Parish Councillor Peter Rose, Chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee, writes …
It is just over four years since the Parish Council began the revision of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). There have been holdups along the way and significant barriers to surmount, causing such a delay. There is much pride and many benefits of living in an historic village but there are also downsides. The main reason that the revision of the plan has taken so long is that the principal site we had allocated within the Plan is part of the Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement in the village. The initial site allocated was eventually scheduled as a Historic Monument. This meant a re-think and we amended the site location to avoid the scheduled area. The revised site still has some historic features and it has taken prolonged negotiation with Historic England to find a way forward. The independent examination of the Neighbourhood Plan Review finally concluded this month, May 2022, and the examiner recommended it should proceed to referendum.
The main policy in the revised Plan proposes the construction of the Community Hub comprising a new primary school/pre-school and village hall, cross funded by 40-45 houses. The houses will include a number of smaller properties for first time buyers and those wishing to down size; this need was identified in the village survey of 2015. The site is situated alongside Didcot Road, immediately south of the current housing development site. Many people have commented that it would not be possible to fund such an ambitious project, but the generosity of the landowner has contributed to its economic viability.
Neighbourhood Plans were introduced so that local communities could have significant input into the way they developed. Our Plan follows this lead with many policies relating to our quality of life and environment, in addition to the Community Hub project. There are policies that aim to maintain the countryside delineating the village from Didcot, protect significant views both from and into the village, ensure that house design in the future is compatible with the historic nature of the village, identifies the need for more cycle and footpaths, and aims to protect the ecologically sensitive zone, the home of protected Roman snails. There is also a section that identifies key infrastructure projects within the village. The Plan is available on this website for those who would like more detail.
The Plan has recently gone through an examination by an independent examiner. This process considered the Plan’s compliance with relevant legislative requirements. We should be proud of some of the observations the examiner made:
- “The community has successfully marshalled the capacity to prepare a review of its ‘made’ neighbourhood plan to reflect changing circumstances. This sits at the heart of the localism agenda.”
- “The approach is precisely the type of strategic community-driven development that can be included in neighbourhood plans.”
- “There is a very clear focus on promoting a new Community Hub. This focus has resulted in a short and concise Plan.”
Now that the independent examination has concluded, the district council will consider each of the examiner’s recommendations and decide if the plan should proceed to a referendum of all residents. If the Plan is supported by a simple majority of those who vote, it will become part of development plan for the district and it will be used to guide planning decisions in the parish.
In 2010, Wittenham Vision (village plan) suggested that the village needed a new hall and school. It has taken a long time to get close to this vision, but it would be an amazing achievement if we could pull it off.