Thursday 7th September 2017 is the likely date when villagers in Long Wittenham will vote in a referendum on the parish council’s Neighbourhood Plan (NP).
South Oxfordshire District Council still has to consider and accept the independent examiner’s report and recommendations before the plan goes before the public but it’s not expected to be an obstacle. If the NP wins public backing it a will allow the community to take responsibility for guiding housing development in the area.
Parish councillor Peter Rose who has been leading the council’s negotiations on the NP said: “We have received a preliminary report praising the plan and recommending that it can go forward to a referendum with some minor amendments.”
“As soon as we have agreed the final plan with SODC we will ask the council to proceed to referendum as soon as possible. If the NP is passed, it will give us the security of a completed plan when other planning applications are considered.”
For the last two years there have been a series of public meetings and the overwhelming opinion has favoured a plan to move the village forward with a community hub which would include up to 40 new homes, a new school, pre-school, village hall and outdoor sports area.
In his report the inspector Andrew Ashcroft said there was a very clear focus on safeguarding the local character and promoting a new community hub. He writes: “The plan has been significantly underpinned by community support and engagement. It is clear that all sections of the community have been actively engaged in its preparation.”
Mr Ashcroft said that having done a tour of the village he was “very taken” by the quality of building maintenance and general pride in the village environment. The inspector added: “There was an overwhelming sense of quietness and tranquillity in the village.”
Mr Ashcroft says the plan sets out a positive vision for the future of the village within the context of its historical character. “At its heart are a series of policies that seek to promote a new community hub, to safeguard its character and to ensure that any new housing development responds to the needs of the community.”
Mr Ashcroft goes on to address the lack of a village shop, bus service and traffic problems. He says: “It is encouraging that the plan seeks to address these issues directly as part of the plan-making process.”
“It is a well presented, informative and very professional document. The NP meets all the necessary legal requirements and should proceed to referendum.”
The Examiner’s Report can be viewed/downloaded here.