Neighbourhood Plan Open Meeting -23 February 2015

Have you ever criticised planning decisions about Long Wittenham; wondered ‘why don’t they ….; or why in God’s name have they… ?

Have you wondered who ‘they’ are and decided that you can’t change or influence anything?

Well, for the first time since the introduction of planning laws the Government decided in 2011 that local people should be ‘they’. Not County or District Councillors, not salaried Officers of the District but YOU – yes YOU and the person next to you!

Parliament decided that YOU and your neighbours should decide what is important to you and how your village develops in the future.

And that is what the Neighbourhood Plan is all about. Preparing a plan involves you and needs your opinion. The next update will be at 7.30pm on Tuesday 23rd February in the Village Hall.

Mark it on the calendar, set the video recorder for your favourite programme on TV and get along to hear the latest. We can’t promise you any Midsomer cliff-hangers but you can play your part in ensuring that Long Wittenham continues to be a ‘highly desirable, well-regarded and thriving’ village to live in (as the Estate Agents describe it!).

And why not knock on the neighbours door and get them along too?

What will be discussed?

Before we finalise the Neighbourhood Plan for submission to the District Council we will hold a meeting in the village hall to invite discussion about these proposals- they will only be binding if over half the village votes for them in the subsequent referendum.

The neighbourhood plan is now reaching an important stage and this is the time when we again need views from all residents. Although the Steering Committee was convened 18 months ago, we have mainly spent this time preparing the necessary background work required by the District Council before we can develop the plan itself. This work is now complete (and available on the village web site as our ‘Scoping Document’). This document has now been out for consultation and approved with very few suggested amendments.

Through the work of Wittenham Vision, the two previous village meetings and the survey, we now feel we understand the most important issues and changes that the village wants. At the forefront of our thinking is the need to maintain the present character of the village (small, separate from Didcot etc) but also provide new facilities that will enhance the life of our residents. However, we have to be practical and only include in our objectives plans that are actually achievable with available resources.

Our first priority would be to build the ‘hub’. This would be a new development comprising new school building, pre-school and village hall. The current school buildings are old, have high maintenance and running costs and lack suitable space for PE and sport. New schools will be built near to us in Didcot. To maintain our village we need to enable our school to continue to provide high quality education with high quality facilities. The pre-school in the village does not have a permanent home. We will also consider as part of this development providing other facilities such as a shop, café, meeting area especially for home workers, village groups and an all-weather sports facility. It may not be financially feasible to build this whole development in one go. Preferred sites for the development are at the western end of the village centre. This scheme also includes some new houses, partly to fund the hub but also to provide the type of houses identified in the survey to fulfil local need.

The other two important issues raised by residents are traffic flow and parking in the High Street. Moving the school, pre-school and hall to a site with adequate parking should resolve the issues of traffic flow around peak times. This will also reduce traffic as most children driven in from other villages to attend the school come from the West. We feel there are no other reasonable and affordable measures that we can undertake to reduce traffic flow other than lobby for the new bridge over the Thames between Clifton Hampden and Culham. It may also be possible to improve off road parking in the High Street and we will investigate this as another option which would improve the townscape and appearance of the High Street.

Proposed objectives for the Neighbourhood Plan

  1. Allocate land for the village hub with houses to fund the development
  2. Reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and reduce traffic noise
  3. Encourage a more active community
  4. Allocate part of the current school site for a village green
  5. Improve the townscape of the High Street

Issues to be considered

Allocate land for the village hub with houses to fund the development

The preferred site is on the land East of Didcot Road from Fieldside to Saxons Heath. There are 2 possible sites being considered, the owner of each site is different: Challis Farm (Site 1) and the field to the South of Challis Farm (Site 2). Site 1 is not large enough to accommodate the whole project and is adjacent to the conservation area. So, Site 2 is the only site that could possibly accommodate this project but building on this site would leave an area of land that could be filled in at a later date. A third possibility would be to use both sites but this would require agreement from both landowners.

Currently we do not know the exact number of houses we would need to build to fund the hub as this would depend on housing mix, numbers of affordable houses, cost of land purchase. As a result of the recent village survey, we have identified a small housing need within the village for smaller market houses as well as some affordable housing.

Reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and reduce traffic noise

Building the hub will result in a reduction in congestion and noise in the centre of the village at peak times when children are being dropped or collected from school/pre-school or when the hall is in use. Most children who come to the school from outside enter the village from the South and we expect this will more than compensate for the small amount of traffic generated by new housing. We will ensure sufficient parking in the new development for both hub and houses. As part of a new development we will ensure new footpaths, upgrading existing footpaths and a safe crossing point to ensure it is possible to walk to the hub from anywhere in the village.

Encourage a more active community

We will consider a badminton court as part of the new hall, all weather court on the hub site as well as supporting the circular foot/cycle path including the cycle path to Clifton Hampden

Allocate part of the current school site for a village green

This will ensure a central green focus to the village as well as enhancing the High Street and conservation area

Improve the townscape of the High Street

This will be an aspiration of the plan rather than an objective. We feel that improving traffic flow and parking in the High Street as well as improved pedestrian access is not feasible until the new river crossing is certain.

Policies we will include in the plan

  1. Allocation of site for hub and houses
  2. Design masterplan for proposed site
  3. Policies on design of individual dwelling (to address sustainability, building materials, energy efficiency)
  4. Dwelling mix for proposed site
  5. A suitable scheme for traffic, cycles and pedestrians to accompany new development
  6. Statement of support for additional sport and recreation facilities
  7. Proposal for development of existing village hall and school site including a village green.
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