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Village Plan Review -September 2010

Part A             Review of Village Plan Achievements to 2010

Achievements

Many of the objectives itemized as PLANS in the Village Plan (pages 16 to 19) have been achieved as summarized below.  The achievement list is excellent. The PLANS are described as medium to long term –presumably over the 10 year life of the Plan. A number of these projects had lives of their own eg within the Parish Council independently of the Village Plan

PLAYGROUNDS FOR UNDER 11s

Plan 1 – Improving the village playgrounds

Since the publication of the Village Plan a major refurbishment of the Church Road recreation ground has been carried out, which is popular and effective. A major refurbishment and imaginative makeover of the Cullum Road Recreation Ground (which includes provision for over 11s) is almost complete. Both these schemes have required much hard work and fundraising, including by individual Parish Councillors; also Parish Council funds.

Plan 2 – Safer access across Church Road to the recreation ground/pavement on North side of Church Road.

This a priority of the Parish Council and is in a queue of works, some of which involve lengthy campaigns to obtain funds from third parties, eg Brookes University and the County Council’s Travel to School schemes.

YOUTH ACTIVITIES

Plan 3 – New/better facilities at the Youth Centre

The Parish Council earmarked funds year on year to open up the Youth Centre on an additional weekday evening. This was not taken up by the County Council notwithstanding repeated Parish Council requests. Query whether most young people welcome the level of supervision involved in Youth Centre schemes. A number of Parish Councillors are pursuing a “Youth Shelter” project which appears very popular. This involves creating an informal, marginally sheltered, gathering place to be installed in one of the recreation grounds. After initial work is appears the Church Road recreation ground is likely to be a more suitable site than Cullum Road.

Plan 4 –Conversion of Primary School Sports Pavilion to Community/Youth centre

Query whether this can happen within the Village Plan time frame; there may be problems with the relative isolation of the Sports Pavilion and the current sports Field agreement with the County Council. This may be something for the future.

NEEDS FOR (sic) THE ELDERLY

Plan 5 – Better information etc services for older persons

Since the Village Plan was published the Parish Council has co-operated with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in establishing a CAB in Wheatley. This is in the heart of the village at the United Reformed Church, which has very kindly made its facilities available. The Parish Council has paid £1,000 each year towards the cost of the CAB for three years. This service is useful to all residents but especially to the elderly. The Wheatley Information Booklet is being revamped, thanks to the Wheatley Society, and will presumably give details of the various services available in the village for the elderly. The Parish Council has installed a number of public seats around the village, particularly to assist older persons walking into the village.

VILLAGE SERVICES

Plan 6 –Desirability of Markets

A small farmers’ market now takes place weekly/fortnightly on Friday mornings outside the Merry Bells.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Plan 7focuses on litter, best kept village competitions, information boards re village history etc.

Best kept village competitions have been entered –thanks to hard work on the part of Parish Councillors Dalton and Carr – and awards have been won. Councillors Slade and Sprent successfully organised recent litter blitzes –thank you.

Plan 8 Improvements to the Old Burial Ground

The Parish Council has made substantial improvements to the Old Burial Ground, including a redesign of the stone steps on the High Street side, refurbishment of the High Street wall, provision of seats and refurbishment of the path (although the stones deployed on this path now appear unsatisfactory and are likely to be replaced). The commemorative lettering on the war memorial itself has been re-picked out, largely on the initiative of the late Cllr Peter Audley-Miller. “Installing effective fencing and keeping the ground locked at night” may be a step too far and impractical given the nature of the site –the fencing would have to be very high for the heart of the village.

Query whether plans 7 & 8 are sufficient to address the village’s environmental issues.

TRANSPORT, CAR PARKS, PAVEMENTS

Plan 9 – proposes that “car parking is the most urgent component in this category” The Plan proposes that new car parks be constructed on the greensward to the north side of London Road 9 -by the ancient wall – and in the residential Wren Close area; also within the business centre on Old London Road and land at the telephone exchange.

Query whether these sites are suitable and whether demand has been accurately analysed. The Parish Council has rejected the first two sites as being inappropriate.

Plan 10 –“install higher kerbs on many pavements, dropped kerbs at crossing points, pavements at Church Road/Holloway Road junction and in Crown Road”

The Parish Council successfully obtained County Council funding for widening and raising the pavements on the south side of Church Road -an expensive project partly because of drainage problems. The new pavement is not as wide as the Parish Council would have liked but it is an improvement. The County Council declined to improve the pavements on the north side of Church Road for lack of funds.

The Parish Council had previously, with County Council funding, created a pavement on the east side of Friday Lane, where previously there had been none. Further works in Church Road –well publicised in the village -to improve safety, reduce congestion and prevent vehicles driving on the pavement  – by allowing only buses to enter Church Road from the east – are an ongoing  Parish Council project, with the work promised by the County Council in the spring of 2010 (recently  postponed again  by the County Council, apparently for financial  reasons–somewhat odd given that the bus companies have asked for similar measures to be urgently put in place because of the problems in Church Road; also the proposed measures will substantially increase safety and  are extremely cheap.)

New pavements and crossings at the Church Road/ Holloway Road junction and Park Hill roundabouts are also projected, held up by delays in the above Church Road project and the possibility of funding from Brookes University as part of a S106 agreement and School Travel Plan funding.

Pavement widening and pedestrian crossing/s in Station Road are being pursued – with the support of the Primary School. Pavements in Crown Road -the County Council has said there is insufficient room. The pavement and crossing on the north side of Church Road west -by the recreation ground – (Plan 2) is also a Parish Council priority.

The Parish Council has funded a number of new dropped kerbs in the village eg at Simons Close.

See also the Parish Council’s work towards obtaining a quieter modern surface on the A40 past Wheatley in place of the abrasively noisy surface installed without consultation some years ago.

The Parish Council actively supports the installation of a 20mph speed limit throughout the village. See generally the Parish Council’s detailed response to the County Council’s 2010 Local Transport Plan consultation.

The Parish Council would appreciate extra input from residents wishing to help make the village safe for pedestrians and cyclists; also to make the village more pleasant and attractive to live in – eg by meeting the local preference for reducing the volume of through traffic using the village (see the huge vote for this vote shown on page 34 of the Village Plan document).

FOOTPATHS AND CYCLEWAYS

Plan 11 –Open new footpath from Ladder Hill via Howe Close to Littleworth; open new path/cycle way from Roman Road to Asda

The first footpath crosses private land with an elderly disused railway bridge and proved unfeasible; the Parish Council is actively pursuing a cycle route from west to east of the village and thence to Thame and has sought funding including from Brookes University. This is an ongoing project. The footpath from Station Road to Farm Close has been successfully refurbished. At Roman Road the Parish Council has extended the footpath by the stream to the roadside. The Littleworth footpath has been extended and improvements made where the path meets the business “apron.” in Littleworth. See also the Parish Council’s response to the County Council’s 2010 Local Transport Plan Consultation.

SPORTS

Plan 12 –New facilities sought –all weather bowling green, all weather outdoor pitch, roller blade park; aspirations -indoor tennis court, swimming pool, ten pin bowling alley.

A major project to renew the sports pavilion at Holton with brand new facilities is ongoing. This is organised by the Sports  Field Association, which is part funded by the Parish Council to the tune, currently, of c £10,000 per annum.

COMMENTARY

  • The 2004 Village Plan states, at page 2, that it is a ten year plan. The ten year period expires in 2014.
  • The Executive Summary, at page 3, prioritises car parking first and foremost. There is no analysis of the pedestrian safety and traffic concerns of the village, although dropped kerbs and controlled crossings are prioritised. Improvements to public footpaths and to the recreation grounds are also highlighted.
  • The Plan authors, somewhat controversially, designate Wheatley at page 4 a “rural town” rather than a village.
  • The assumption, at page 3, that environmental improvements can be left to the District and County Councils, has not proved justified.
  • At page 4 the Plan states that “traffic simply flows through the village and has little connection with it”. At page 5 the Plan states “It is to address the sustainability of village community life that this report has been written”. On page 6 the objectives of the plan include –“to evaluate the… problems and needs… of the community.”
  • At page 6 traffic calming was stated to be excluded from consideration for the reason that it was “in process”. However “the environment, issues associated with living in certain locations and transport were included. At page 36 the printed responses to the Village Plan questionnaires show that 1,171 residents (a very high proportion of the adult population) “agreed with the attempts being made to reduce traffic driving through Wheatley” (Village Plan emphasis).  This vote and its broader priorities for the village are not reflected in the detailed Plans and, oddly, are contradicted by a few of the short term “Action Points”.
  • The Parish Council has worked on numerous other projects since 2004 –please see detailed Minutes and Agendas of Parish Council and committee meetings. There have been successes and certainly much background work. For example a Parish Council website has been established; the Parish Council very recently persuaded the County Council to use a modern quiet surface for the August/September 2010 A40 repair works – this sets a helpful precedent for the remainder of the noisy A40 stretch currently blighting Wheatley and Shotover; the land in the centre of the village previously occupied by the toilet block is about to be purchased by the Parish Council for community use.

The Six Action Points (pages 20, 25 & 26 of the Plan) – these are said by the Plan to be recommendations for short term action eg “writing letters and would not necessarily involve significant costs”.

In the case of some Action Points this is not a realistic assessment of the work involved; also some of the Points appear to have a limited correlation with the statistics of the Village Plan questionnaire responses.

Action Point 1 relates to matters such as “increased NHS  dental services, respite for carers, improvements to the Library, further education classes, and improvements to the Merry Bells” none of which appear to fall within the remit of the Parish Council. At the time of writing it is not clear whether the Wheatley Society and other village organisations have pursued these matters. The Merry Bells Management Committee has made ongoing improvements to the building and has recently embarked upon plans to improve the Merry Bells frontage; also to prevent cars driving on the forecourt in the context that pre school children use it.

Action Point 2 These suggestions came from a small number of respondents,  mostly High Street businesses and shops, eg “improved car parking near the shops, reducing planning restrictions, removing traffic calming features” etc. To some extent these points contradict the majority responses shown at page 36 of the Village Plan document. A way needs to be found to balance business interests with residents’ wish to have an unpolluted, safer and more pleasant environment.  Such an environment is likely in turn to bring more business to local shops.  Improved car parking near the shops is an ongoing need which has proved difficult to achieve in an ancient High Street with unmonitored car parks. There is on street parking within easy walking distance from the shops, but see Village Plan at Page 4 quoted above –“traffic simply flows through the village and has little connection with it”. This is unlikely to change very substantially for commuters accustomed to shopping at nearby Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys. The market is ideally local and local trade is likely to increase with a more attractive village environment so that residents, including children, can walk/cycle pleasantly and safely to their local shops. The Parish Council has considered an environmental improvement scheme in the heart of the village near the shops but has been told there is no funding at present.

Action Point 3& 4 relate to litter, recycling and waste. The District Council has introduced much of the requested recycling provision.

Action Point 5 –“More information about Town & Country Planning applications; no development in the Green Belt; Affordable Housing” All planning applications appear on SODC’s website. The Parish Council has recently set up its own website which will include the agendas and minutes of its Planning Committee. The Parish Council has pursued an energetic policy of protecting the Green Belt and has actively supported the search for an “Exception Site” for affordable housing in the village, consistent with policies for the preservation of the Green Belt. The need for Affordable Housing is considered regularly at meetings of the Parish Council and has been the subject of newsletter articles by the Chairman of the Council.

Action Point 6 deals with particular security issues which are largely beyond the control of the Parish Council, although the Council works well with the Police and Community Safety officers on security issues at large.

Action Point 7 – increase car parking times in the High Street. This has been achieved to a modest extent. Query –possible conflict of priorities between residents seeking long term parking on the one hand and local shops seeking brief parking for passing trade.

Action Point 8 –mentions public transport matters. NB the Parish Council has an active and experienced Public Transport Representative.

Action Point 9 (Footpaths and Cycle ways)  –“reopen old White Hart footpath-High Street to Church Road; install lighting on 3 village footpaths; cut grass and remove litter and dog dirt.” The Parish Council made a detailed formal application to the County Council’s Footpaths Agency to reopen the White Hart footpath for public use. This application failed and consequently the footpath remains closed. The Parish Council has arranged and paid for lighting to be installed at the Beech Road/Kelham Hall footpath and an arrangement has been kindly agreed by the bakery to improve lighting on the High Street/Farm Close Road footpath. The County Council is responsible for the maintenance of public footpaths. The Parish Council has subscribed to additional dog waste bins –at considerable public expense.

Action Point 10 the requested informal recreational access to the Holton/Primary school playing fields proved unworkable for reasons beyond the control of the Parish Council.

Part B         WHEATLEY PARISH COUNCIL

VILLAGE PLAN 2010

Mission statement

Wheatley Parish Council serves to shape and fulfill the vision of Wheatley Parish continuing to develop into the 21st century as a thriving semi-rural community, whilst maintaining its emphasis as a village and protecting it from the less desirable effects of its location.

Objectives

1.    To take a lead in the development of appropriate facilities and services for the benefit of Wheatley residents of all ages, and to deliver these on time and on budget.

2.    To respond to the ever-changing environment by protecting the interests of Wheatley residents, both current and future.

3.    To ensure Wheatley is a safe and enjoyable place in which to grow up, live, work and grow old.

Strategies

1. Facilities and infrastructure

Maintain

  • To continue to maintain existing green spaces, play areas, seating and pathways via grass cutting, tree and general maintenance, and litter picking to a good standard.

Look to develop

  • To improve pedestrian safety and accessibility.
  • To reduce rat-run traffic volumes and speed through the village.
  • To improve sports, play and recreational facilities for villagers of all ages.
  • To improve the village centre environment.
  • To provide affordable housing as required.
  • To consult on/hold a public competition for a design for best community use of the “former toilet block” land in the heart of the village
  • To improve the availability of short term parking for shoppers in the village via the existing car park and on-street spaces, including by drawing up proposals for measures to reduce the current problem of all day commuter park-and-ride behaviour.

Do not progress

  • Whilst one proposed outcome from the questionnaires suggested a need to provide new car parks this was not felt a priority to progress, at least for the time-being, since more parking would encourage all-day commuter park-and-riding, additional hazards on our narrow streets and has the potential to ruin the rural nature of the village.

2. Services and Communication

Maintain

  • To continue to support and publicise village societies and organisations to ensure all residents are aware of the opportunities and services available to them.
  • To continue to encourage and support outside organisations such as C.A.B. who can offer support and advice to residents.
  • To continue to communicate directly with village at least bi-monthly to ensure residents are kept abreast of initiatives.
  • To maintain and improve the infant Parish Council website, which provides Parish Council Agendas and Minutes to the community.

Look to develop

  • To improve accessibility of information and encourage input from all residents.
  • To support additional business/non-commercial organisations who might bring employment and services to the local community.

3. Community and Environment

Maintain

  • To continue to support third party organisations such as SODC, CPRE, Shotover Estate, Wheatley Primary School etc to protect the Wheatley village area from unwanted, potentially damaging development, whilst ensuring positive works are supported.
  • To continue to support third party organisations to protect biodiversity in the area.

Look to develop

  • To create a Wheatley biodiversity statement and to identify which areas in the parish and vicinity should be protected.
  • To work, together with other third parties, such as neighbouring parish councils and local councillors to improve and protect the rural nature of Wheatley – including reducing the noise polluting effects of A40/M40 or local roads, putting in place measures to minimise all day street parking by commuters into Oxford etc.
  • To support third parties such as Fusion in building positive relationships across age  and social groups in the village via village events etc

Action Plans

1. Facilities and infrastructure

  • In conjunction with the Sports field Management Committee, to pursue grants with the aim of improving the sports fields and buildings
  • To work on the arrangements  which will take the place of   the current Sports field agreement with the County Council, on its expiry in November 2013
  • To add a Youth Shelter to the Church Road recreational ground.
  • To continue to maintain and refurbish  recreation grounds as need/opportunity arise.
  • To develop the existing, and look at new opportunities to enhance, the footpath network.
  • To add to the dog bin locations as seen necessary to maintain cleanliness on paths and streets.
  • To maintain and improve the Parish Council- owned allotment sites as required.
  • To draw up proposals and secure third party funding for a new cycle path.
  • To draw up proposals and secure third party funding to introduce pedestrian safety/speed measures on Church Road including the junction with Holloway Road.
  • To draw up proposals as above for Holloway/London Rd/Park Hill junction.
  • To draw up proposals as above for a crossing at the Cromwell Place/Fairfax Gate London Rd junction.
  • To work with Primary School on their travel plan objective to secure funding for a Station Road pedestrian crossing;  to look at creative school-traffic problem solutions such as park & walk schemes which may help reduce traffic volumes, and to encourage walking/cycling to school initiatives as a whole.
  • To promote signage/road changes to reduce through traffic volumes and speeds – including to reduce inappropriate Heavy Goods Vehicles/Sat Nav problems on minor roads, and dissuade rat-running traffic in general.
  • To draw up proposals to create a no-through road for Bell Lane, thereby reducing traffic cut-through speeds and helping to improve pedestrian safety in a proven danger-spot in the centre of the village.
  • To maintain an active involvement, including with the Park School, in the Brookes Campus development plans and ensure appropriate section 106 improvements are obtained for the village. These include obtaining funding for the child/student friendly road safety measures outlined above.
  • To purchase pockets of land, as appropriate to enhance the village centre/High Street environment, eg the former toilet block land adjacent to the parade of shops.
  • To work with third parties to assess the needs of residents and influence those bodies, so far as we are able, to supply as required, suitable  affordable housing.

2. Services and Communication

  • To support third party development of a village information booklet.
  • To deliver and develop the bi-monthly newsletter.
  • To maintain and improve the Parish Council website

3. Community and environment

  • To continue to control  development and protect  the village from inappropriate development via the Parish Council’s Planning Committee and Traffic and Roads Advisory Committee; also the Council’s relationships with SODC and other government agencies.
  • To actively protect  village interests in regard to national/council planning, voicing concerns robustly where necessary, whilst actively supporting favourable development initiatives such as Thornhill Park & Ride extension etc
  • To build relationships with local MP and district/city and county representatives to ensure Wheatley’s best interests are put forward wherever possible, and in particular in relation to the Local Transport Plan.
  • To work together with other local parish councils, organisations and societies to ensure the local villages act in unison where relevant for the good of us all – in particular to actively campaign for A40 resurfacing with a view to  noise reduction.
  • To continue to liaise with commercial organisations and employers (such as ASDA) as well as local schools and higher education personnel to ensure that the needs of the community are met when considering any future developments.

Wheatley Parish Council

6th September 2010