Thirteen questions for the two candidates in the Hendreds ward for the 4 May 2023 elections in the Vale of White Horse

The Vale of White Horse (and many other districts) goes to the polls in the local elections on 4 May 2023. You can find a list of all the councillors standing for election in the Vale  by clicking here.

There are two candidates standing in the Hendreds ward:

  • Sarah Frances James, Green Party
  • Janet Shelley, Conservative Party

We asked them both them a few questions about their hopes, concerns and priorities for the ward and the wider area; and also about the questions of what they would take with them if consigned for an indefinite period on a desert island…

1 What are the main occupations that you’ve had, or still have?

SJ: I worked in a large physics laboratory for many years, firstly in space science and then in energy research. Now I work in finance for good, helping people invest in companies and projects which are tackling issues like climate change, and housing.

2 What do you see as the biggest advantages that Hendreds ward enjoys?

SJ: Hendreds ward is a beautiful rural ward with friendly, active communities that look out for each other.

3 What do you see as the biggest challenges that Hendreds ward might face over the next four years?

SJ: There is a lot of ongoing housing development both in the ward and very close by that is already leading to significant pressure on local infrastructure and facilities. In particular something that is already very difficult for people is access to healthcare with GP surgeries in the area increasingly oversubscribed.

4 Were you to attend every full parish council or town council meeting that would be over 25 a year. Important committee meetings, annual town or parish meetings and extraordinary meetings would add many more (with political meetings, site meetings and ward case-work on top). Are you confident you would be able to attend as many of these town and parish meetings as possible?

SJ: I am: also that I can communicate effectively with the parish councils in the ward when I can’t make every meeting.

5 Are there any ways in which you think the relationship between the Vale Council and the town and parish councils (and the communities they represent) in Hendreds could be improved?

SJ: If elected I will be keen to hear from parish councils and other residents about the issues that matter to them so that I can represent the ward better at the district council. I will ask questions to encourage people to tell me what matters to them.

6 There is a perception that funding allocation from the Vale favours the more urban parts of the district. How would you work with the communities and the towns and parishes in Hendreds to address this perception?

SJ: I suppose that depends on whether it is just a perception, or whether Hendreds and other rural wards are missing out. I would want to understand what is really happening and look for a fair solution that recognises the needs of a rural area.

7 The time may come when you find that your obligations to your electorate are in conflict with the interests of your political party. What factors might you consider to decide how you would act?

SJ: My job as a district councillor would be to represent the best interests of Hendreds Ward at Vale of White Horse District Council. Green Party councillors are not whipped to follow a party line, so I will be able to be an independent voice for Hendreds ward.

8 The Vale has declared a climate emergency. What would be the main initiatives you would like to help develop which would bring sustainable and beneficial improvements and which would reduce the carbon emissions of the ward?

SJ: We are still building new buildings that will have to be retro-fitted in the next couple of decades, so step one would be requiring new builds to be fit for net-zero now. Vale of White Horse already has community owned wind and solar power generation at Westmill near Watchfield and this is something I would like to see a lot more of in the district.   Electric vehicles are not a total solution in themselves, as we all know we don’t have space on the roads for the current levels of car use anyway, so we need some really good alternatives in public transport and active travel to ease climate change, air pollution and congestion.

9 The bus services for Hendreds ward, while still quite good, have faced cuts over the last few years. How do you think you could prevent further cuts from occurring or, ideally, get the service improved?

SJ: I’m so pleased you asked me about buses, because I’m a regular bus user and I’m a big fan. Really good bus services are a practical way to reduce emissions and congestion in rural areas. Look at the service in Switzerland, you can go everywhere, and take your bike on it. We do have a couple of problems in Hendreds ward. Some villages have lost their service altogether in recent years and others have a pretty good service, but the services are at risk because not enough people use them. I do think bus services currently need government funding to make them regular, direct and affordable enough to attract the kind of passenger numbers that will keep them going in the long run. I have written to my MP about extending and improving the funding that was originally provided during the pandemic. I am also keen to understand how to encourage more people to embrace bus use where they do have a good service. I’ve recently heard of a bus safari idea in the Lambourn valley and I’m keen to learn more and see if I could try something similar in Hendreds.

10 There has been a lot of development in Wantage and Grove recently, with even more planned. Do you feel that this has had any negative impacts on the Hendreds ward and how do you feel you could mitigate these impacts in the future?

SJ: There has also been a lot of development in the ward, particularly at Milton Heights, and just east of the ward around Didcot. There is real pressure being felt on road networks and health care in particular all across the ward. If elected I will push for the expansion of local health care facilities, and better public transport and safe cycling and walking routes to reduce traffic at peak times.

11 Thames Water has plans to build a 6.7 sq km reservoir to the north of the Hendreds ward, what is your view on this?

SJ: I am hugely grateful to GARD (Group Against Reservoir Development) for their well researched opposition to this mega project. Thames Water have not made the case for this reservoir and the construction period alone would be devastating for our area. I have taken every opportunity to respond to the slew of consultations on the reservoir plans to raise my concerns and I will keep working with others and speaking up on this.

12 Imagine you have been elected in 2023 and serve your full term. In ten words or fewer, how would you like to be remembered as a Hendreds ward member when the 2027 election comes around (whether or not you are planning to stand then)?

SJ: She listened to us and worked hard.

13 Finally, imagine this is Desert Island Discs. What would be your must-have song, your book and your luxury item?

SJ: Slow Motion Blackbird by Chris Merrick Hughes because it is very calming. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Loose-leaf tea and a tea ball to brew up (assuming I can improvise a fire and some vessel to heat water in.)


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