The following issues were distilled from community engagement events held in February/March 2016, and the draft objectives derived from topic-focused working groups in April 2016. The objectives were then tested at further engagement meetings in June 2016 at which a questionnaire was launched, which encouraged respondents to comment further on the objectives. Over 300 responses were received, the overwhelming majority of which fully endorsed these objectives. As a result the draft Plan Policies now reflect the objectives.
1. TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORT
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 at both Heyford Park and Bicester. 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.
1.1 To work with OCC, TVP and other bodies to develop strategies to protect against rising traffic volumes and the impact of increased development whilst still preserving the rural character of the road network serving the neighbourhood. This includes concerns about speeding, safety, congestion, noise, pollution and the impact of heavy good vehicles.
1.2 After securing the future current public transport provisions, particularly the 25A bus route, to improve public transport to the point where it relieves pressure on the road network in a way which successfully links the neighbourhood’s villages with each other and Bicester and Oxford. To influence train operators to improve and enhance the provision of rail services, especially as the local population grows and the need to travel to Oxford and beyond increases.
2. DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING
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.
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.
2.1 To strongly encourage the use of brownfield sites before any development is considered on greenfield sites, unless specifically allocated within the Neighbourhood Plan.
2.2 To resist the loss over time of the all-important countryside between villages, and to avoid the Mid-Cherwell area eventually becoming a suburb of Bicester; to investigate protection of green areas through designation.
2.3 To reinforce the sense of rurality that defines the neighbourhood, to protect against creeping urbanisation, and to maintain the character of the villages and the protection offered by their Conservation Areas.
2.4 To identify how much, if any, new development might be successfully located in or around the villages; to specify where any such development should occur, what form it should take, and to ensure that any new development enhances our communities.
2.5 In the case of the three villages identified by CDC as Category A (Steeple Aston, Fritwell and Kirtlington), to ensure that any new housing required also identifies the mix of the proposed homes, the density of development sites, the form of development and the quality of design.
2.6 To ensure that affordable housing is provided within any local developments that meets the needs in particular of the local community, especially young people and older residents.
3. 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, which also gives rise to another concern regarding the need for a new cemetery.
3.1 To identify and secure supporting facilities that can be improved or provided in the area, both in the villages and at Heyford Park, accessible to the wider Mid-Cherwell community. These should include additional leisure, recreation and sports facilities.
3.2 To secure a new full-time health centre or GP practice at Heyford Park, serving the wider neighbourhood, and to investigate the need for new cemetery provision.
4. 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.
4.1 To raise concerns about technical infrastructure with the various service providers.
The Neighbourhood Plan has to be compatible with Cherwell District Council’s recently adopted Local Plan. Community engagement is key to the success of the Plan, as the process chart below demonstrates:
Check back soon: Much more detail to come.