More than fifty people packed into the Village Hall last week to see the latest proposals for the Community Hub.
The revised Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), which established the concept of the Hub, was approved by the village at the referendum in 2022 and is now part of Planning Policy for South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC). Now Thomas Homes, which has been working with the Parish Council for about seven years, plans to submit a planning application for the Hub to SODC in April. This has all been made possible by the generosity of the landowner for the site, Robert Weavers, who has lived in the village all his life.
Opening the meeting on the 22nd March, Councillor Peter Rose, who has been leading the NDP project for the last nine years, said that it had been an “exciting” undertaking but had been a very “long journey”.
Since the revised NDP was approved last Summer, the council had to battle with Historic England (HE) over archaeological findings on the original Hub site. These issues have now been resolved by changing the design to avoid the archaeology.
At the meeting, Chris Brotherton from Thomas Homes said that no other village had such vision for the future. His team has been working on designs to reflect many of the features found around the village. There are three areas of housing in the development: a “court yard area” of connected homes, “village style” homes, and larger “barn style” homes. These forty-five houses will enable the building of the new village hall and school (including the pre-school) at no cost to the public.
He explained that building costs have risen by 60% in the last three years because of increased costs in building materials, labour and inflation. Also, the Building Regulations have changed to require much more energy efficient designs. He said that the village hall and the school, which are also “barn style” buildings, will both be net-positive energy buildings as they will be able to generate more energy from their “green” systems than they actually use. The buildings will be heated by air source heat pumps, will have photovoltaic cells on the roofs, and have self regulating ventilation and shading for the Summer months. The structures have been designed using very efficient insulation and sustainable materials so will be net carbon zero. Due to the higher specifications required for new buildings and the huge increase in building costs, it is unlikely that the development can also provide any “affordable” homes.
The school design has been developed with input from the Head Teacher, Governors and Pre-school and has been approved by Oxfordshire County Council and the Oxford Diocese. It includes a large playing field and sports pitch. The school site is future proof with room for extensions if the number of children increases significantly.
The new village hall will be twice the size of the current one.
The whole development has been designed with ease of access in mind. There will be a new roundabout and zebra crossing at Saxons Heath junction to give safe access to the Hub. There will be a large turning area for school coaches and a drop off zone for the school and pre-school. There will also be a new cycle and walking route from Fieldside through Wessex Way direct to the village hall and there will be green areas throughout the development.
The NDP provides for the current school and village hall to be redeveloped. Originally it was likely that the old school would be demolished, but the new plans now retain the original Victorian school building which will be extended to create a five bedroom house. There will also be a new village green in front of the school as a feature for the war memorial. The existing village hall will be converted into a cottage style home with courtyard garden.
Mr Brotherton said that 60% of the new homes on the site will be one, two or three-bedroom houses. He said he expected that the development will take about two and a half years to complete. The plans were presented at the meeting by the lead architect for Thomas Homes, Paula Foxley.
The plans will now be submitted to the district council which, along with other statutory bodies, will scrutinise them in detail, before coming to a decision later this year.
Peter Rose rounded off the meeting by thanking Chris Brotherton, Councillor Steve Brown, and all the other supporters that have been working on this enterprise since the outset.
Download the Thomas Homes presentation.