Thursday 19 May 2022

Scroll down for levelling up, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The BBC reports that there were 135 CV-19 cases in Vale of White Horse in the week 9 to 15  May, down 36 from the week before. This equates to 98 cases per 100,000. The average area in England had 82 (108 last week). See also this map from Gov.uk which enables figures at a more local level to be obtained.

• Thanks to King Alfred’s student James Kent for his fascinating history of Betjeman Millenium Park, Wantage’s hidden tranquil green space which is a haven for walkers, wildlife and the written word. To celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary, James looks back at how the former derelict wasteland was transformed into the vibrant hub it is today and why it is still so important. Named after local poet and former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman (who lived in Wantage from 1951-1972) and dedicated to the start of the new millennium, the park is certainly not your ordinary piece of flat and neatly squared out urban greenery. Being host to semi-wild woodland, engraved sculptures, a circle of ancient sarsen stones (the same as in Stonehenge), three educational exhibits and even a performance area this is less of a park and more of a centre of life. Read James’ article here and pop in to see the Betjeman Millenium Park Exhibition at the Vale & Downland Museum which opened this week and runs until 2 July.

• The AGM of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 25 May in Wantage Methodist Church. You can either attend in person or join us virtually on Zoom. Julie Mabberly will be taiking about her view of the future for OX12. This will summarise everything which has happening in the last ten years, the new local plan consultation and and what infrastructure should be provided with the money from past and future developments. “We already know about 2,000 more homes which developers would like to build here (most of which aren’t included in the current local plan),” she commented. “We really need to plan for a load of infrastructure and fire up all of the councils to make sure that the infrastructure gets delivered so come and join in the conversation.” If you want to attend via Zoom then click here . Only members can vote at the meeting but anyone can attend.

Campaign groups like W&GCG are important. The level of actual and proposed development in Wantage and Grove exceeds, in relative terms, anything in any other area we cover (with the possible exception of Thatcham) and has region-changing implications. The planning and development process is long, complex, expensive and technical and it’s easy to miss key windows when you have your chance to have your say. The same goes for matters such as health provision. The group’s website has the following message: “We are not against any development in Wantage and Grove but developments should be proportionate and sustainable and the infrastructure should enhance and improve the quality of life for its residents.” In the several years that we’ve been following its work, this is exactly what we’ve seen. I’d recommend that anyone who is concerned by or merely interested in the changes that the area is undergoing should subscribe to the W&GCG’s newsletters and consider following any recommendations about action or engagement that these propose.

• Speaking of which, click here to see the archive of the group’s newsletters: the most recent one is at the top.

• The next Wantage community cook-in that creates delicious dishes from surplus food is on Saturday 28 May between 3.30pm and 8.30pm. Everyone is invited to either cook, eat or bring a container for a takeaway. See more on the Facebook page here.

• The Arts Hub Wantage May/June 2022 Newsletter can be read here. It covers cinema back at The Beacon, Jubliee festivities, Morris Men and much more.

• For a list of roadworks planned in the Vale, have a look here. Scroll down to find the Vale of White Horse section. Works are planned on the A34 and M4.

• As you may be aware, the Jubilee celebrations are all underway for Sunday 5 June, including the Big Jubilee Lunch which is to take place in Wantage Market Place between 10.30am and 4pm.

• May News from Sustainable Wantage includes a clothes swap on Saturday 21 May, volunteering opportunities, events at The Mix and lots more.

• Vale of White Horse District Council is seeking thoughts about climate change and how you think it affects you and the surrounding area. Take part in the survey here.

• The District Council is also reviewing the conservation area in Great Coxwell. The village’s conservation area is the designated area of special architectural or historic interest which exists to protect the features and characteristics that make Great Coxwell a historic, unique and distinctive place. Comments are invited on the Conservation Area Appraisal document until Wednesday 1 June. Please click here to have your say.

• There will be a Wildlife Discovery Day on Saturday 11 June between noon and 3pm at the Wantage Market Garden which will give you the opportunity to discover what is hiding in your green beds. There will be activities for kids such as pond dipping and nature crafts. Entry is free and refreshments will be available however picnics are recommended. Email info.suswantage@gmail.com or sgriffiths@styleacre.org.uk for more information.

• If you would like to support Ukrainian refugees please join the Wantage & area Ukrainian refugee support facebook group.

• Wantage MP David Johnston’s latest newsletter includes an invitation to the Wantage & Didcot Climate Summit 9am – 1.30pm on Monday 27 June on zoom with COP26 president Alok Sharma as the keynote speaker.

• Letcombe Register‘s latest edition has plenty of local news and events including the village diary, parish council updates, jubilee plans, and much more.

The latest issue of Hanney News offers colourful and comprehensive news for East and West Hanney.

Levelling up

In her regular column in the Herald (which you can also read here), Julie Mabberly of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group reflects not only on the the new joint local plan for South Oxfordshire and the Vale but also on yet another government attempt to reform the planning system.

Attempts to do this in the past seem to have been as difficult as getting the sun to rise in the west and have been about as successful. Julie lists various features of this. These include a plan to merge developer contributions (S106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levies),in a new system called, confusingly, the Infrastructure Levy. There will also be mandatory local design codes and “a new requirement for local authorities to prepare infrastructure delivery strategies to outline how the money will be spent and what the spending priorities are.” Her expectation of how effective the last one would seem to be low: “given the cancellation of our new leisure centre and the lack of a published leisure strategy for the Vale,” she comments, “I don’t have confidence that any strategy would be followed anyway.”

The walrus in the room (elephants in the room are so last year) with any planning reforms is that most matters of any importance – including, for the majority of houses, what gets built, and where, and at what sale price – is in the hands of private developers. This is not a knock at the private sector and I doubt that if all homes were built by the government that the problems would be solved. The three crucial points are that the developers control the land supply; that they are not in business to execute government policy on housing numbers, infrastructure or anything else; and that the kind of homes that most areas need (smaller houses and affordable/social-rent one) are less profitable to build than large family homes: or, at the other end of the scale, studio flats carved our of re-purposed commercial buildings under Permitted Development Rights, some of which will have things like windows. These aren’t easy problems not fix but it doesn’t seem that tinkering with the existing system is going to fix them.

There’s also the question of local decision-making, something which one hears a lot about at general-election time but is otherwise more honoured in the breach than the observance. The pandemic provided many examples of where a local approach worked better, through this was not the view of the then Secretary of State Robert “Westferry” Jenrick when he strong-armed South Oxfordshire into ratifying a completed but unadopted local plan which the new administration in 2019 had been elected on a platform which dominated by the promise to review it.

Julie Mabberly points to two aspects which neatly summarise this desire to pay lip-service to local opinions but a reluctance to put it into practice. The proposed reforms, she observes, “require each local plan to be limited to locally specific matters such as allocating land for development, detailing required infrastructure and setting out principles of good design.” However, she goes on, “general policies on issues that apply in most areas will be set out nationally and contained in a suite of National Development Management Policies, which will have the same weight as plans.” If these include stipulations on matters such as sustainability then all well and good: these, however, apply to “all” areas not just to “most”. Her conclusion may well be yours: “So, less local democracy then.”

Community notices

• The Vale Community Impact advice centre in Wantage marketplace is looking for a new volunteer to help administrate their transport service. It would require about 8 hours a week to log transport bookings and make calls. Full training is provided and once trained, work can be done from home. Please see more details here or contact Kathy on recruitment@vci.org.uk

• Reminder to get your tickets before 25 June for the White Horse Community Lottery, which funds many good causes in the area, for the chance to win a fabulous Forest Holiday to the value of £1,000. Click here to chose which organisation to support when you buy your lottery tickets.

• The Wantage Community Larder is at the Beacon from 2.30pm to 5pm every Friday. Prevent food from being wasted. Costs just £3.50 per week for 14 items. For more information, please follow the larder on Facebook.

• If you want to find out about concerts, theatre and films in and around Wantage and Grove or local arts, theatrical or music groups to join, subscribe to the Arts Hub newsletter by emailing artshubwantage@gmail.com

• Used printer ink cartridges can now be recycled at Cartridge UK, Wantage. Any recycled products will also help Sustainable Wantage with funding, as the group will receive extra donations for encouraging the recycling of the cartridges.

 Volunteer drivers are needed in the Wantage and Grove areas – click here for details.

Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue saves thousands of birds and animals. To support them you can make monthly donations here or make a one-off donation to Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue sort code 08-71-99 account number 01764669.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sun 5 June Jubilee Picnic in Wantage Market Place

Sat 11 June Wildlife Discovery Day at Wantage Market Garden. Email info.suswantage@gmail.com or sgriffiths@styleacre.org.uk for information.

Sun 26 June Wantage Carnival

• Regular events

• Please see Wantage.com for time and dates for the various local church Christmas services plus events.

 Wantage Library events for all ages. See details on their Facebook page.

• Wantage Library’s reading group meet every 2nd Monday of the month from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. If you are interested in joining, contact the Library on Facebook or at wantage.library@oxfordshire.gov.uk to register your interest.

Vale & Downland Museum Book Group meets at the museum’s café on the second Friday of each month at 2pm. Any questions or queries can be sent to info@valeanddownlandmuseum.org.uk.

Oxfordshire Mind runs a weekly Wantage Mental Health Support Group every Tuesday from 10am to noon at Wantage Methodist Church.

Wantage market every Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 3pm. For further details please see the Wantage Market Facebook page.

 Wantage Country market every Friday. See details here.

• Wantage Library has a wide range of books on family and local history as well as free online resources accessible from home. See here for details.

Walking Netball at Old Mill Hall, Grove every Thursday from 12.30pm to 1.30pm. No previous experience is needed and all ages are welcome.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Wantage Town Council took place on 28 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the pedestrianisation at the western end of the Market Place; weed killing; the CCTV in Wallingford Street; parking enforcement; speed limits; the neighbourhood development plan; the jubilee; the Council’s newsletter; committee reports; the Council’s investment strategy; reports from district and county councillors; and hosting refugees from Ukraine. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Click here to see the agenda for the meeting on 29 November. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Grove Parish Council took place on 5 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; a question about the Williams F1 fencing; Grove Airfield and Crab Hill; noise levels at Old Mill Hall; a proposed memorial tree;  financial matters; and planning matters. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of East Hanney Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of East Challow Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can download the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Letcombe Regis Parish Council took place on 15 November 2021 and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Ardington & Lockinge Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 March 2021 and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Wantage area council contacts

Parishes: click here for Wantage Town CouncilGrove Parish CouncilWest Challow Parish CouncilEast Challow Parish CouncilArdington & Lockinge Parish CouncilWest Hanney Parish CouncilEast Hanney Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

Vale of White Horse District Council: click here to visit the website.

Oxfordshire County Councilclick here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyNewbury area; Thatcham area; Compton & DownlandsTheale area; Marlborough area; Swindon area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Archives

To see earlier Wantage & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns, please click here.

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