Please click below to download a copy of the APM 2015 minutes.
MINUTES OF THE BLOXHAM ANNUAL PARISH MEETING HELD AT WARRINER SCHOOL, BLOXHAM ON THURSDAY 23 APRIL 2015 7.30PM
PRESENT: Chairman Councillor Geoff Mollard: Councillors Robert Giles, Mary Groves, Patricia Hopkins, Stephen Phipps, Nick Rayner, Gloria Lester-Stevens, Sue Slater and Jenny Yates.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer to Bloxham Parish Council Theresa Goss, Administration Assistant to the Parish Council Katherine Mills, Neighbourhood Plan Co-ordinator John Groves, District Councillor Christine Heath, Alan Mole and 20 members of the public.
APOLOGIES: Parish Councillors Patricia Hopkins, Nick Rayner and Andrew Taplin, District Councillor Lynda Thirzie-Smart and County Councillor Kieron Mallon.
1/15 MINUTES – The minutes of the meeting held on 12 June 2014 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
2/15 MATTERS ARISING – There were no matters arising from the minutes of the meeting held on 12 June 2014.
3/15 FINANCIAL REPORT – The Clerk presented to the Annual Parish Meeting, the financial report for 2014/2015. The figures had been subject to internal audit and gave an accurate picture of the activities of the year. There were no items of clarification.
4/15 CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
Personnel Changes: New Councillors – The Parish Council had three new Councillors Caroline Hone, Andy Taplin and Robert Giles and the Chairman thanked them for their contribution to Parish affairs during the period.
The Parish Council also expressed its thanks to Dr Jim Golby who had retired from the Parish Council after many years’ of service to the Parish.
Planning – Despite the Parish Council putting forward reasoned arguments to prevent inappropriate and large scale planning applications being approved, it had been unsuccessful in preventing the approval of the reapplication by Frampton’s for Milton Road. Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) supported the Parish Council’s stance, noting that the Primary School was unsuitable for expansion would not be able to accommodate additional pupils. This evidence together with the Parish Council’s evidence was not sufficient to deter the District Council from giving approval for the application.
The Parish Council had been successful in diverting S106 monies allocated by the Miller Homes Development away from the North Oxfordshire Academy and into the Warriner School. This would be used for improvements in their outdoor sports area, for both school and community use.
There was currently an application by Taylor Wimpey for 37 houses leading off Collins Drive, and crossing the most scenic right of way within the village boundaries.
The application was markedly different from the layout that was subjected to public consultation. It showed not only an increase in the housing numbers of 23% but also an increase of more “affordable housing”.
Taylor Wimpey asserted that they were responding to the consultation where the residents informed Taylor Wimpey that they required more affordable housing in the village.
Following the Examination of Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan and consultation on Bloxham’s own Neighbourhood Development Plan, two further developers had identified locations in Bloxham that they believed were suitable for development. The first was behind Courtington Lane and the second was the field between the Barford Road and South Newington Road.
At present the Parish Council was in constant dialogue with the planners at CDC regarding the Bovis development on the Barford Road.
The Parish Council felt that there was a distinct lack of control exercised by CDC as to the adherence and enforcement of conditions set not only by the Inspector at Appeal, the Secretary of State upholding that approval, but also Cherwell District Council Officers in their recommendation for approval for the application.
Both Thames Water and the Environment Agency were withholding approval for both developments until conditions were met. The Parish Council currently had meetings scheduled with both of these agencies.
To say it had been another disappointing year, would be to understate how the Parish Council felt following the decisions by CDC and Central Government. On a more positive note the Parish Council’s relationship with OCC seemed to be improving and CDC Environmental Health Officers had agreed on an air quality assessment of Bloxham. The Parish Council had just been informed of a further planning application for yet more houses on land to the rear of Crab Tree Close and bordering Ells Lane. However the village must recognise the incredible amount of work undertaken by the Parish Council’s Planning Committee led by Councillor Jenny Yates.
Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) – There would be a presentation later in the meeting on the progress of the Bloxham NDP by Mr John Groves. However, the importance of delivering such a plan and our exposure to continuing applications from developers could not be overstated and needed the full support of all the residents of Bloxham.
Cherwell District Council (CDC) Local Plan – Yet another year had gone and we still did not have the protection from developers that we could and should expect from a Local Plan.
CDC submitted its final plan document to the Government in January of this year, a plan that made provision for 22800 new homes. Of this total 7139 were in Banbury and included 1345 homes on the Salt Way which was originally earmarked as a green buffer zone protecting Bloxham from the continuing encroachment of Banbury.
The Chairman ended this housing review by stating that throughout the last year, and irrespective of promises given and face to face meetings held, the Parish Council had received little support from CDC or from Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) who see no problem with schooling, traffic, flooding or the effect of continuing development on the sustainability of Bloxham village.
The Chairman then turned to the other subjects that had required Parish Council’s consideration during the last year, that were in addition to day to day administration.
New Home Bonus – One positive outcome of the additional housing had been the New Homes Bonus awarded to the village which had amounted to £72,000 over the past three years. After careful consideration of the grant applications received from village organisations, the Parish Council had to date, approved a total of £44k which included money to finance the acquisition of The Slade and the proposed Circular Walk. Most of the remainder had been set aside to help towards the refurbishment programme at the Jubilee Hall.
Bloxham Circular Walk – The Chairman and two parishioners, Mr Des Jones and Mr Alan Mole, had continued to work to create the Circular Walk for Bloxham. Progress had been made and the leaflets and maps had been finalised and the current position would be explained by Alan Mole in a short presentation later in the meeting.
Slade Nature Reserve – When the Parish Council reported on this last June, it been hoped that the transfer of The Slade to the Parish Council would only be a little further delayed. Repairs to the culverts and boundary fence by OCC had been agreed, but OCC had experienced difficulty in finding contractors as they no longer had their own work force and other legal issues had also delayed the transfer. OCC’s legal department had been under some pressure owing to the number of developments around the County.
The Parish Council had now agreed that the transfer would take place on the basis that OCC would provide the Parish Council with the funds necessary to undertake these repairs. The Parish Council had contacts with experienced people and many volunteers who could undertake the work and so the Chairman was pleased to say it was now moving forward.
The Red Lion – The Parish Council had continued to support the Red Lion Hub, in its’ endeavours to secure ownership of The Red Lion for the village and would continue to do so. As residents knew, it was proving exceedingly difficult to persuade the owners, Fullers Brewery, to accept a reasonable price as they obviously considered that offers from property speculators would prove more financially acceptable. The Parish Council would continue to give what support it could and its thanks went to Councillor Mary Groves for all her work and also Councillor Robert Giles, who was now the Parish Council’s representative on the Steering Group.
Parish Councillor Robert Giles then reported that it had been agreed by the Steering Group to put forward an offer to Fullers on behalf of the village and interested parties, of about £320,000. However, their agents Fluretts claimed that they had received offers of £400,000, therefore we agreed not to move forward with the bid.
Fluretts had advised that a restaurant chain had put in an offer for the site and the deal was close to being completed.
The Steering Group had questioned the facts on this, and was unsure whether or not it was accurate. From the Parish Council’s point of view, it was the aesthetics of the building, keeping the characteristics of the building and access to the green which it wished to protect.
The Parish Council would also like to know what the new owner would do to the site, whilst ensuring access to the garden area. However, until the Steering Group had been advised no further information could be gained. If the building falls into disrepair then Fullers would need to addresses this and remove the rats and sort out the gas box which was exposed.
Recreation – Residents were aware that the Bloxham NDP questionnaire had asked many questions concerning recreation and recreational facilities in Bloxham. The Parish Council continued to support, with parish funds, most of the recreational outlets in the village but had now turned its’ attention to the Jubilee Park and Hall. The Jubilee was owned by the village and the Parish Council had continued to support the Jubilee Park Management Committee and the separate Project Team, which was managing the refurbishment programme and utilising development funds from recent and now approved housing developments in the village. The extensive refurbishment programme neared completion with a new kitchen, new floor in the main hall, new storage rooms and internal access to all toilet facilities. The hall and kitchen had been repainted and the toilets and changing rooms were to follow.
Recreation Ground (The Rec) – Discussions had continued between the Trustees of the recreation ground and the Parish Council, with a view to concluding arrangements that would enable the Parish to invest in new recreational equipment. The Parish Council also encouraged the introduction of new trustees, which together would help to create a more assured future for the Recreation Ground.
Village Maintenance – The Parish Council had continued to press OCC regarding the closure of Old Bridge Road and had expressed serious concerns at the lack of maintenance of pathways, kerbs and verges around the village. At recent meetings, the Parish Council had proposed the extensive use of Bloxham’s S106 money which should be allocated to the improvement of roads and pathways.
The Parish Council was also proposing the recruitment of a village caretaker who would be available to undertake many of the tasks that OCC no longer performed. There had been a serious increase in complaints regarding dog fouling around the village and even in the Church Yard. As a consequence, meetings had been held with Environmental Officers and the Anti-social Behaviour Team at CDC and a programme involving surveillance was to be introduced.
Bloxham Parish Council Membership – The village would continue to be under pressure from land speculators and developers into the foreseeable future. The approved developments would need to be continually monitored, in order to ensure compliance with the agreed planning specifications. Traffic would get worse, school places for Bloxham residents would diminish and the ability of the village to absorb all the approved housing would be sorely tested.
Bloxham needed a strong and active Parish Council and it needed more Councillors. Therefore, residents were invited to talk to the Councillors to see how they could help. The “drop in & chat” sessions were held on the second Saturday of every month in the Ex-Servicemen’s hall, from 10.30am to 11.30am. Bloxham needed contributions from its residents.
5/14 DISCUSSION OF CHAIRMAN’S REPORT – The Chairman asked if members of the public had any questions.
Rod Wallington asked if there were any updates with regard school places and the capacity at the doctors’ surgery to take on more patients. John Groves reported that at the Primary School, most of the years were at capacity or above. Quite a few children came out of the catchment area from Banbury, but that wouldn’t be the case in future when the new houses were built. However, places in year groups would eventually become available because the Banbury children would leave the Primary School at the end of year 6 and places would then be allocated to Bloxham children within catchment.
However with all the housing in the village, there would still be increased pressure on the Primary School. The village was coming into a period when it would be difficult for people in the new housing developments to get into the Primary School, but as reported, this could change in about five years’ time when the current Banbury children left to move onto secondary school.
A resident asked what Oxfordshire County Council had commented with regard to the developments in the village. Jenny Yates reported that OCC had objected to the Taylor Wimpey development because the site would impact on the availability of school places.
The doctors’ surgery had commented that they would be able to increase their patient numbers, but because there were very few GP’s coming forward it would impact on waiting times for an appointment.
Rod Wallington also highlighted that as the village got bigger the issues would get worse.
Gloria Lester-Stevens reported that the in-take for Warriner School in September 2015, would include children out of the catchment area.
Phil Cavill asked if Cherwell District Council (CDC) was still insisting on putting play areas (LAPS) on all new developments. Councillor Jenny Yates reported where CDC had planned to include a LEAP, as well as a LAP as in the case of Bovis, they would ask for an enhanced LAP and allocate the remaining funds to the Parish for recreation use. The view was that any LAP provided on a development site would need to be in keeping with a rural setting.
Phil Cavill asked whether there were funds available to improve Jubilee Park and the Recreation Ground. The Chairman advised that there was approximately £50,000-£60,000 for the play areas and CDC had been advised that Bloxham did not want LAPS and LEAPS, but negotiating was difficult.
Phil Cavill also reported that the services which the County Council should be providing such as gutter clearing was not being completed. Some of the gutters were full of rubble and the grids were also blocked. Soil had also built up on the roads and they needed to be swept to ensure the drains and gutters were kept clear.
The Chairman advised that at a recent meeting with CDC and OCC, it had been highlighted that OCC was now only responsive. They only looked at an issue when it had actually become a problem, which was often too late.
A resident reported that he had contact OCC about unblocking the drains in Queen Street drains. However, this had not been done.
A resident asked how CDC and OCC could not see that the problems with traffic in the village was getting worse. She reported that it had taken her 20 minutes to leave Bloxham that morning, and that was not unusual. How much more evidence did the community need to provide.
Councillor Jenny Yates reported that the Parish Council had commissioned a traffic survey and so too had Warriner School, both of which conflicted with the reports provided by developers. A report was now being commissioned with other Parish Councils in the area regarding traffic levels and vehicles types, such as HGV’s, using the A361. This was in conjunction with OCC. However, OCC was now stating that the mini roundabout was severely congested.
Decisions were taken by Officers and Councillors at OCC who no knowledge of Bloxham’s situation. This was also the case with some of the District Councillors who made decisions on planning matters on CDC’s Planning Committee.
Councillor Jenny Yates encouraged residents to respond to all planning applications and draw matters such as these, which had a fundamental impact on village life, to the attention of CDC.
Councillor Mary Groves reported that she had stood outside the Primary School with the planning Inspector who had been carrying out the inquiry for Miller Homes, observing the traffic. They had both seen horrific examples of parking and traffic issues, but the Inspector had still approved the application and justified this by stating that it was human nature.
A resident asked if it would take an accident for something to be done. The Councillors felt that it probably would, but residents needed to make these type of comments when planning applications were subject to public consultation. The Parish Council could only do so much and it needed more support from the village.
Councillor Yates also reported that the Parish Council’s Planning Committee met nearly every two weeks, and this was in addition to other Parish Council meetings.
Councillor Stephen Phipps reported that following a meeting at OCC, officers had confirmed that as there was no maintenance programme, they could only react to reports. However, they had put in place on their web site ‘fix my street’ and it had been useful on occasions.
A resident asked if the Parish Council could do anything about parking on the pavements. The Chairman reported that the Parish Council had met with Thames Valley Police and raised these issues, and would do so again at their next meeting on 30 April. The Parish Council was well aware that parking was an issue and along with speeding on the roads heading in and out of the village. There was little speeding through the village because it was so congested.
Councillor Yates highlighted that the parking issues were exacerbated by the lack of parking on the new developments as many of the applications did not account for two cars per household.
Residents also suggested another VAS might help with the speeding issues.
A resident asked if the Parish Council was able to help with the mess outside of the co-op and the post office and whether it could ask the shop owners to remove their crates. The Chairman reported that the owners had already been asked to tidy up the area, but the requests had been ignored.
6/14 REPORTS FROM COUNTY AND DISTRICT COUNCILLORS
District Councillor Christine Heath – Another year as Bloxham’s District Councillor had been a very busy year once again, mainly due to planning issues. As everyone knew by now, the Bovis homes development on Barford Road was well under way and had been causing numerous issues for residents, particularly those who lived in that area.
A lot of these issues were still ongoing and she could only hope that most of them would be solved in the near future. The site on the Milton Road was yet to be started, but this could be some time away and hopefully the Barford Road site would be finished before this one started. There were still planning issues on the Miller Homes site opposite the Primary School, so this one had not yet commenced either.
An application by Taylor Wimpey for 37 dwellings, south of the Church with access from Collins Drive had been submitted to Cherwell District Council. This was currently being considered by Bloxham Parish Council’s Planning Committee. Its comments would then be fed into CDC’s Planning Committee when it made the decision.
With regard to other planning matters, there had been numerous contentious small applications which had taken up an incredible amount of time, for both Councillor Heath and the Parish Council’s Planning Committee. Some of these had been resolved, but others were ongoing and continuing to create an enormous workload.
Councillor Heath took the opportunity to thank the members of the Planning Committee, especially the Chairman, Mrs Jenny Yates, for all their hard work, and Councillor Heath could not do her job without their input.
The Local Plan was temporarily suspended in 2014. It was then worked on for a further six month and finally went back to the Inspector towards the end of last year. The results were due to be known by the end of March, but unfortunately the Inspector decided to delay this until the end of May, presumably because of the impending Election. This still left the District with no Local Plan in place, which did not help with the problems with speculative developers.
The only piece of good news on this front was that CDC had stated that it now had a 5.1 year housing land supply, which meant that the Planning Committee no longer had to give most applications the green light, just to get the housing figures up. However, this figure of 5.1 had not yet been tested at appeal, so CDC awaited the result of any appeals which now came forward. It was hoped that this would help the situation in Bloxham.
Councillor Heath felt that she was sure everyone in Bloxham was totally fed up with developers targeting the village, which was becoming less and less sustainable as weeks went by. The traffic problems were getting worse by the day and trucks appeared to get bigger and bigger.
In the village itself, not including the A361, there were many road problems with closures due to collapsing walls and of course the problem in Old Bridge Road, where the road was still closed and seemed to be no nearer to being opened. This was a County Council matter and unfortunately out of her hands, although she did know that the Parish Council had been working hard with the County to try and solve this issue.
Continuing on the theme of planning, Councillor Heath understood that the Neighbourhood Plan was nearing completion and thanked John Groves and his team for the enormous amount of work which had gone into this. This would hopefully become another force in the fight against urbanising of this lovely village.
Councillor Heath was pleased to say that Jubilee Park Hall had undergone a lot of refurbishment in the past few months and this was still on-going, although due to be completed very soon. The Park and Hall were great assets for the village and she hoped it would now be made full use of. She thanked Geoff Mollard for all his hard work as Chairman of the Management Committee and also the Project Team who had worked hard to get all this work done.
With regard to Boundary changes which had been discussed and consulted on over the past 12 months or so, CDC still had no firm decision from the Local Government Boundary Commission. CDC was waiting to hear which villages would be included in the new wards but whichever way it went, it meant that all District Councillors would be up for election in 2016 as part of three member wards.
Councillor Heath had received numerous complaints from villagers regarding parking around the village, particularly around the Warriner School area. Having spoken to the police about this, it appeared that as long as they were not parked illegally, i.e. at road junctions etc., there was very little that could be done. Obviously, if vehicles were parked dangerously then this needed to be reported.
Councillor Heath finished by stating that everyone in the village should be grateful for having a very active and hard-working Parish Council who did everything they could to make life a little easier and hopefully make our village a better place. Councillor Heath also thanked everyone for their continued support to her as District Councillor.
District Councillor Lynda Thirzie-Smart – For her absence from the meeting, Councillor Thirzie-Smart sent her apologies and advised that Sir Tony Baldry had organised a charity fund raising event for St George’s Day and she committed to support it.
Role in Cherwell District Council – Councillor Thirzie-Smart had continued as Chairman of the Conservative Group, a role she had held since 2008. This involved chairing meetings of the Group and being available to sort out issues within the Group.
She was a member of the Personnel & General Committee and an alternate member of a number of other District Council Committees and was occasionally asked to serve as a substitute for a regular member who could not attend.
Cherwell District Council was responsible for refuse collection, recreation, environmental health and collecting the council tax as well as administering some benefits but the most prominent and difficult responsibility was planning. Councillor Thirzie-Smart had never had any role in planning and was not a member of the Planning Committee.
Despite being a democratically elected body, CDC had become virtually powerless in determining large-scale planning applications where developers were enjoying open season and our green fields were being filled up with poorly designed, high density houses with inadequate living or parking space.
Bloxham had received far more than its fair share of housing in the last few years. The developments were causing considerable inconvenience, particularly to those living near the site and to road users who were finding the road network increasingly clogged. They had also done nothing for Bloxham and the outskirts of the village were looking increasingly like suburbs of Banbury.
Despite being classified by the council as “sustainable”, Bloxham was not sufficiently sustainable to sustain the Red Lion which local villagers were trying to keep as a community asset. The schools, doctors’ surgery and dentist were full to bursting so quite what “sustainable” meant, eluded her.
She was pleased to report that CDC had been able to hold the Cherwell Council tax to a zero increase again this year, thanks to a grant from the coalition Government.
Ward – Councillor Thirzie-Smart’s ward consisted of Bodicote, Bloxham and Milcombe. Each had a Parish Council which she attended as often as possible.
Case Work – She had case work like all elected members. The most regular issue was planning. She worked with Cllr Chris Heath on these issues because she was a member of the Planning Committee and Councillor Thirzie-Smart was not.
Elections – As well as the General Election on 7 May 2015, one third of Cherwell seats would be up for election but this did not include the Bloxham & Bodicote Ward. Next year, the Council was being re-warded and she was sorry to say that all of the wards would be three member wards. This meant that Adderbury and Milton would be added to Bodicote, Bloxham and Milcombe to make a three member rural ward and the three members elected to that larger ward, would have four parish councils and a parish meeting to look after, as well as a larger number of constituents
7/15 Bloxham Neighbourhood Development Plan (BNDP) – John Groves reported that the BNDP had been progressing for quite a while and comments had been made that there was not enough content relating to community activities and recreation. However, these comments could not be included in the BNDP because they could not be included into a planning policy.
John started his presentation by reporting that everything in the Plan was evidence based and the four themes of BNDP were:
- Housing need and sustainability
- Protecting and enhancing our rural heritage
- Promoting economic vitality
- Ensuring a safe, healthy cohesive community
The Housing Need Policies included housing numbers and size of developments, connectivity and parking, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, housing that adapted to demographic change and regard for the amenity of pre-existing properties.
Policies on protecting and enhancing our rural heritage would include protecting and enhancing the conservation area, contribution to the rural character of the village as a whole, open space was a significant component of rural character and protecting key views.
Policies on Promoting Economic Vitality would include safeguarding employment land, encouraging start-up and expansion of small businesses, encouraging superfast broadband and improved mobile networks and additional retail to avoid worsening traffic on the A361.
Policies on a safe, healthy, cohesive community would include protecting important recreation spaces, providing a better range of recreational facilities and activities, securing primary school capacity which provided a place within the village for all children from Bloxham and encouraging safe low-carbon travel.
The next steps would be:
- Re-draft Plan to accommodate consultation comments
- Create supplementary documents.
- Complete a “pre-MOT” on it.
- Submit to Cherwell C.
- 6 week consultation
The Chairman thanked John for his presentation.
- Warriner School – Unfortunately Dr Annabel Kay was unable to attend the meeting to give a presentation on Warriner School changing to Academy Status. However, she had circulated a letter which had been sent out to parents which gave details on the change.
- Bloxham Circular Walk – Alan Mole gave a presentation on the new circular walk around the village.
Alan reported that there were 12 villages in Cherwell which had countryside or village walks. However, Bloxham had originally missed out on this, therefore Des Jones, Alan Mole and Geoff Mollard had set up a walk for Bloxham. They wanted to create a circular walk around the village which took in the views and was suitable for everyone in the village. Bloxham was well blessed with footpaths, bridleways and rights of ways.
Alan presented a map detailing the route of the two walks. One was a longer route shown in green and the other, a shorter route shown in yellow. He advised on the routes for both walks and that they started near to the Joiners Arms.
However, there were two permissive paths, one in each of the two walks. A permissive path was a path which required permission from the land owner to allow walkers to cross their land, without breaking any trespass laws.
Therefore, permission had been sought both of the land owners; these were Mr Pete Smith and Eton College. It had taken a lot of work to get their permission and was made more difficult as a number of third parties had to be consulted with, along with solicitors and land agents.
However, there had been substantial progress and the previous morning, a legal agreement had been signed which gave permissive pass rights over the land owned by Eton College. This was a 25 year agreement. Mr Pete Smith also used the same land agent as Eton College, Fischer German, so the second agreement would be concluded quickly and Mr Smith had been very supportive of the circular walk.
Alan explained that the styles needed to be addressed as they could be too high for some people. TOE2 awarded grants for this type of project and an application had been submitted for some funding. With their support and that from CDC and OCC, a plan had been put together to remove all the styles and replace them with kissing gates.
This was a fully costed project to replace all the styles and also improve ground works to ensure that the entry and exit levels were the same.
Information on the walks would all be detailed in a booklet which was being put together. It would give lots of information about the walks, the village and also a heritage walk.
It had taken about two years in the planning, and it was hoped that it would all be completed shortly to maximise the spring and summer. Alan recommended the walk to all residents.
The Chairman thanked Alan for his presentation and all his work.
- Residents Questions – There were no further questions.
However a resident reported that as drivers came up Milton Road and wanted to turn on to Barford Road, it was difficult to see to the left due to all the signage. This was quite dangerous and needed to be moved.
(The meeting closed at 20.55pm)