Elliff vice-chairman. They replace Steve Brown and Simon Thompson.
Mr Brown remains a councillor to focus on developing the proposed village Hub – a new village hall, school, pre-school and up to 40 homes on land off Didcot Road opposite Saxons Heath. Mr Thompson leaves the council because of increasing work commitments and family reasons but says he would like to return to the council in the future.
At the annual meeting Mr Rogers said he wants to build on the hard work laid down by Mr Brown and his predecessor Tom Bowtell. He said the new Hub and Neighbourhood Plan – seen as essential in helping to provide certainty for the village from speculative developers – are essential if Long Wittenham is to move forward.
He said: “Long Wittenham is a thriving community but needs to progress if it’s to maintain its vitality. It must move ahead to attract newcomers and satisfy the needs of existing villagers. It has no shop and bus service and is not sustainable in the long term. Mr Brown will continue to work on developing the Hub plan while councillor Peter Rose heads the team which is working on the Neighbourhood Plan – another key piece in the village jigsaw.”
Mr Rogers said it is a crucial year for Long Wittenham. The Hub proposals and the Neighbourhood Plan are making progress. A village referendum on the Plan is expected to be held in September providing there are no major planning hiccups said Mr Rose.
Villagers were recently asked to submit ideas for the community Hub project and according to Mr Brown there have been an encouraging response with many innovative ideas. He said: “All ideas were positive and enthusiastic – one was a bit whacky! Another idea was for an all-glass community structure. The response showed that people are keen to see the Hub developed in an imaginative but sensitive way.”
The council’s chosen developer for the Hub is Thomas Homes, a company with an impressive track record in developing small, community-based projects. A public meeting to view architectural suggestions for the Hub is planned in the village hall on 11th May.
Mr Rogers said Long Wittenham faces an interesting but challenging year. Progress is being made on the village Hub combined with the Neighbourhood Plan but proposals by developer Kler to build 35 homes on the corner of the Didcot Road and Fieldside posed a problem.
He said: “The council is opposed to this development because it would not provide community facilities. It would harm views of the landscape towards Wittenham Clumps and presents road safety concerns with an access and exit close to the bend on the busy Didcot Road.”