Hub Plans Move Closer

Long Wittenham’s plan for a village hub including a new school, pre-school, village hall, play-sport  area, new homes and parking moved a step closer when developer Thomas Homes outlined proposals at a public consultation meeting in the village hall on 30th March.  The views of residents are being sought about what type of facilities should be available in the village hall and on the play and sport area.  It is important that we hear your ideas.

  • Would you like a village hall with a stage for performances and film shows?
  • What about a new all-weather play area?
  • The new preschool could be designed so that it has an amazing view of the countryside towards the Clumps.
  • Do we need a community tennis court?
  • Should we have a cafe and market shop at the weekends?

Villagers discussed various options and took away feed-back forms which the parish council wants returned in the next two weeks.   Please tell us your ideas.

The developer also wants to hear the public’s views on architectural design, building fabric, eco-friendly maintenance and running costs – even down to what type of tiles or slates should be used on the roofs.

Thomas Homes and the parish council plan to submit a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in early Summer.  A legal agreement with the county council and Oxford Diocese about the old and proposed new school will be needed but they are in full support and so it’s hoped the project could be finished before 2020.

Behind the idea is a cross-funding scheme involving new housing on the village hall and school sites to support the hub.  A village green and between four and five homes are planned on the school site after the new school has been built.

On the hub site in Didcot Road up to 40 homes would be built and there could also be parking for up to 50 vehicles which would relieve traffic congestion outside the current school in the High Street.

It’s all part of the parish council’s Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) which is currently before the district council for consultation.  After that a planning inspector will examine the NDP and report back to the district and parish councils by the summer.

Thomas Homes is the parish council’s preferred developer.  It has an established track record of developing “challenging” projects.  Director Chris Brotherton told the meeting: “We like to tackle unusual and challenging projects which are community led schemes. We are excited by really difficult projects.”

“Our motivation is not to shareholders but the challenge of achieving successful outcomes for communities.  But we need your help to plan and design something with which the village of Long Wittenham will be happy in the years ahead.”

Mr Brotherton listed a series of projects in which the company has been and is currently involved. They included converting a nine-acre 1844 Brunel railway building site at Swindon and an old water tower in Basingstoke.  Both schemes won national awards.

Other projects nearer home in which Thomas Homes have been involved include the great hall at the old Fairmile hospital housing development in Cholsey.  The company renovated the site, formed the Cholsey Community Development Trust and now the hall has a full programme of events.

The company re-developed an old community centre in Littlegate Street behind the Westgate and is currently involved in the development of a new community hub and multi-use games area in Marcham which is quite similar in concept to our project.

After the meeting the chairman of the parish council Steve Brown said he was encouraged by another positive response to the hub proposals.  He said: “We have reached a really exciting stage where the project is starting to take off.   We have held several meetings over the last three years.”

“Changes have had to be made following consultations with the public and the district council but residents have continued to support our proposals.  Our view is that the village is becoming unsustainable for the future.  We have no shop or bus service and our village hall is aging.”

“The school – although very successful – is working in a very restricted building and the outside space does not meet their needs.  We need new community facilities for villagers and to attract new blood into the community.”

Mr Brown urged villagers to complete the feed-back forms and return them to himself at “The Shambles”, High Street or to Councillor Peter Rose who heads the Hub steering committee at “Abacus”, Fieldside.

Ideas can also be emailed to  hub.ideas@longwittenham.com.

Please reply before 15th April.

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