The first full round of engagement meetings for the various communities comprising the Mid-Cherwell Neighbourhood Plan area were held during February and March 2016. In all, 12 meetings were held, in 8 different locations, and a total of 480 people attended these meetings. The neighbourhood area has approximately 3,000 households. The numbers attending were equivalent to about 15% of households. Those attending included some who had businesses within the neighbourhood as well as residents and parish councillors.
The meetings were advertised widely, by door-to-door leafletting (twice in some areas), on parish and the MCNP websites, in local magazines and newsletters, and in the form of posters on noticeboards, etc.
The meetings all used a common presentation, adapted locally to circumstances. These presentations were supplemented in most cases by the display of visual material – maps, images, etc., and in all cases by a question and answer session on the Neighbourhood Plan, its aims and potential outcomes. Each meeting then turned to discussion of four key questions, and responses were collected in various forms, mostly on post-it notes categorised by the type of the issue (see Annex for the questions). Discussion was organised in variety of ways, the most common being to split the audience into table groups, each table being equipped with copies of the questions, relevant maps, and forms for registering contact details of those attending.
The responses were analysed by the individual meeting organisers, registering the particular concerns and priorities of that local community, and then sent to the Forum Executive. The responses were then centrally collated in two ways. Firstly, per meeting using common headings; and secondly, across all the meetings, drawing out the priorities for the whole of the Neighbourhood Area. The total number of comments analysed was nearly 1600. Each parish was provided with the analysis of common issues for their meeting (see spreadsheet), and for the neighbourhood area, as below.
Neighbourhood Area findings
These issues can be collected into five main heading groups as follows:
Percentage of comments
Transport-related issues: The primary concern relates to traffic volumes and the impact of increased development on the capacity of the rural road network serving the neighbourhood. This includes concerns about speeding, safety, and the impact of heavy goods vehicles, particularly those serving businesses and construction activity in both Bicester and Heyford Park. The second main concern relates to public transport, in particular to the actual and potential loss of bus services linking the neighbourhood’s villages with each other and with Bicester. For users of trains, there is a concern that the existing services are inadequate, especially as the local population rises and then need for travel to Oxford and elsewhere increases.
Development-related issues: New construction should be on brownfield land, not on greenfield sites. The loss of rurality is a major concern, especially where the space between villages is concerned. Heyford Park is effectively a small town growing in the midst of the rural neighbourhood, and whilst many people support this, they do not want the trappings of town life to extend beyond its boundaries – such as light pollution, loss of verges, etc. The amount and type of development should be carefully controlled to respect the largely rural character of the villages and their natural environment.
Housing-related issues: Outside of Heyford Park, there is a desire to see some new housing, particularly associated with chosen sites in the category A villages, but only if it can be carefully controlled in small developments, of appropriate design and density, and – importantly – available for local people (especially younger and older people) at affordable prices. Developments should therefore also be of a suitable mix of housing types and tenures.
Social Infrastructure: The development of Heyford Park presents a major opportunity for facilities of various kinds to be incorporated for the benefit of the neighbourhood as a whole – recreational amenities, community facilities, and increased shopping provision. These will not only meet local demand but also reduce travel outside the neighbourhood, taking pressure off the roads. A particular concern is about the capacity of existing GP and dental surgeries to cope with an increasing local population, and a related concern is the possible need for a new cemetery.
Technical Infrastructure: There is concern about the impact of increasing population on electricity supply, sewage and drainage capacity, mobile phone coverage, and other related services.
ANNEX: Questions discussed at the engagement meetings
- What do you like most about your area specifically and the nature of the NP area as a whole?
- What are your main concerns for the future?
- What issues do you feel the NP should cover?
- What are the most important matters that the NP should address?