A Sounding Board meeting of the Didcot Garden Town (DGT) project, for town and parish councils within the area of influence, was held last Tuesday evening (22nd September) via video link.
The project was created five years ago with Government backing from Homes England and support from both South Oxfordshire and Vale district councils. The aim is to create 20,000 new jobs and 15,000 new homes by 2031.
Representatives from several parishes were asked for their views on how to help shape the future direction of the scheme and what effects it might have on villages. Long Wittenham was represented by the chairman of the parish council, Gordon Rogers.
He, along with several other representatives. stressed the importance of creating ‘Green Gaps’ between Didcot and the surrounding villages, to prevent what Mr Rogers called ‘Urban Creep’. He said villages needed protection from the growing urbanisation of the whole district to help preserve the unique character of rural communities.
Concerns were also expressed by delegates about high density housing in parts of the area and what some called “poor quality” housing with insufficient parking places.
Lack of a daily bus service was also highlighted by Mr Rogers. He said with the expansion of the Ladygrove estate, Long Wittenham would be less than a mile from the boundary of DGT, and, with a growing population, deserved a frequent bus service.
The meeting was chaired by the chairman of the DGT Advisory Board, Ian Hudspeth, who is also the leader of Oxfordshire County Council. He said it was not planned to expand Didcot beyond its boundaries with lots of “small, inappropriate box-like housing developments. Didcot and surrounding villages must benefit from good quality homes, transport links and employment”.
Mr Hudspeth went on to say: ”By creating the Didcot Garden Town board we can have the vision, plans and policies to ensure that we can develop the homes needed in the most sustainable manner with good design codes”.
The Government is keen to promote cycling and the county is examining plans to make it safer on the roads. Mr Rogers said that plans were being drawn up for a dedicated cycle route linking Long Wittenham with the Barley Mow car park. He hoped that the scheme would receive financial support and a sympathetic hearing from the county council.
One of Mr Hudspeth’s key ambitions is the creation of a Green Corridor in the area to Wittenham Clumps. He said: “This will encourage residents to access the fantastic countryside in a sustainable manner which should benefit the whole area”.
More information on the (somewhat out-of-date) Didcot Garden Town webpage.