Kidlington Parish Council
Monthly Reports
2024

David Robey


KIDLINGTON PARISH COUNCIL
This document contains the Chairman's Report for the month of February 2024. Previous monthly reports follow on, below.



REPORT

February 2024


T he Parish Council has long felt that Cherwell District Council does not give enough attention to Kidlington's specific issues, even though we are the District's third largest urban centre. We have always had the sense that this was due at least in part to our Village status. Had we turned ourselves into a town, the District might take us a bit more seriously; as readers know, with 14,000 inhabitants we are larger than a good many towns in Oxfordshire—but that is another story.

More recently we have been particularly exercised by the lack of any serious exchange of views with both District and County Councils about the massive changes that will result from the new housing developments in our area in the next few years. As I have frequently noted, the present population of Kidlington plus Gosford & Water Eaton, Begbroke and Yarnton is about 20,000, and is already set to rise by well over half, even more if further new schemes for housing go ahead. At the same time the four parishes will effectively merge into a single urban area.

We have been pressing the District Council to provide greater clarity, and engage in more serious discussion with the four parishes, over the infrastructure problems that will arise as a result of these developments, most notably in respect of traffic and transport, but also education, shopping and medical facilities. Traffic problems will of course become significantly more acute if the new stadium development finally goes ahead on the Triangle site.

It is therefore very good news that the District Council seems finally to have woken up to these issues and decided to develop a Kidlington Infrastructure and Community Asset Strategy in 2024/25. What has brought them to this point is not completely clear, but it must owe a lot to an active group of District Councillors representing the Kidlington area.

The programme seems ambitious enough. It aims to develop a Kidlington Vision which, through effective coordination and prioritisation, will support the District Council's aims in respect of strong and vibrant local centres, environmental sustainability, healthy communities and housing needs. A budget of £115k has been put towards it for the next financial year, but this will only support the administrative costs: significant further funding will come from housing developer contributions, estimated at some £88m to £132m for the Kidlington area.

Stakeholders, presumably including the Parish Councils, will be involved in the programme, but a lot will depend on the degree of involvement. Rather typically, the first official news we had of this new programme was through the press release after the decision was made to go ahead with it. The District Council is not good at consultation, as illustrated by a presentation we were given very recently of a proposed Kidlington Public Realm Strategy that the District Council has commissioned. This is very welcome in a number of ways, but since the authors had failed to consult us about it, it omitted a number of major considerations that we have been putting forward for years.




REPORT

January 2024


T here have been some developments on the main items I reported on last time.

We had an online meeting with OUFC scheduled for mid-December 2023 to update us on their plans, but this was cancelled, yet again, at the last minute, apparently after discussions between the Club and the County Council. I would like to think that this was because the County Council had reiterated to the Club that their current plans to close the Oxford Road before and after matches are unacceptable.

More recently we have had a detailed discussion with the Club about the potential benefits for Kidlington residents of the stadium development. As readers will remember, the County Council will require a 'clear and detailed set of proposals' from Club with regard to its benefit pledges, and the Council's other strategic priorities, before finally signing off the lease to the Triangle site. We hope to agree a set of specific benefits with the Club so that we can report to the County Council that we are satisfied by them before the lease is signed off.

The main areas of discussion concern the upgrading and future maintenance of the Stratfield Brake sports pitches, the facilities available to residents in the proposed new stadium and the surrounding site, OUFC participation in mental health and wellbeing programmes, educational and employment opportunities for Kidlington residents. There is the real possibility that the Parish Council could save a very substantial annual cost for the maintenance of the sports pitches, which currently takes up a disproportionate amount of our income.

On the proposed development of 300 houses on the land North-East of the Moors, the developers have put in what is termed a scoping application to the District Council planners to determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required for the site. We have put forward detailed arguments why it should be required.

This is not yet a full planning application, and we are also arguing that the application should not be decided before the 2040 Local Plan is finalised, because our objection to it depends in part on issues that relate to the plan as a whole, not just this site: mainly, the District Council's current calculation of the number of houses required in the plan.

While continuing to oppose the proposal, we have been duty bound to discuss some of its details with the developers, in particular the benefits that it might bring to the Village. The developers are proposing two cricket pitches and a pavilion between St Mary's Church and the new houses, and there is the possibility of a substantial contribution to the provision and enhancement of other recreational facilities elsewhere, which may include a skate park.

We are also continuing to work with the other parish councils affected to oppose the proposed Botley West Solar Farm development, the enormous arrays of solar panels in the area West of the A44 and North of the A40. Only a tiny part of this would be in Kidlington Parish, on either side of the A44 immediately South of Langford Lane. But the impact on the surrounding countryside would be truly drastic. You can see more details and our reasons for objecting on our webpage here.


REPORT

December 2023


I reported last month on the Parish Council's grave concerns over Oxford United's current plans to close the Oxford Road before and after matches at the new stadium on the Triangle site. With the support of the three adjoining parishes, Begbroke, Gosford & Water Eaton, and Yarnton, we wrote to the County Council leader, Liz Leffman, about this. We received in return a clear statement that OCC will not support any proposal that includes the closure of the road on match days.

We take this as a firm commitment that the proposed closure will not take place. OCC have stipulated that the lease for the site will not finally be signed unless OUFC can satisfy a number of conditions over and above the planning process, and these include, as I said last month, a transport plan that does not disrupt vehicle movement on the Oxford Road. The final decision has been delegated to Council officers, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, Councillor Dan Levy. We have met with Councillor Levy, who has confirmed that the final decision will not be made before the Club's proposals have been made public (except for items that are commercially confidential), and stakeholders such as ourselves given the opportunity to comment on them.

We are concurrently in discussion with the Club about the benefits to residents from the stadium development. OCC has stipulated a number of general requirements, which we shall try to turn into specific commitments. The expectation is that such commitments will be given binding force either in the lease or in a supplementary agreement, and we shall be seeking further details about this.

We are also entering into discussion with the developers of the proposed site of 300 new houses on the Green Belt site North-East of the Moors. It appears that they propose to put in a planning application in the near future, quite possibly before the 2040 Local Plan is finalised. We remain firmly opposed to this proposal, but since it may go ahead nevertheless, it would be remiss of us not to engage with them on the details. We presume, notably, that there would be no question of building on the part of the site immediately to the North of St Mary's Church. An earlier version of the Local Plan suggested possible use for this as a cricket pitch, which may well be acceptable.

On less contentious matters, the Parish Council staff recently organized the annual fireworks display at Stratfield Brake, and the Christmas lights switch-on in the High Street. As last year, the fireworks were fully ecological, and unlike last year, which was beset by technical problems, the display was very good. Attendance was also good, but not as good as in earlier years. On the other hand the Christmas lights switch-on was very well attended. There was a long row of stalls and amusements in the High Street, and a good crowd came to listen to recitals by a number of excellent school choirs, rounded off by the outstanding Kidlington Brass Band.


REPORT

November & October 2023


T he Parish Council held an Extraordinary Meeting on 2 November 2023 to decide its responses on two major issues: Cherwell's 2040 Local Plan consultation, and the current plans put forward by Oxford United Football Club to close the Oxford to Kidlington Road for periods before and after matches after the new stadium is built on the Triangle site.

The current draft Local Plan is at the first stage of public consultation. It will now be revised and put forward again, and we will have another opportunity to object to it if we wish. The present version contains a great deal that is welcome, particularly about enhancing the Village centre and improving sustainable transport. But readers will no doubt all know about its most controversial part, the proposal to build 300 new houses on the Green Belt site North-East of the Moors.

We are in no doubt that there is strong opposition to this plan in the surrounding area. There are two good arguments in its favour: it would provide more affordable housing, for which there is an urgent need, and it could increase playing field provision. In the Council's view these arguments are significantly outweighed by other factors, the most important of which are: the further loss of Green Belt, after the drastic losses resulting from the 4,400 new dwellings to be built in and around Kidlington to meet Oxford's housing needs; and the significant increase in traffic congestion in a quiet residential area, since the only traffic entrance proposed for the site is near to the bottom of the Moors and the junction with the High Street.

We also contest the housing need figures that underlie the proposal. Cherwell and Oxford together have adopted inflated calculations of housing need well above those produced by the government's standard method of calculation, the method that, in contrast, the other three Oxfordshire District Councils have followed. They have also not taken into account the fact that the developers are proposing to exceed the 4,400 dwellings on the Oxford-need sites by at least 10%, thus substantially increasing the local supply of both market and affordable housing. The proposal is that 30% of the 300 Moors dwellings would be in the affordable category. But there are better ways to meet the urgent need for affordable housing than by building a large amount of unneeded market housing on a Green Belt site.

As for Oxford United's stadium plans, these currently envisage closing the Kidlington-Oxford Road to traffic for one hour before and up to two hours after matches: the exact details are not yet clear. The Parish Council has expressed grave concern at this proposal and will be taking it up with the Club and the County Council. The 4,400 plus new dwellings in Kidlington, Begbroke, Yarnton and Gosford & Water Eaton will increase the population immediately to the North of Oxford by 50%, from 20,000 to 30,000 approximately. There will be the added impact of the large Oxford North development as well. Congestion on the roads into Oxford from the North is getting worse and will become a great deal worse still. Closing the main route from Kidlington will create heavy knock-on congestion on the route via Peartree and make it extremely difficult for residents to get into Oxford on Saturdays and evening matchdays.

In agreeing in principle for the stadium plan to go forward, the County Council imposed a number of requirements that will need to be satisfied before the lease is finally signed. These include the requirement to provide pedestrian and cycle routes from Parkway Station to the stadium "without disrupting vehicle movements on the Oxford Road". We expect the County Council to stand firm by this requirement, and not allow plans to go forward that will disrupt traffic into Oxford as drastically as those currently proposed.

For links to all the documentation referred to above, visit the Parish Council website here.


REPORT

September 2023


R eaders will no doubt know by now that the County Council agreed at its meeting on 19th September 2023 'in principle' to proceed with leasing the Triangle site to Oxford United for their new stadium. This was subject to four conditions:

(1) obtaining planning permission;

(2) producing a net-zero plan for the construction and operation of the stadium;

(3) providing details of how it will meet the commitments made to the county council;

(4) agreeing a restrictive covenant that will reserve use of the land for football/community sports and leisure/sports stadia, with limited commercial activities permitted only within the stadium footprint.

Item (3) above may be the most contentious of these conditions. The commitments that the Club has to substantiate concern the ways in which it will meet the County Council's 7 strategic priorities for the development of the site. The officer report on which the Cabinet decision was based concluded that these had 'mostly' been met, following, somewhat uncritically, the view of the majority of Oxfordshire respondents to the recent consultation survey. But as I pointed out in my last report, this result was skewed by the disproportionate response-rate of Club supporters in the County as a whole. In the area within a two-mile radius of the Triangle site, Club supporters were in a one-to-two minority of respondents, and the majority view was that the strategic priorities had not, except in one case, been mostly or wholly met.

As I said in my last report, the Parish Council's view was in line with that of the residents in the two-mile radius. We argued in particular that insufficient detail had been provided by the Club to alleviate major concerns about transport and parking, benefits to residents, and green and ecological issues.

I made these points at the Cabinet meeting as one of the many speakers against the proposed development. But while Cabinet members expressed some recognition of the validity of the objections, it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. All Cabinet members that spoke made a point of expressing their support for the Club, and it was clear that this weighed much more heavily with them than the views of local residents. They evidently feel that the votes of Club supporters and sympathisers count for more.

Nevertheless the requirement described under Item (3) above could be a significant way of meeting local residents' concerns, at least in part. It recognizes that, as the Parish Council had argued, these concerns cannot simply be left to the planning process, especially if the outcome of the planning process may ultimately be decided not in Cherwell but in Westminster. Yet everything depends on how rigorously the Club's detailed plans are judged. The letter requiring the detailed submission from the Club has been made public, and can be viewed at the Parish Council's web pages on the stadium. The requirements seem generally correct and reasonable. But deciding whether or not they have been met has been delegated to the new Cabinet Member for Finance, Dan Levy.

We are arguing that the process leading up to this final decision must be transparent. The Club's detailed plans must be made public, and stakeholders given the opportunity to comment on them before the Cabinet Member for Finance decides whether or not they have met the requirements. The officer report to the Cabinet meeting was rather too easily satisfied by the Club's plans as they were stated at that stage. We will expect the Cabinet Member for Finance to be far more rigorous before making the final decision.


REPORT

August 2023


T he Parish Council has decided, at its August 2023 meeting, to oppose Oxford United's proposals for a stadium as they currently stand.

Why has it taken us so long to make the decision? Readers will appreciate, I hope, that since the proposals were first sprung on us almost two years ago we have acted consistently and tried, as far as possible, to be fair to residents as a whole: recognizing there are arguments on both sides, we remained neutral until detailed plans were made available. These plans were published by the Club in June 2023, but did not contain enough detail on a number of points to meet the major concerns that we had. We therefore notified the County Council and the Club that we would object unless we could be satisfied on matters concerning traffic congestion, parking, the number of major events, and the future reliability of any commitments that the Club might make.

In the interim between June and OCC's decision date of 19 September 2023 we asked the Club and the County for answers to the questions that we had, but were eventually told that further details were not available at this stage. We have therefore written to OCC to object on the issues above, and also because we remain concerned at the scale of the proposed development, and do not believe that the significant loss of the Green Belt gap between Kidlington and Oxford would be sufficiently compensated for by the mitigations and benefits as currently put forward.

The officer report that will go to the OCC cabinet for a decision on 19 September 2023 makes interesting but discouraging reading: see page 157 onwards of the agenda reports pack of the Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee for 13 September. Although local turnout was disappointing, with only 1034 Kidlington respondents out of a total of 5441 from Oxfordshire and beyond, the results of the OCC public engagement exercise confirm those of the earlier parish poll and the first OCC online survey about Stratfield Brake: a clear majority of respondents within 2 miles of the Triangle do not believe that the stadium plans wholly or mostly satisfy 6 of the 7 strategic priorities that the County Council has set.

The results for Oxfordshire as a whole are however quite different: the majority of respondents believe that the 7 priorities have been wholly or mostly satisfied. But the Oxfordshire data is skewed by the disproportionate response from Club supporters outside the 2-mile radius. Within the 2-mile radius, supporters responding are, versus non-supporters, a minority of 1 to 2; in the County outside the radius they are a majority of 3 to 1. All that the Oxfordshire results really show is that the club supporters in the County, in reality a minority of the population, favour the proposal.

Regrettably, the officer report relies heavily on the Oxfordshire data, and concludes that all of the priorities have mostly been met. The recommendation, which the Cabinet are no doubt likely to follow, is that resolution of the remaining concerns should be largely left to the planning process. We believe this to be an abdication of responsibility, because we all know that the planning process does not always protect the interests of local residents, especially if, as may well happen in this case, the final decision is taken in Westminster.

The officer report also proposes selling the land to the Club rather than leasing it, subject to covenants concerning its future use. It is difficult to decide on the balance of legal arguments here, but selling rather than leasing would seem to protect the County Council's future position better. Whether or not it would protect the future interests of residents is not yet clear.

Our position is that the remaining concerns about the priorities all need to be addressed before the planning process begins. The officer report does go some way towards this position by the additional proposal of a collateral agreement in which the Club will be required to satisfy the remaining concerns over and above and alongside, rather than before, the planning process. Whether this proposal is acceptable to residents will depend on the rigour of the requirement: that is, whether all the specific concerns that we have expressed will have to be satisfied in detail, and whether OCC will really be willing to stop the Club's plans if they are not. We are raising this crucial point with the County Council


REPORT

July 2023


T he Cherwell Local Plan for 2040 has resurfaced, after the last draft that I wrote about a few months ago was referred back for further discussion. The present version, which has yet to be formally approved, should go out for consultation in mid-September. Most significantly, it has retained the proposals that I highlighted previously: it 'favours' the option to build 300 new houses North of The Moors as well as 450 South-East of Woodstock. You can find it here.

The Woodstock site was originally included in the revisions to the last Local Plan, but was rejected by the Inspector. It is on the outside edge of the Parish, immediately North of the Airport, and might not directly impact on the Village; but it would obviously add significantly to the traffic congestion that will already be increased by the new housing developments on either side of the A44.

The land North of the Moors is much more of an issue for us. It is the field, in the Green Belt, that runs along the backs of the existing houses from St Mary's Church most of the way to the Banbury Road—though it may be that the section next to the Church will be reserved for a cricket pitch. The option is intended to meet local housing needs, not those of Oxford City, but there are obvious questions about how this would work in practice. The current proposal is that only 30% of the total would be affordable housing.

All this is part of a Kidlington Area Strategy which in other respects seems to have much to recommend it in terms of enhancement of the Village Centre and the canal corridor. Once the draft is approved and the consultation period begins, the Parish Council will be scrutinizing all of it very carefully.

On other matters, we have been following up the Landlord Deposit Notice issued by the Branson family regarding their land North-East of Church Street. This is a legal procedure to which there is no process for responding; it is simply a matter of the landowner declaring that they do not intend to allow new rights of way to be created in the future. The existing right-of-way footpath from St Mary's Church to Mill End is not affected. The Sustrans cycle and pedestrian route from the end of Church Street to Hampton Poyle is different: it is a permissive route, in the sense that the family have agreed that it can be used for these purposes, and permissive use cannot constitute a case for establishing a right of way. While the landowner can withdraw the permission at any time, we have no reason to believe that the Branson family have plans to do so. We will seek to clarify the situation further.

Finally, our annual Gala Day was held on 22 July in Exeter Close. Despite pouring rain it attracted a large number of visitors and seems to have been a great success. And while we have remained in contact with Oxford United about their stadium plans, we have so far received no new details that might address the objections that I wrote about last month. We shall be deciding our final position on the matter at our meeting in early September.


REPORT

June 2023


R eaders will have received, I hope, the printed circular that the Parish Council recently sent out to residents to alert them to the publication of Oxford United's detailed plans for the stadium on the Triangle site, and the related online survey by the County Council. Links to the plans and the survey can be found here. The survey closes on 23 July 2023 and email and written submissions will be accepted.

The circular also listed our main concerns with the plans as they stand: parking and traffic congestion; the frequency of matches and any other major events; the need for long-term guarantees of any commitments the Club may make. Of these traffic congestion is the most problematic. Readers will be well aware that this is an increasing problem in Kidlington, and will become worse when 4,400 new houses are built locally: traffic along the Oxford Road has already become heavier in the last months, and the bus service has become more unreliable, though Stagecoach have assured us that they are making improvements.

It remains to be seen how exactly the traffic flow would be managed on match days if the stadium goes ahead, and exactly what steps will be taken to prevent match-day crowds from parking in Kidlington. It is likely to be some time before the Club can meet its aim of 90% attendance by public transport. The reference to a 'potential' footbridge across the Oxford Road is inadequate, and the suggestion that the Oxford Road might be closed for part of match days wholly unacceptable.

We are writing to the County Council to say that we will object to the stadium proposal unless we receive sufficient details on the plans to satisfy our concerns.

We have now been told that responses to the County Council's consultation survey will be broken down by parish, and that an analysis will be published by 5 September 2023. This should (just) be in time for us to consider the results at our Council Meeting on 7 September 2023, from which we will be able to send a follow-up submission to the County Council in time for its Cabinet meeting on 19 September 2023, when the decision will be made whether or not to let the project go ahead to the next stage. In order to avoid the risk of consultation fatigue on the part of residents, we have decided not to hold a further survey or poll of our own. The results of the recent Parish Poll remain, of course, significant.

Two other major planning issues are very much to the fore at the moment. We are supporting the large number of local councils that are objecting to the proposed Botley West Solar Farm in West Oxfordshire. We have made a Climate Emergency declaration, and strongly support the move to renewable energy, but that is not a reason to sacrifice a huge amount of precious local Green Belt for this purpose. We also continue to make common cause with Yarnton, Begbroke and Gosford & Water Eaton on the issue of the Sandy Lane level crossing. It now appears that the Oxford University developers of the very large housing site at Begbroke are prepared to finance a road bridge for light traffic in place of the level crossing, and that Network Rail are also considering this option. Cherwell and Oxford County Council have still to be convinced.


REPORT

May 2023


M ost readers will no doubt know the outcome of the Parish Poll that was held on 10 May 2023 on the question "Should Kidlington Parish Council support the building of a stadium for Oxford United Football Club in Kidlington?" Out of a total 10,022 Kidlington electors, 928 voted YES and 2073 voted NO. The turnout was 29.99%, compared with the average 37.06% turnout for the recent Kidlington East and West District Council elections. The result is more or less in line with that of the County Council's online survey more than a year ago, in which out of 822 local respondents 38% were in favour of negotiating with the Oxford United and 58% against.

Although the poll's status is only advisory and the Parish Council did not support it, we accept that the result is significant. Nevertheless we will continue for the time being to maintain our position of neutrality on the issue for two fundamental reasons. The first is on grounds of fairness: we now know that at least a substantial minority of residents are in favour of the stadium development, and we owe it to them to wait until we have considered the detailed plans before finally making up our minds. The second is to make our engagement in the consultation process as effective as possible — bearing in mind that we are only consultees and have no decisive say in the matter. Whatever view we eventually take, it will carry more weight if it is based on consideration of the detailed plans than if it is not.

At all events, at the time of writing, the detailed plans have just been published by the Club, and the next stage of the County Council's consultation process has begun. Details and access to the on-line survey can be found here: the survey closes on 23 July 2023. We urge all residents to look at the plans and respond to the survey. Email and letter submissions will also be accepted. Documents with the details are available here. As the best introduction to them, residents are encouraged to start with the Overview and Summary.

We are also obviously concerned that the survey should be as fair, sound and effective as possible, and are pressing the County Council for more information on this score. There are plans at present for a breakdown by area, and for an associated leaflet drop to local households, as well as for a series of public exhibitions put on locally by both the County Council and the Club. When we receive full information, the Parish Council will decide whether we need to hold a separate consultation of Kidlington residents, or whether the County Council survey will be sufficient. If yet another survey is added, there is an obvious risk of consultation fatigue on the part of residents.

The current timetable is tight for the Parish Council to make up its mind. The results of the survey will be published on 11 September 2023 in time for the County Council Cabinet meeting on 19 September 2023, which is expected to take a firm decision whether the stadium proposal goes forward. This may create problems for the Parish Council, since we would obviously want to see the results of the survey as regards local residents before taking our final position on the issue and submitting it to the County Council.


REPORT

April 2023


N ote that no Parish report was produced in April 2023 because of the focus on local elections and potential change in membership of the local Council.


REPORT

March 2023


T his is my last report as Chair of the current Council. I was thinking it might be best not to do one at all, but events of the last two weeks call for some commentary.

As many readers know, the Annual Parish Meeting was held on Thursday 30 March 2023. The main business was a question-and-answer session on Oxford United's stadium proposals, with questions answered by Calum Miller, the County Council lead on the project, myself on behalf of the Parish Council, and Niall McWilliams on behalf of the Club. But so many questions were sent in advance—getting on for 100—that I had to collect them in a document so that each of the three respondents could answer them in groups. It was only possible to take a very few questions from the floor.

This part of the meeting seemed to go reasonably well, but things became more heated when a group of residents called for a Parish Poll on the question 'Should Kidlington Parish Council oppose the building of a stadium for Oxford United Football Club in Kidlington'. As I have said many times in previous reports, the Parish Council's view was that residents should not be consulted before detailed plans of the project are available. Such plans are not yet available. Many residents will have already made up their minds for or against the project, but many will still be undecided and will want to see the details before deciding.

Nevertheless residents have a legal right to call a Parish Poll. If the call is supported at a Parish Meeting by 10 electors or one-third of those present, whichever is less, the Poll has to be held. The only voting allowed is on the wording of the call, not the substance. At the meeting, after a vote, the word 'oppose' was changed to 'support'. Not surprisingly, some of those present were rather confused by this piece of legislation.

The Poll has to be held within a fixed period, and as a result will take place on Wednesday 10 May 2023, in the week after the local elections. The usual polling stations are used, but are only open between 4.00 pm and 9.00 pm. The Poll is conducted by the District Council, but the Parish Council has to pay for it. The Parish Council will be sending a circular with information about the Poll to all residents of Kidlington. More information is also on the Council website.

Although the Council's view is that this is not the time to hold a Poll, we nevertheless think it is important that as many electors as possible should know about it, so that the results reflect the current state of opinion in the Village as accurately as is possible in the circumstances. The results are however not binding on the Parish Council, just as the Parish Council's view is not binding on the County Council. It will be open to the Parish Council to hold another consultation once detailed plans for the stadium are available, in parallel with the County Council's consultation plans.


REPORT

February 2023


C herwell District Council will shortly be publishing an updated sports field strategy, identifying requirements for the Kidlington area, mainly additional soccer fields including all-weather pitches. What the District Council does not have is the funds to pay for all this. We shall be looking to national sports bodies for contributions and also, if (still a big if) the Triangle stadium proposal is to go ahead, to Oxford United. We shall also be looking for help with maintaining and upgrading the Stratfield Brake pavilion, now that we do not expect a stadium development on the site. This will continue to be run in the immediate future by the District Council, though we hold the sub-lease and pay most of the costs.

More discussions have been taking place on the projected closure of the Sandy Lane level crossing. The District Council is still adamant that it should be replaced only by a cycle and pedestrian bridge. Together with the adjacent parish councils, we are pressing for a vehicular connection to be kept, either by leaving the crossing open, or by building a road bridge. The latter option is favoured by the developers of the large Oxford University site at Begbroke, and they are also prepared to pay for the costs. The bridge would be for light traffic only, and the narrow bridge over the canal would be retained.

Together with many other parish councils, we are very concerned by the commercial proposals for the so-called Botley West Solar Farm, which would occupy large stretches of Green Belt to the West of us and would be the largest solar farm in Europe. Since electricity can be generated anywhere, there are far less invasive alternatives to this, and we cannot see what direct benefits there would be for local residents. Unfortunately the size of the scheme means that local authorities would be bypassed for planning approval, and the application would go straight to central government. We think the best way to oppose it would be through a joint position by all the affected parish councils.

The planned reopening of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre is another major concern. Like many councillors, I am strongly opposed to the government's current immigration policy, but I do not think national-level policies should really be the parish council's concern except insofar as they affect us directly. In this case I think our focus should be the issue of conditions in the facility. In the past these were a long way from satisfactory, and there is obviously a real risk of that happening again, particularly in the form of overcrowding, given the current immigration crisis.

We are still waiting for the revised draft of the Cherwell Local Plan, and in particular to see whether it still includes the proposals for housing developments behind the Moors and South-East of Woodstock. We shall be looking hard at the calculations of future housing requirements, including those of Oxford City. While the two developments in question were not designated to meet Oxford's needs directly, the need for them obviously depends to a significant extent on the overall housing need calculation.


REPORT

January 2023


S ince my last report, much has happened on the two issues I wrote about there.

Shortly before the County Council Cabinet on 24 January 2023 to decide how to take forward Oxford United's stadium plans, the officer report on the subject was published here. This recommended that the Stratfield Brake proposal should no longer be considered a suitable or deliverable proposition, and that the Cabinet should proceed instead with the alternative scheme for a stadium in the triangle across the road, with no significant additional development except within the stadium footprint. The Cabinet agreed to enter into non-binding negotiations on this scheme, stipulating that before a firm decision is made a number of objectives would have to be met by the Club. These included maintaining a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington, transport issues, benefits for the community, and green or net zero objectives. For a fuller press release on the decision, see here.

While the negotiations will be non-binding, and a decision will depend on whether the stated objectives are met, it has to be said that the stadium project is now somewhat more likely to happen. At all events, the Parish Council's status in the matter is quite different from the case of Stratfield Brake. While the Triangle site is (just) in Kidlington, we have no rights over it. We cannot decide whether or not the scheme goes ahead: we are only consultees.

Nevertheless, as with Stratfield Brake, we will for the time being take a neutral position on the Triangle project. We recognize that there are strong arguments for and against it, and that views in the Village are deeply divided. As discussions develop and full details emerge we will be able to reconsider our position. In the meantime we will consult with stakeholders and residents on their needs and concerns relating to the project, and hold a question-and-answer session at the Annual Parish Meeting on 30 March 2023. We will also engage with Oxford United and the County Council in order to ensure, as far as we can, that Kidlington's needs and concerns are met as fully as possible. We will pay close attention to the issue of the green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington, and the cost of a further incursion into the Green Belt.

We also believe that residents should be properly consulted before a final decision is made. But since this is likely to happen in some months' time, it will be for the Council elected in the coming May to decide.

As for Cherwell's 2040 Local Plan, the draft that I wrote about last time was considered by their Executive on 19 January 2023, who decided to defer a decision and refer it back to officers for further consideration, to include, among other things, the changes to the housing numbers proposed, and the point that more should be done to maintain the Green Ring around Kidlington. The housing numbers had been significantly increased in this version of the draft in order, once again, to satisfy Oxford City's supposed unmet housing need. A total of 6,087 houses was allocated for this purpose, including the 4,400 new homes already allocated around us. We can only conclude that this is what dictated the surprise inclusion of the two new Green Belt sites, North of the Moors and South-East of Woodstock, that I wrote about last time. We are very concerned at the resultant prospects of increased congestion and environmental damage, over and above the consequences of the 4,400 houses already in the pipeline. We will be watching this space carefully.


REPORT

December 2022


T wo major documents have been made public since my last report, Oxford United's redacted report on their football stadium plans here, and Cherwell District Council's draft 2040 Local Plan, shortly to go out for consultation, and currently available here.

The Club's report was made public shortly after I wrote my last Chair's report. Readers may remember that the Parish Council has listed six key questions to which it will need detailed, concrete and specific answers before consulting residents and deciding whether to relinquish its lease on Stratfield Brake. While the Club's report provides some answers to these questions, many remain unanswered. It discusses and illustrates a number of options for the site, but does not give enough information on the option that it apparently prefers, that of a stadium and nothing else. We would need to know much more about issues such as the transport strategy, measures to control parking and traffic congestion, the number and nature of matches and events per year, and the all-important question of the long-term dependability of any commitments made. It may be that the Club can answer these questions, but they will require a great deal of further investigation and discussion.

It may also be that all this will not be needed, if the option goes ahead of the triangle site across Frieze Way from Stratfield Brake. At the time of writing we are waiting for a County Council Director's report on the subject that will go to the Cabinet meeting on 24 January 2023. Once we have seen this, the Parish Council will firm up its position on the triangle, about which as yet we have no details whatever. Most of the issues that apply to Stratfield Brake apply to the triangle as well, in some cases perhaps to a lesser extent. There will be difficulties over transport, parking control, and traffic congestion, especially with the additional traffic generated by the 4,400 new homes in the area and the current plans for traffic filters in Oxford City Centre. There is also an additional major issue regarding the Kidlington Green Belt gap. With the planned housing developments on the North Oxford Golf Course and the site opposite, all that would be left of the gap along the Oxford Road would be the triangle in question and a similar triangle on the other side. It is hard to see how removing one of the triangles would be compatible with the County Council's stated aim of maintaining the "green barrier" between Oxford and Kidlington.

New Green Belt housing developments have also come back on the agenda in the District Council's draft 2040 Local Plan, which now proposes 300 new houses in the Green Belt on the North-East edge of the Moors, as well as reviving the earlier scheme for 450 houses on the South-East edge of Woodstock. As I said in a previous report, in the preceding consultation the District Council explicitly excluded any option for further Green Belt residential development in Kidlington. We will be pressing to know the reasons for this change of plan, and what the exceptional circumstances are that would justify further Green Belt encroachments. Coming on top of the 4,400 new homes in the Green Belt in Kidlington and the three adjacent parishes, these two developments will not only involve further Green Belt loss, but will add to increasing problems of traffic congestion. The Parish Council has supported Kidlington Development Watch's application to Cherwell for the site behind the Moors to be designated a Local Green Space for strong environmental and recreational reasons. While the current Draft Plan proposes to leave in the Green Belt the section of the site adjacent to St Mary's Church, possibly as a cricket pitch, a large number of new houses on the rest of the site would detract significantly from the character of the Moors on one side and the attractiveness of the fields on the other. We shall be looking at the case for this new development very closely.


REPORT

November 2022


A t last there has been some movement on the Stratfield Brake issue, though in a somewhat unexpected direction. At the time of writing I have just received a circular to stakeholders from the County Council to say that they are now considering an alternative site for Oxford United's proposed new stadium on the triangle of land across Frieze Way from Stratfield Brake, on the West side of the main Oxford-Kidlington Road between Frieze Way and the A34.

The Parish Council now has to evaluate this option alongside the Stratfield Brake proposal—which however we have still not seen. The site is less than half the size of Stratfield Brake and has considerably less amenity value, but will have significant iconic importance, after the new housing developments, as the last remaining piece of the green Kidlington gap West of the Oxford Road. The big difference is that while the site is still within Kidlington Parish, we do not have a lease on it, and therefore do not have the deciding say on its future use that we have in the case of Stratfield Brake. The County Council intends to take a decision on whether to enter into negotiations on this on 24 January.

To turn to other matters, the Parish Council has been very concerned about the service on the 2/2A bus route since the introduction of the new timetable and the takeover by Stagecoach. The new timetable in itself is not unreasonable, and the elimination of the old 2B/C services probably acceptable. The big issue, as users will be well aware, is reliability. The Council convenes a regular Traffic Advisory Committee which a Stagecoach representative attends. At the last meeting we expressed our concerns about this, and were told that a new timetable with more buses will be introduced in the New Year: apparently delays were in part due to queues at the bus stops being too long. We also expressed our concern about the absence of the important 700 service to Headington at the weekends. Apparently the service receives no public subsidy and is already operating at a loss, so a further extension is not possible. The difficulties with the existing services increase still further our worries about the impact on traffic of Oxford City's traffic reduction plans and the 4,400 new houses impending in our area.

Finally, let me respond to the proposal in the last issue of the Kidlington News that Kidlington should become a town. This could be done if the Parish Council requests it, and I accept the argument that it would give us greater clout with outside bodies, even though there would be no change of powers. But given the outcry that occurred a few years ago when the Council implemented the change and then had to retract it, we need to wait for an appropriate moment to put the proposal forward again. This might have come had our proposed merger with Gosford and Water Eaton taken place. However, as readers will remember, this was turned down by the District Council, even though a majority of the respondents to their consultation voted in favour.


REPORT

October 2022


T his year's customary fireworks display at Stratfield Brake was something of an experiment: following what seems to be a growing public feeling, we decided to opt for a low-noise display. The results were rather mixed. Generally speaking the display (rather more expensive than the usual one) was good, but it lacked the key element of rockets, presumably the noisiest one but unfortunately also the one that many people most enjoy. We shall be reviewing how it went carefully in the coming months before deciding what to do next year.

We have still not had any meetings with Oxford United about their plans for Stratfield Brake after the first one in the summer. They have however sent us circulars with the results of the surveys they conducted shortly after the meeting, and an accompanying update that informs us that they "look forward to further direct engagement with the community in the coming months as we start formal consultation on our emerging principles early in the new year". This seems rather vague, and the continuing delay is frustrating, but not, I think, all that surprising, since it will take time for them to answer the questions we are asking.

These are:

  • Does the Club really need to move to Stratfield Brake?

  • What benefits, sporting and other, would there be for Kidlington residents?

  • How would the negative impacts be mitigated: noise, congestion, parking, crowds?

  • What would be site look like? How green/eco-friendly would it be, how would it fit with the surrounding landscape?

  • What replacement facilities would there be for the current sports club users?

  • How can we be sure any commitments entered into will be honoured?

See also this document for more information on our present position on the issue, which will remain neutral until we can see detailed, specific and concrete plans.

The Club also circulated the results of the two surveys it conducted, of residents and fans. The 1226 responses to the fan survey show that over 30% would travel to matches by car, about the same number as by train, which underlines the critical need for measures to prevent on-street parking in the Village. The 716 responses (94% apparently local) to the residents survey show that transport and parking is by far the greatest concern (over 70%). The survey does not seem to have given respondents the opportunity to object to the proposal as a whole.

Meanwhile, in keeping with our present neutral position, we have had and will have discussions with the Friends of Stratfield Brake.

We also continue to do our best to defend the Green Belt ring around the Village. The imminent consultation on Cherwell District Council's 2040 Local Plan looks as if it will not be proposing any new Green Belt encroachments for housing: more information will become available when the consultation opens on 14 December 2022. There is little room for complacency on this issue, however. Oxford City is also running (at the time of writing) a consultation on its 2040 Plan, which includes the proposal for a Green Belt Review in order to accommodate its future housing needs. Given that we are already losing a great deal of the Green Belt around the Village in order to meet these needs, we are objecting strongly to this proposal. It is no doubt one of the factors that led to the recent abandonment of the Oxfordshire-wide plan because of disagreement between the councils involved. We can look forward, if that is the word, to seeing how this disagreement plays out in the coming months and years.


REPORT

September 2022


T he Council has spent some time in the last month on the Central Oxfordshire Travel Plan. Its most specific proposal so far is the introduction of traffic filters in the City. While these will prevent Kidlington residents from driving through the centre of Oxford, the only one we thought we could reasonably object to was that proposed for the Marston Ferry Road. This is likely to significantly increase traffic on the Ring Road between the Cutteslowe Roundabout and the Marston exit, possibly up to the Headington roundabout, creating difficulties for Kidlington residents wanting to access the hospitals as well as further afield.

Otherwise the Council is in sympathy with the long-term aims of the Travel Plan, which centre on replacing private car traffic with buses, cycling and walking: what's not to like about this with the increasing menace of climate change? But the success of the Plan depends very much on badly needed improvements to bus services. The relatively new 2/2A timetable is quite good, but there have been serious reliability issues. The 700 to Headington and the hospitals has been a vital addition since it started, but the service could be better. As regards cycling and walking, the Council has worked with Cherwell District Council to produce a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan which has been adopted by the County Council, but awaits central government funding. We need more dedicated and safe cycling lanes both within the Village and on the main road to Oxford.

Thus whilst the Council supports the long-term objectives of the Travel Term, we are concerned about the likelihood of increased congestion in the short-to-medium term, bearing in mind particularly that when the planned 4,400 new houses have been completed the population of Kidlington and adjacent parishes will increase by about 50%. The County's plans for dealing with this seem largely limited to reducing the use of private cars, but it is far from clear that this will occur sufficiently soon, and to a sufficient extent, before the population increase.

We have also received revised County plans for the Sainsburys roundabout, and are currently working on our response. At first sight these seem reasonable, with improved provision for cyclists and pedestrians, but no loss of the central island's green features.

On other green matters, we continue with our projects to increase biodiversity in our green spaces, particularly on Lyne Road Green, where there are new trees and hedging and areas set aside as a wild flower meadow. Fifteen new trees are proposed for Ron Groves Park. We are working with Cherwell and Wild Oxfordshire on educational activities, all within the framework of the Kidlington Eco Group (KEG), which acts as a source of information and signposting to a range of environmental initiatives across Kidlington.


REPORT

August 2022


T wo days before the time of writing, we had the sad news of the Queen's death. You don't have to be a fervent royalist (as I am not) to feel deep regret at her passing, and admire the remarkable qualities she displayed throughout her long reign. At a time of conspicuous deterioration in political standards, her unflinching, scrupulous and disinterested devotion to duty has been an invaluable model. This may have led at times to an apparent unwillingness to compromise, for which she has been criticized, but I myself admired it. After the tragic death of Princess Diana, whatever she may have felt herself, she maintained her distance from the flood of public emotion, despite calls from the popular press to join in. It was a storm she rode out easily, as her own popularity steadily increased from year to year thereafter. People came to accept, I think, that it is not always part of the sovereign's purpose to provide instant responses to the public mood.

The Parish Council has, of course, recorded its deep sorrow at the Queen's passing, and as a mark of respect we have postponed our next Council meeting until after the funeral. We have placed a book of condolences which residents may sign in Exeter Hall. Unfortunately we do not have a flagpole, so we cannot fly the flag at half-mast.

On other matters, green policies are receiving considerable support from the Fair Deal Alliance that now runs Oxford County Council. As a result the plans we proposed for a 20-mph limit on all residential roads in the Village now seem to be going ahead. The only exceptions will be the North-South Bicester link road (and that may change with the new housing developments that will take place along it) and the Oxford-Banbury Road. This will change from 40-mph to 30-mph all the way from Sainsburys to Yarnton Road, but will be reduced to 20-mph between Yarnton Road and Benmead Road.

The 20-mph limit on this last stretch of the main road is an integral part of the Parish Council's policy for the enhancement of the Village Centre. Readers will probably agree that while there have been improvements in the present High Street, more could certainly be made. We also believe that the enhanced Village Centre should include the stretch of main road that crosses it, to give it more of a high street and less of a main road character. We see the Village Centre as encompassing both sides of the main road and (we hope) a redeveloped Exeter Close. A 20-mph limit, supplement by traffic-calming measures including a traffic 'platform', is an essential prerequisite for this.

The Parish Council is continuing discussions, among ourselves and with consultants, as to the best way of consulting residents about Oxford United plans for Stratfield Brake once they are sufficiently developed. The decision is extremely difficult. We want to be able to again as accurate as possible a view of the views of the Village as a whole, and we also want to give every resident a chance to have a say. The trouble is that the two aims may not be compatible: open questionnaires addressed to everyone in the Village may be returned by only a small minority, particularly since three questionnaires have been put out, not by us, already. We still have time to make the decision, as there have been no further developments, at the time of writing, in our discussions with the Club.


REPORT

July 2022


D espite the dog-day feel of the season, three important planning issues are in the offing and will be considered Parish Council at its forthcoming meetings.

Earlier in the year we had discussions and made representations both on the Oxfordshire 2050 plan and on the Cherwell Local Plan Review for 2040. In the last few days, however, an announcement has been made by the five district councils involved that they 'were unable to reach agreement on the approach to planning for future housing needs within the framework of the Oxfordshire Plan', and that work on the Plan has therefore been abandoned. Whether this is a good thing or not we cannot yet say, but at least it makes clear where decisions on housing will be taken. Further consultations on this and other aspects of the Cherwell plan are due to take place in the coming months, and as before we shall continue to oppose further housing development in the area around us and press for the maintenance of Kidlington's identity as a 'village set in a landscape' —despite the housing developments now in the pipeline, and regardless of whatever decision we may take on the future of Stratfield Brake.

A more recent and specific issue has come up that is closely connected to this. Readers will have seen the County Council's public consultation document on its plans for the development of the Kidlington roundabout opposite Sainsburys. There is no doubt that improvements to the roundabout are much needed, both to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians and to cope with the significant increase in traffic volume that will come with the large new housing developments around us. But councillors and members of the public were very concerned that the proposals appeared to involve the removal of mature trees, which we are likely to oppose very strongly. Given the major reduction in the Kidlington green gap that is now imminent, this very attractive roundabout has and will have real iconic value as the entry-point to the village from the South. Discussions seem to have led to the County Council reconsidering its proposals, and we shall examine any new ones very carefully.

The other important issue is the Home Office's proposal to reopen Campsfield House at the North end for the village as an immigrant removal centre. Residents may well have differing views on the government's immigration policies, but the fact that many will find the presence of such a centre in the village offensive is one good reason for not wanting to have it here. The disruption that could be caused by protesters would also contribute further to the traffic congestion resulting from the very large new housing developments to the South of the site. We plan at any rate to meet with the Home Office Director of Detention and Escorting Services to see if there is more we can usefully find out on the matter.

Finally, however, the dog-day season has put a pause to the discussions with Oxford United on the future of Stratfield Brake, which are now due to restart in the autumn. Meanwhile, we continue to work on the best way of consulting residents about the Club's proposals once they are clearer and firmer.


REPORT

June 2022


I n the last couple of weeks two circulars were dropped through residents' doors both of which call for some commentary.

One was Cherwell District Council's update on their review of the parish boundaries between Kidlington (KPC) and Gosford & Water Eaton (GWE). Readers may remember that this was not initiated by KPC. Cherwell consulted us in the course of a district-wide governance review, and in response we proposed that KPC and GWE should merge because the division between the two is anomalous and because of the benefits of strength in numbers. Cherwell in turn conducted a consultation with residents.

The results, as detailed in the leaflet, were that 334 residents were in favour of the merger and 249 against. 301 were also in favour of our fall-back proposal that the Gosford triangle should become part of Kidlington, and 227 against. Despite this clear majority in favour of our two proposals, Cherwell decided against them on the basis that the turnout was low (the population of the two parishes is about 15,000) and that GWE Parish Council opposed them. Unfortunately the responses were not broken down between residents of the two parishes: it would be relevant to know if a majority in GWE were in favour.

The situation will be reviewed when the massive new housing developments due in GWE have taken place. This is an outcome KPC can certainly live with, given that we are faced with the much more urgent and demanding issue of Stratfield Brake—on which we are working amicably with GWE, and hope to come to a common position.

The second leaflet is of course the circular from Oxford United (OUFC) on their Stratfield Brake proposals. This was sent out immediately after the first of the planned meetings to discuss the proposals between the Club and the council stakeholders—the County Council, Cherwell, GWE and KPC. The leaflet is not in any way the outcome of these discussions, but simply reflects OUFC's starting position. The point of the discussions still to take place is to enable the Club to develop the proposals into a form that is sufficiently firm and detailed to enable the councils to take a decision on them.

Contrary to the original plan, these discussions are being chaired by the Club, or rather by a PR firm employed by the Club. Reluctantly, I have come to think that this is probably for the best: it makes clear that none of the council stakeholders is yet committed to a particular outcome.

KPC's position remains as it has been throughout: we are not taking a decision until the firm and detailed proposals are available, and we will consult residents first. We are still considering how best to do this, since all possible means have their disadvantages, and we are currently in discussion with expert consultants on the best choice.

Whatever means we eventually choose, we are anxious that residents should be as well informed as possible on the issue. We hope that the publicity offensive by OUFC will be matched by similar efforts from organizations such as Kidlington Development Watch and the newly-formed Friends of Stratfield Brake. The issue is highly complicated, difficult and contentious, and it is essential that the views on all sides should be heard.


REPORT

May 2022


D uring the last year I have been registering, gloomily and a little obsessively, the incidence of recorded Covid cases in Kidlington North and South. These are the two Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MLSOAs) into which the village is divided for purposes of statistical geography. The dividing line is very roughly Yarnton Road and Evans Lane, but North does not include the area around the top half of Lyne Road, and South includes Gosford though not Water Eaton.

The figures I have been registering, from the beginning of July last year, are on the government websites at:

coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases and

coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map/cases.

The set I selected is the rolling count of cases by specimen date over the preceding week. These are expressed for purposes of comparison as proportions of 100,000, though in the case of the Kidlington MSOAs the actual populations are around six thousand. The results up to the end of May this year are shown on the graph, where I have also mapped the Kidlington figures against those for Oxfordshire and England as a whole. I assume the figures are reliable, though I do wonder how much they are now that testing is so greatly reduced. With this caveat, the graph shows some interesting results.

Covid

First, the figures for Kidlington North and South broadly track each other, and also track those for Oxfordshire and England, though since the Kidlington populations are smaller their numbers inevitably go up and down more. All four lines have much the same peaks and troughs, particularly the peaks at the beginning and end of January and the end of March this year. In this respect, then, the Covid situation in Kidlington, has mirrored that in the nation.

Second, the number of cases in Kidlington South has mostly been higher than in Kidlington North. Taking the whole period covered by the graph, the average incidence per 100,000 is 525.40 for North, 608.61 for South. The averages for Oxfordshire and England are respectively 587.25 and 541.70. So Kidlington North has had a lower incidence than Oxfordshire and England as a whole, and South a higher one.

I have taken a random dip into some other statistics to see what explanations there might be for this discrepancy. Vaccination uptake (as given in the same web pages cited above) is slightly but not much lower in South, with the gap increasing from first to second dose and from second dose to third. Both North and South have a higher uptake than Oxfordshire as a whole, though not always higher than England as a whole.

NorthSouthOxonEngland
First Dose86.2%86.0%82.9%93.0%
Second Dose83.7%82.8%79.3%86.9%
Third Dose72.1%68.5%65.8%68.4%


Other health data indices seem pretty much the same for North and South, and for the most part either better than or not significantly different from the England average: see insight.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/system/files/documents/Kidlington_JSNA_profile_Jul21.pdf
But Kidlington South is somewhat poorer than North, as shown by the following table of average household disposable incomes for the financial year ending 2018:

Before
Housing Costs
After
Housing Costs
Kidlington North£38,400£35,800
Kidlington South£37,300£32,600
From www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity.

The differences may not be all that great, though greater in the case of income after housing costs. Both figures are also well above the England average. Nevertheless they offer some small confirmation of the common view that the less well-off have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic.


REPORT

April 2022


At North end of Kidlington, on the Banbury Road between Station Fields and Langford Lane, is an attractive historic pub called The Highwayman. Established in the 18th century, it has seen a number of name changes in its long history. In 1855 it became The Railway Hotel, Station Fields being the site of the former Kidlington Station, closed in the 1960s. In 1967 the name was changed to the Wise Alderman, then changed again by the present leaseholder to The Highwayman after he took over in 2009.

The Wise Alderman was a tribute to the remarkable Alderman Frank Wise, who died in 1966 after a distinguished career in public service. With little formal education, he worked for the railway all his life, mostly as signalman at Kidlington Station. He was also a magistrate in Woodstock, and occupied lead positions in local government: chairman of Kidlington Parish Council for many years, chairman of the then Rural District Council, and Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, which used to give the position of Alderman to meritorious long-serving councillors.

In 1968, shortly after his death, the Parish Council established the Alderman Wise Award to commemorate his life-time of service and encourage young people to follow in his footsteps. Now worth £500, it is for career or personal development, and is given each year to a pupil at Gosford Hill School with a record of significant work for the community and the promise of future public service. I have just had the pleasure of presenting it at the annual sixth-form awards evening—an engaging event with lively students and dedicated, friendly staff, altogether a terrific advertisement for the School.

One might be tempted to take the pub's last change of name as a sign of the times: from commemorating a lifetime of public service in the 1960s, to celebrating the Highwayman's extreme form of naked self-interest in the 2000s. But this would not apply to the applicants for this year's Wise Award. A total of seven were reduced to a shortlist of four, all of them worthy of the award for significant achievements in the service of the community. The winning candidate, Tim Millard, was chosen for his exemplary development of a system streaming church services to dispersed congregations during the Covid pandemic.

Frank Wise's life, and the council elections taking place at the time of writing, prompt another thought about local government. The May elections have generated some press comment on the extent to which this has been depleted (“hollowed out”) in the last decades. This has not been the case for the Parish Council, whose income, largely from the Council tax, has remained steady: this year, as generally in the past, our share of the tax has kept just below the projected rate of inflation. But the District and County Councils have suffered enormously from cuts in central government funding, and services have been seriously damaged as a result. There can only be one conclusion: we need much greater devolution, of powers and funding, to local government from Westminster.

Finally, since my last report, I know of no developments, by the time of writing, regarding stakeholder discussions on Stratfield Brake.
REPORT

March 2022


A s expected, on 15 March the County Council cabinet passed the motion to enter into discussions with Oxford United on the stadium proposals at Stratfield Brake. The motion was slightly amended from the previous occasion with a view to "protecting and enhancing the surrounding environment including biodiversity, connecting habitats and supporting nature recovery".

The plan is for discussions (not negotiations) to begin now between the Club, the County Council and the current council leaseholders of the site: Cherwell, Kidlington, and Gosford and Water Eaton. The aim of the discussions is to develop the proposals in detail, taking into account the councils' concerns, mainly about environmental impact, noise, transport, traffic and parking, and the long-term dependability of any commitments that the Club may make. We shall also be seeking firm evidence that no acceptable alternative site, including the present stadium, can be found.

Let me emphasize, the Parish Council is in no way committed to agreeing to the proposals in whatever form they eventually take. Our position remains as it has been: we are keeping an open mind on the subject for the time being, and when the proposals have been developed as far as they feasibly can be, we shall make our decision. However attractive the proposals may or may not be, they will still have to be weighed against the absolute environmental cost of a major encroachment on the Green Belt around the Village.

The Council is taking this position because we know that opinion in the Village is deeply divided. Of the 818 local respondents to the County Council survey, 58% voted against, but the respondents are a tiny proportion of a population of some 15,000, and we cannot know how representative they are. We believe it would be irresponsible, and unfair to the number already in favour of the proposals, to take a decision before we know exactly what form they are going to take.

Given the importance of the issue and the division of public opinion, we have also decided to consult residents before our final decision is taken. For the reasons above, this consultation will not take place before we have a set of detailed, firm, concrete and reliable plans. The best form for consultation will need further thought: the two main alternatives currently being considered are a residents survey by leaflet and post, or a Parish Poll—like a mini local election.

Such consultations will have to be advisory only. The Council has been elected to take decisions on behalf of residents, and final responsibility for the decision in this case is ours. But the results of consultation, unless they are inconclusive, will clearly weigh very heavily in the decision that we take.

In tandem with the consultation, we plan to mount an exhibition in Exeter Hall where the proposals will be presented and illustrated. The purpose of this will be to help residents make up their minds one way or the other before responding to the consultation. Details remain to be worked out, but the intention is that the exhibition should be neutral, taken as a whole, and include the case for the proposals and the case against.
REPORT

February 2022


A t the time of writing, the agenda and supporting papers have just appeared for the County Council (OCC) Cabinet meeting on 15 March which will reconsider Oxford United's (OUFC's) Stratfield Brake proposal. The recommendation is in much the same form as detailed in my report before last: to open negotiations, subject to certain conditions, not to decide on the proposal one way or the other.

The main reason why the proposal was deferred in January was to enable OCC to carry out an opinion survey on the issue. The results of this are included among the Cabinet agenda papers posted here.

Here are some of the key findings.

A total of 3,740 survey responses were received (including 516 from outside Oxfordshire), of which 79% were OUFC supporters. Unsurprisingly, 80% of the total wanted OCC to start negotiations with OUFC, and 18% did not. More relevantly for our purposes, of the 818 local residents (from Kidlington and Gosford and Water Eaton) who responded, 58% were against, 38% in favour, and only 4% unsure; about 40% were OUFC supporters. On the other hand only 122 out of the overall total though that a better solution would be to stay in the existing Kassam Stadium site.

Concerns expressed by respondents to the survey mirrored those that we have put forward: the impact on wildlife and the environment, the need to protect the Green Belt and the Kidlington gap, the need for sufficient transport infrastructure and issues of congestion and parking, the scale of development in the area as a result of the planned new housing. Only 108 respondents overall were in favour of removing the requirement to keep the Green barrier with Oxford, and only 33 of these were local residents.

If the Cabinet meeting on 15 March decides to go ahead and enter into negotiations, we will be meeting with OUFC shortly afterwards to discuss a timetable for OUFC and OCC to produce a set of concrete and specific proposals that address the concerns and issues we have put forward. When these proposals are received, and taking into account the reliability of any associated agreements, we will make a decision whether or not to support them. We have not yet decided what form of further public consultation or engagement we will carry out before the final decision is made.

I might add that the cover of the last KN gives a graphic and very accurate picture of the scale and location of the imminent new housing developments, but may be a little misleading on the Stratfield Brake proposal. As we understand it, the triangle of land opposite Stratfield Brake on the Eastern side of Frieze Way would remain in the Green Belt, though it would be used for playing fields. We will certainly oppose any Green Belt encroachment here, since it is a vital part of the remaining Kidlington green gap. This is not, of course, to minimize the potential impact of a stadium development on the Stratfield Brake side of the road.
REPORT

January 2022


P lanning developments have continued to loom on the Council's agenda. Late last year we had the draft Development Brief for 120 houses at Stratfield Farm, just North of Stratfield Brake, the one site within Kidlington proper in Cherwell's plan for 4,400 houses to satisfy Oxford's unmet need. Development Briefs specify in some detail how Cherwell expects new builds to be designed and laid out.

In this case our overall impression was positive. There was plenty of green provision, including protection of the existing orchard and the inclusion of play areas, allotments, cycling and walking routes. We proposed reducing the height of houses backing onto Garden City, and Cherwell agreed. But they reversed their original plan, which we had supported, for partial access to the site from Croxford Gardens as well as from the Sainsburys roundabout. Since this was strongly opposed by local residents, we were not too sorry to see it reversed.

We are now looking at the draft Development Brief for the land around the Bicester Road Cemetery, a much bigger scheme for 430 new dwellings along the North-South Bicester Road from the Sainsburys roundabout to the houses on Water Eaton Lane. As a whole, the development will have a major negative impact on Kidlington by removing much of the green gap between us and Oxford. But while we have yet to consider it in detail, some first impressions are quite favourable.

Again, there is plenty of green provision, including efforts to mitigate the reduction of the Kidlington gap. These include public green spaces, playgrounds, allotments and walking and cycling routes. There is a strong emphasis on variety of design and layout. Along the main road the sections above and below the existing cemetery are designated for a cemetery extension and allotments and there will also be a small park, breaking up the long line of houses with spaces of green. Houses will be set well back (with two points for vehicular access).

All that will remain of the Kidlington gap on the North side of the Oxford Road is a large triangle of land, currently an empty field, with one corner at the Sainsburys roundabout and another across the A34 from Parkway station. This is to be turned into a mix of playing fields and landscaped parkland.

Readers might wonder why we are willing to consider Oxford United's Stratfield Brake plans, given my emphasis on green matters in the paragraphs above—and the fact, I may add, that we firmly support Kidlington Development Watch's proposal for Local Green Spaces West of the village. But as I said last month, we have to understand exactly what the plans are, and whether they can be limited, modified or developed to meet Kidlington residents' needs and concerns. At the time of writing, we are about to enter into discussions with Oxford United and the County Council, and for the moment are keeping an open mind.

The County Council will bring its Stratfield Brake proposal back to Cabinet on 15 March, I presume in much the same form as was deferred last month: to enter into negotiations, not yet to decide the matter one way or the other.
REPORT

December 2021


K idlington residents may have been surprised (once again) to read the recent announcements that Oxford United Football Club (OUFC) are planning to relocate their stadium and related activities to Stratfield Brake (SB) in Kidlington. The Parish Council only learnt of the plans shortly beforehand, over Christmas.

SB is owned by Oxford County Council (OCC), leased by Cherwell District Council (CDC), and sub-leased by the Parish Council and Gosford and Water Eaton Council. It is now managed on a day-to-day basis by CDC, but the Parish Council continues to contribute a very substantial operating subsidy. Regular users of the sports ground include Kidlington Cricket Club, Gosford All Blacks Rugby Club, Kidlington Running Club, Kidlington Youth Football Club. There is no doubt of SB's importance for sport in Kidlington, but the financial cost of supporting it is very high in relation to the number of Kidlington users, moreover many of the users come from outside Kidlington.

OUFC's current plans cover both the present SB site on the West of Frieze Way, and the triangle of land opposite it on the other side of Frieze way, with its top corner at the Sainsburys roundabout. The whole development would comprise a new 18,000 capacity football stadium with ancillary leisure and commercial facilities including hotel, retail, conference, and training/community grounds. We understand (subject to confirmation) that extensive on-site parking is not planned for fans, who will be encouraged to use public transport or the two nearby park-and-rides, with improved pedestrian connections to the stadium.

At the time of writing, the OCC cabinet is about to be asked to enter into negotiations with OUFC and SB's current tenants (including us) to "enable the use of OCC owned land for the development of a new football stadium, subject to planning permission". This includes the following objectives (to quote from the on-line cabinet agenda):

    i. maintain a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington and improve access to nature and green spaces;

    ii. enhance facilities for local sports groups and on-going financial support;

    iii. significantly improve the infrastructure connectivity in this location, improving public transport to reduce the need for car travel in so far as possible, and to improve sustainable transport through increased walking, cycling and rail use;

    iv. develop local employment opportunities in Oxfordshire;

    v. increase education and innovation through the provision of a sports centre of excellence and facilities linked to elite sport, community sport, health and wellbeing;

    vi. support OCC's net zero carbon emissions pledge through high sustainable development;

There are a number of very obvious advantages to this scheme. Many will see it as a prestige asset for the Village, it should guarantee improved sporting facilities for Kidlington residents, it should save the Parish Council a great deal of expense which could be diverted to other purposes, and it will create employment opportunities. The disadvantages are equally obvious. It will involve further erosion of the Green Belt around the village, it will create traffic congestion, and possibly major parking problems in the Village, particularly Garden City and Gosford, and there will be noise pollution, possibly from events such as rock concerts as well as matches. Agreements could be put in place to mitigate some of these problems, but how reliable will they be in the long term?

The Parish Council is therefore faced with a very difficult decision, as it is likely that opinions in the Village will be strongly divided. What we have to do is look at the proposals seriously and with an open mind, and negotiate to see how they could be modified or developed to meet the needs and concerns of Kidlington residents, particularly with regard to traffic and parking, green spaces, biodiversity and use of the Green Belt. Then we will decide whether or not to support the proposals, and if we do support them, subject to what conditions. Our priority throughout must be to represent as well as we can the interests of Kidlington residents as a whole, not those of OCC or OUFC.
REPORT

November 2021


K idlington residents may have been a little surprised to receive a consultation letter from Cherwell District Council asking for their views on a possible merger between Kidlington and Gosford and Water Eaton Parish Councils (KPC and GWE). This is not a proposal that we have initiated out of the blue. It is our response to Cherwell's request for submissions to the Governance Review that they are currently undertaking.

Given that the proposed change would have little day-to-day impact on our residents, we did not think we could justify the cost of sending them a special newsletter on the subject — though GWE have sent one to their residents. We have however put a page on our website giving the reasons for our position. I will take the opportunity to run through the arguments here.

Kidlington currently has more than 14,000 residents, GWE about 1,400. Most of the homes in GWE are in the triangle between the two Bicester Roads and the main Oxford Road (P on the consultation letter map below). For all practical purposes this area is part of Kidlington. It includes Gosford Hill, the school where most Kidlington children study, and its residents mostly use KPC facilities. The rest of GWE consists of a small number of houses to the East of the North-South Bicester link road, though the number of houses will increase very considerably with the new developments that are currently planned by Cherwell District Council.

We think it is in residents' interests that the two parishes should merge for the following reasons:

  • the current division between the two parishes is a historical accident which no longer has any real justification;
  • we would all benefit practically and financially from the sharing of facilities and staff;
  • most importantly, a merged council would be larger and stronger, and thus better placed to represent residents' interests, and in particular to resist the further encroachments on the Green Belt that are threatened;
  • new housing developments in GWE will add 1790 new houses to the parish; a large and strong council would be better placed to deal with the problems and issues that will arise as a result of such a huge increase in population;
  • KPC's council tax charge to residents is slightly higher than GWE's: currently just over £27 a year more for a Band D property. This is because KPC provides most of the facilities for both parishes. In contrast, GWE has very few facilities of its own.
  • Two GWE councillors are also KPC councillors so we already work very closely together – this proposal would formalise and strengthen that arrangement.

As an alternative to a full merger, we think that the boundary between the two parishes could be redrawn along the North-South Bicester link road, which would form a much more natural boundary between the two parishes. This means that the area marked P on the map below would become part of Kidlington Parish.

boundaries


REPORT

October 2021


T he return to normal activities has continued in the form of a successful Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th, after last year's cancellation, with the usual fireworks display at Stratfield Brake. On a lovely clear night attendance, judging by the ticket receipts, was at or near record levels. Nevertheless times are changing, and with current prospects for the environment the Council will have to consider whether celebrations should continue in the traditional form, or whether some alternatives need to be found.

Last year the usual Remembrance Day ceremonies could only take place in a very restricted form, with a closed wreath-laying by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and myself at the St Mary's Memorial on November 11th, and a separately recorded version of the full ceremony on YouTube. This year, I'm pleased to say, the normal service and ceremony will be taking place at St Mary's Church on Remembrance Sunday, followed by the traditional parade. We shall also have once again the usual switch-on event for the Christmas lights on December 2nd.

October saw the Kidlington Eco Festival, the series of community events planned jointly, under the title "Revival for Survival", with the churches and other groups in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Activities included eco-themed workshops, community action projects, and a speaker series: the programme can be seen online here. It culminated in a successful Community Day at Lyne Road Green on 30 October with stands for local organizations, apple-pressing, and a visit by our MP Layla Moran. A number of trees have been planted along the road side of the Green, between the concrete blocks which were placed there after the traveller incursion last year, and which will be removed once a sufficient natural barrier has been formed. More tree- and hedge-planting is planned, there and elsewhere in the Village.

Let me however turn to the less pleasant subject of Covid cases. These reached a peak in Kidlington North and South in mid-July, dropped thereafter, and have been going up and down since then, at points in September and October to a level higher than July. Levels have generally been higher in Kidlington South, for whatever reason. Overall the numbers in the two areas roughly track each other, and also track the corresponding numbers for Oxfordshire and England as a whole — though since the populations of our two units are relatively small, they are likely to have seen more random variations.

At the time of writing, I am lucky enough to be in Italy, where it is interesting to see how national stereotypes have apparently been reversed. Mask-wearing is obligatory in indoor spaces open to the public and on public transport, and is very widely observed, far more so than in England. Vaccination passes are required for restaurants and for trains, and seem to be shown and checked with minimum inconvenience and fuss. Whatever one may think of these measures (but I am speaking here for myself, not the Council), they do seem to work.
REPORT

September 2021


M ajor planning issues currently loom large on the Council agenda, with consultations on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, the Oxfordshire 2050 plan, and the Cherwell 2040 Local Plan. All of these have large-scale implications for Kidlington and its surroundings.

The Arc, readers will remember, is the major government economic development scheme for the counties stretching from Oxford to Cambridge, originally associated with the apparently defunct East-West Expressway. The present consultation about The Oxford-Cambridge Arc (here) is vague about numbers, but those previously associated with the scheme envisaged a million new dwellings across the counties, and doubling the population of Oxfordshire. The Council is by no means against growth, but we believe growth on the scale apparently envisaged for this region is incompatible with national levelling-up policies, and does not take sufficient account of a number of other critical factors: changing work conditions post-Covid, the potential of IT, the already excessive pressure on transport infrastructure, the need to protect the environment and the Green Belt, the challenge of the climate emergency.

Many of these objections also apply to The Oxfordshire 2050 Plan (here), which is strongly growth-led. We would like to see greater emphasis on social, economic and environmental well-being as much as on growth. We are concerned about the continuing threat to the Green Belt posed by Oxford City's unmet housing need. We would like to see stronger provision for affordable housing, and more attention to the problems of traffic congestion.

The Cherwell 2040 Plan (here) poses a number of significant questions specifically about Kidlington. The answers are not all clear cut. Do we need a policy to control the redevelopment of houses or plots into flats? There are arguments against this, but it may be a price for preserving the Green Belt around us. Do we want a Green Belt review to accommodate employment as opposed to housing needs? Given low unemployment in the area, we might want to say no to this. Do we want to prevent the conversion of village centre retail and leisure premises to housing? Perhaps within limits: more residents in the centre would also increase business activity.

On two questions the Council has long-held views. Do we want to maintain and protect the existing village centre? Yes, but we also need more: a clearer and stronger design framework for planning that will help to make the centre an even better place. Do we want to investigate expanding the centre to include Exeter Close? Again, yes. We are planning an extensive redevelopment of Exeter Close to include a new civic centre, and probably commercial premises as well. We also want the Oxford Road at this point to become less of a road and more an extension of the High Street, with enhanced shopping and other facilities, and a 20-mph speed limit: compare the London Road in the centre of Headington.

The Cherwell consultation does not include an option for further housing development on the Green Belt around Kidlington, but that does not mean that it will not happen: it is a matter for the Oxfordshire plan.
REPORT

August 2021


K idlington is surrounded by Green Belt, but as everyone knows this is about to change: how will it look after 4,400 new houses are built in our area? There will still be Green Belt between us and Oxford to the South, and between us and Begbroke and Yarnton to the West, but it will be much reduced. The rest of the Green Belt circle will remain unchanged, including the very beautiful fields to the East.

To the South-East, in Gosford and Water Eaton parish, there will be new building all along the North-South Bicester Road from the Sainsburys roundabout to the existing houses in Gosford. On its Southern side this development of 440 homes will be separated from Oxford by a triangle of Green belt with the base along the A34 and the apex at the Sainsburys roundabout; along its Eastern side, between Water Eaton Lane and the A34, the rest of the Green Belt will remain.

To the South-West will be the only new housing development in Kidlington proper, 120 houses at Stratfield Farm. This will be bordered on the South by the Green Belt playing fields at Stratfield Brake and the open land to the West of them. On the Western side of the Village, bounded by the canal, there will be a continuous Green Belt corridor between us and the massive developments of 1950 houses at Begbroke and 540 at Yarnton.

We may not like these new developments, therefore, but they certainly don't have the drastic consequences for us that they have for Begbroke and Yarnton. It is also worth underlining that Cherwell Council's delivery requirements include a number of other green provisions. There will be play areas, allotments, and a cemetery extension within the Bicester Road development, an enhanced area of woodland along the south-eastern boundary of the site, and 11 hectares of land to provide formal sports facilities in the remaining Green Belt triangle. At Stratfield Farm requirements include the provision of play areas, allotments, the extension and protection of the existing orchard and, over about half the site, a nature conservation area on 5.3 hectares.

This leads me to the subject of green spaces within the existing Village. As well as the wildlife reserve at St Mary's Fields, we have six substantial sports grounds. Scattered across the Village there are also a good number of attractive smaller greens, all of them well provided with trees: the largest is at Lyne Road, with a dozen or so others, depending on how you count them, at places like Foxdown Close, Wilsdon Way, and Alexander Close. We now have a web page dedicated to these small greens, with photos and a Google map, here. They are an important asset for the village.

Overall it looks as if later housing developments are better provided in this respect than older ones. Cherwell Council's requirements for the new developments continue this upward trend. The Parish Council will be watching carefully to see that these requirements are met.
REPORT

July 2021


I t has been good to see that (at the time of writing) new Covid cases have been going steadily down in Kidlington, as in Oxfordshire as a whole. We are now well below the national average, having been way above it not many weeks ago. But the overall level is still a cause for real concern.

The Council has continued along the slow path to normality. Having cancelled the annual Gala Day last year because of the pandemic, we were able to hold it in Exeter Close this July, in Covid-safe conditions outdoors, and were very gratified by the number, range and interest of the attractions, and the high level of attendance throughout. Catering was provided by the admirable Cherwell Collective who, with their usual remarkable ability to find helpers, had enlisted a group of army chefs: they did brisk business.

Another summer activity has been the revision of the Council's web pages here. The main aim is to reflect better the evolving nature of the Council's activities, especially through a new section on the environment. This details our work and plans for trees, green spaces, rewilding, walking and cycling, and traffic, and highlights the eco activities of Cherwell Collective, including a new lunch club for residents on Thursdays at 12 in Exeter Hall, that uses only surplus, seasonal, or locally grown produce. We are also working with the Kidlington Churches, Cherwell Collective and other stakeholders to organize an Eco Festival in October, in the period leading up to the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in October/November.

One environmental issue that has been raised recently, in the last issue of Kidlington News and elsewhere, is noise from the airport. This is certainly a great deal less bad than it was when I first moved to the village, more than 20 years ago, but it can still be annoying, especially on warm summer days in the garden. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done about it. There is an Airport Consultative Committee, which Parish and District Councillors attend. This was recently reconvened at our request, and should meet regularly from now on. Councillors raise residents' concerns at these meetings, but we have no authority at all over the airport. If residents feel that there has been nuisance flying, the best thing they can do is complain direct: the airport has a Local Community & Environment webpage with a number and email address for complaints: see here.

Finally, it is sad to record that Cherwell Development Watch Alliance has lost its legal challenge to the planned development of 4,400 houses in and around Kidlington to meet Oxford' housing needs. All credit to the Alliance nevertheless, for demonstrating that Green Belt encroachments such as this will not go unchallenged. But all we can do now is work with the developers and the District Council to try and minimize the resultant infrastructure problems, and gain such benefits as can be obtained.
REPORT

June 2021


W hat kind of place is Kidlington? Oxford City has published an extensive set of statistical profiles of Oxfordshire parishes derived from government data by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion. The Kidlington report is dated January 2021 and you can download the original document from here.

The report measures data for Kidlington against those for Cherwell and the UK as a whole, and while the results are generally not surprising, they are nonetheless interesting.

The population of Kidlington is estimated (2019) at 13,979, excluding Gosford and Water Eaton. We are the eighth largest urban centre in Oxfordshire, and the third largest in Cherwell. The population has remained stable from 2001 to 2019, whereas it has gone up by 12%-14% in Cherwell and England. We have slightly less residents under 16 than the Cherwell and England averages, and slightly more aged 65 and over.

In the 2011 census our white British population at 81.6% was slightly more than the England average, but the proportion born outside the UK, 14.7%, was also slightly more. We had rather more pensioner households than the England average (24.1% versus 20.7%), rather less one-person under 65 households (12.5% versus 17.9%), and rather less lone-parent families (18.3% versus 24.5%). It will be interesting to see how this changes in the census that has just been completed.

Unemployment (November 2020) is significantly lower than the England average (3.4% versus 6.5%), and the same goes for youth unemployment (18-24: 4.9% versus 9.2%). The percentage of children in low-income families, in 2018, was again lower than the Cherwell and England averages (8.9% versus 12.7% and 18.2%).

Also from the 2011 census, we had slightly more detached houses than the England average, significantly more semi-detached (43.6% versus 30.7%), and slightly less terraced. Our percentage of owner-occupiers was well above the England average (75.7% versus 64.1%), and the percentage of social-rented households well below (9.6% versus 17.7%). The average house price last year was £323,297, slightly above the England average, and the number of dwellings in Council Tax Bands C-E was well above Cherwell and England numbers. But it will surprise no one to learn that on all calculations of housing affordability we do significantly worse than the England average.

On quality of life indicators, the incidence of crime in Kidlington is well below the England average on all counts: less than half for the year to August 2020, with the proportion of anti-social behaviour, burglaries and robberies much lower still. On life expectancy counts we do very slightly better than Cherwell and England. On other well-being indices we seem to be pretty much around the average, as we are on education. But annual household income (2017-8) is above the average for Cherwell and England.

According to the 2011 census, 84% of residents are satisfied with the local area as a place to live, as against an average 79% for England. All of which seems to confirm that Kidlington is in many respects a fairly average and in many a better-than-average place to live, with the one major problem of housing affordability.
REPORT

May 2021


I n the first week of June there were fewer than three new Covid cases in Kidlington North and Kidlington South respectively, but sadly rather more in the surrounding areas. On 24 June the Parish Council will be holding its second physical meeting since lockdown, but we are prepared if necessary to revert to meeting on-line. If we do, we will continue to follow our published calendar and arrange for public participation. Let's hope it won't be necessary.

The recent local elections produced some notable changes. We have a new Green Party County Councillor for Kidlington South, Ian Middleton, who is also a Kidlington Parish Councillor. We also have a new Conservative County Councillor for Kidlington North and Kirtlington, Nigel Simpson, who was my predecessor as Chair of the Parish Council. We look forward to working closely with both of them. Cherwell District Council has a new LibDem member in the person of Dorothy Walker, who represents Kidlington West along with two existing LibDem members, Conrad Copeland and Katherine Tyson, both also Parish Councillors.

Kidlington Parish Council has a majority of LibDem members, but I don't want to make too much of that. Councillors work well together regardless of party, and it is very rare indeed for divisions to arise along party lines. The important thing for us is to have good working relations with District and County Councillors, because much of our agenda is to represent Kidlington interests with the next two levels of local government. This is also achieved, of course, by our Council officers working closely, as they do, with officers at the next two levels.

Nevertheless there are times when Kidlington's voice is not heard as clearly in Cherwell as we might wish. To counter this, we are negotiating with the District Council for the establishment of a permanent Kidlington work group, with a designated liaison officer. Progress on this front has been slow, however. While we are the third largest urban centre in the District, I sometimes think that being termed a village means that we are not taken quite as seriously as we would be if we were a town — though it would make no difference to our powers. But we remain mindful of the experience of our predecessors many years ago, who redesignated Kidlington as a town, and were forced to reverse the decision by the resulting public outcry.

We had a good relationship with Ian Hudspeth, the former Leader of the County Council who lost his seat to a LibDem in the May elections. We shall see what difference a LibDem-led County Council will make to us. One potential area of common interest is the so called Arc development scheme that still plans a massive increase in the population of Oxfordshire, although the associated plans for an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway seem to be on ice. We view with concern the scale of population increase that is envisaged, and we hope that the new County Council will too.
REPORT

April 2021


W ith the easing of lockdown, the Parish Council is partly moving back to physical meetings: we have just held the statutory Annual Meeting face-to-face in Exeter Hall. We shall also hold our next full Council meeting there on 24 June, if current expectations are confirmed of the end of work-from-home on 21 June. Between now and then, however, we shall continue to hold our Standing Committee meetings on-line, with the public invited to attend as before. We also held our Annual Parish Meeting on-line on 29 April and were very pleased with the way it went, with some 40 participants, including our MP Layla Moran.

Overall in terms of efficiency on-line meetings have worked well, and will no doubt continue for some of our activities from now on into the future. But they do lack much of the stimulus and interchange that face-to-face meetings produce. Not all the future is on-line.

We are taking bookings in Exeter Hall again, subject to Covid precautions. I'm pleased to say that an NHS vaccination service will be operating there from later this month, and also that the seniors' lunch club will be resuming. In future all our catering will be provided from surplus or locally produced food by the remarkable Cherwell Collective, who run the Cherwell Larder and much else from Exeter Hall, and whose Emily Connally made an impressive presentation at the Annual Parish Meeting. Cherwell Collective were the recent UK winners of the European Economic and Social Committee's Civic Solidarity prize for their ground-breaking work, combining food distribution and support services with an educational programme to help residents grow their own food and reduce waste: see here.

Assuming that the return to normal life continues according to plan, we shall hold our annual Gala Day in Exeter Close on Saturday 24 July. This is mainly an outdoors event with a variety of free activities including a Children's Petting Zoo, Donkey Rides, Climbing Wall, Drumming Workshop. In 2019 we introduced the 'Green Road' to the day's activities, featuring organisations such as Wild Oxfordshire, the Canal and River Trust, K5 Better Together, and St Mary's Fields. We also hope to have the annual fireworks at Stratfield Brake, currently planned for 5 November, and the switching on of the Christmas Lights in early December.

Ongoing activities include the options appraisal which is about the be initiated for the redevelopment of Exeter Close, including Exeter Hall, the medical and related practices, and the Forum building. We have commissioned a design for the extension of the Bicester Road Cemetery, since space in the existing burial area will run out in a few years' time. Management of the Stratfield Brake sports facilities has now been taken over by Cherwell District Council, which has meant some saving in time and money for the Parish Council, though the long-term arrangements have yet to be decided. We have written to Oxford County Council about the closure of the Glebe House care home, requesting further access to the data on which the decision was based, and urging that the building should be reserved for community use; we have not yet had a reply. And finally, we await the outcome of the judicial review of Cherwell's plans to allow 4,400 new houses in our area. The hearing of the challenge by the admirable Cherwell Development Watch will be in late June.
REPORT

February & March 2021


F ollowing the Covid roadmap, our tennis and games courts and outdoor gym are now open; playgrounds have been open for a while. But Exeter Hall remains closed to the general public, and most staff continue to work from home. At the time of writing, there is some uncertainty as to when we shall revert to formal meetings in person. For the present these are being held on-line, including the Annual Parish Meeting on the evening of Thursday 28 April 2021. Instructions for joining this will be published one week beforehand on our website here.

The Parish Council has set its budget for the financial year starting in April, involving a precept (our share of the council tax) of £728,300, an increase of 1.6% on the previous year. Due to a reduction in the number of properties or residents eligible to pay council tax, this has resulted in a 1.9% increase in real terms, still below the projected rate of inflation. It is worth noting that over the previous ten years the overall increase in the precept has also been below the corresponding rate of inflation. We have managed to do this while at the same time maintaining and indeed increasing our range of activities and services, the most notable new addition being our environment and climate change agenda.

Following the incursion by travellers last summer and the subsequent installation of unsightly concrete blocks, the Council has been working on a project to keep Lyne Road Green safe, whilst also making it a more interesting space for local residents and more attractive to invertebrates and birds. Residents local to the green have received information about the project, and many have expressed an interest in getting involved in protecting the area. A draft plan for trees and hedging was drawn up with help from Wild Oxfordshire: you can find it on the Council website.

Residents will also soon notice tracts of uncut grass in public spaces. This is the start of the Parish Council's habitat regeneration initiative. Plants emerging from the relaxed mowing will be catalogued, and native wildflowers introduced for bees and butterflies, while longer grass helps small mammals such as shrews and voles. This will provide homes for wildlife displaced by the housing developments about to surround us.

From time to time trees have to be felled for safety reasons. This is not a decision that the Council takes lightly, and we are committed to ensuring that whenever we remove a tree, we plant at least two to replace it.

In line with a county-wide initiative, we are pressing for a 20 mph limit in residential streets. We are currently considering an ambitious walking and cycling network plan for the village, developed by the K5 Better Together health project. With the 20 mph limit, this envisages low traffic neighbourhoods and so-called quiet lanes, where the whole road space is shared by people and vehicles. For a village that likes to be family-friendly, it all makes very good sense. Implementation will depend, however, on the availability of government grants.
REPORT

January 2021


T he national lockdown after Christmas has obliged us to close our tennis and games courts and the outdoor gym (the latter despite contradictory guidelines from the government), but for the time being playgrounds remain open. Office staff continue to work from home, while grounds staff continue to work outside.

As far as Kidlington is concerned, lockdown has not come too soon. Some of you will have looked at the Covid data map here. It makes grim reading for Oxfordshire in general and Kidlington in particular, but with some striking differences. Kidlington North and South had 4 and 3 cases respectively in the week to 11 December. After that numbers increased very rapidly, until the week to 8 January when Kidlington North had 41 new cases and Kidlington South 59. (Kidlington North and South are statistical geography divisions or MLSOAs, not the same as council wards; the border runs very roughly along Yarnton Road and Evans Lane.)

As of 8 January, along with a number of areas in or around Bicester and Banbury, Cowley, Littlemore and Blackbird Leys, Kidlington South is now in the worst band of England cases, North in the next worst. Most of the rest of Oxfordshire is in same band as Kidlington North, or one band better. North Central Oxford, Oxford Central and Summertown are either one or two bands better.

All of this can change from one day to the next, but it brings home the extent to which we have been caught up in the national disaster. The good news is of course that vaccinations have begun. The Kidlington medical practices have chosen Islip as the site that best meets a complex and very demanding set of requirements. But patients with concerns about accessibility can be assured that when they are contacted for the vaccine and they genuinely can't travel, then alternative arrangements will be made at the time. Patients will still receive their vaccine at their allotted time and will be contacted by their practice; they should not contact practices in advance themselves.

The Cherwell Community Larder continues to operate a weekly food distribution market from Exeter Hall for those in need, and the North Oxfordshire Foodbank is distributing food parcels from its base in the Baptist Church. Kidlington and Surrounding Areas (KASA) Coronavirus Community Help is there to provide personal help, and a range of other support services are available by phone or email, provided by Citizen's Advice, Cherwell Council, and other organizations. Up-to-date details of all these services can be found on our Covid help web pages here.

Despite everything, we are also continuing with our greening agenda and other development activities. We are working on plans for landscape enhancement at Bicester Road cemetery and Lyne Road green, the latter to include measures to prevent a repeat of the traveller invasion last summer. We will be installing more covered seating facilities for young people in Exeter Close, and with the County Council and the medical practices we are moving forward with the Exeter Close redevelopment agenda.
REPORT

December 2020


F irst, some thoughts prompted by the end of our second lockdown and an extraordinary and very difficult year. There has been great hardship and distress for many, and sadly more hardship and distress will come as the economic impact of Covid makes itself increasingly felt. Thanks to the remarkable volunteer organizations in our area, together with the services provided by the District and County Councils, there have been emergency support systems available to all, and we have done our best to publicize them. We can only hope that none of our residents have fallen through this net.

Council meetings have adapted smoothly to taking place on line, and even after the emergency some will no doubt continue in this form. But they inevitably lack the stimulus, support and give-and-take of physical presence. This has been particularly difficult for our office staff, who have valiantly ensured that all of our statutory services have continued. Our grounds staff have also ensured that our open spaces and facilities are maintained to the usual standard. The council is deeply grateful to all staff in both categories for their unfailing hard work and good will throughout this difficult time.

Covid meant that we had to cancel not only the annual Gala Day and the Fireworks Display, but also the Christmas lights Switch-On event. Nevertheless the lights are up, and there are handsome trees at the top of the High Street, Exeter Hall and the Broadway. We could not put the usual tree in the Piazza off the High Street, because a market stall has been moved there to ensure social distancing.

Covid did not prevent our contractors from completing work on the Bicester Road cemetery, though some small issues will wait for the Spring. This was the main outcome of a process that began shortly after the present Council was elected last year, well before the waterlogging problems of the winter, and has proceeded without delay thereafter. A substantial new network of drains and paths has been installed, far more extensive than anything carried out since the cemetery was first opened. This will reduce significantly the problems of waterlogging we experienced at times in the past, although it may not remove them completely in extreme weather. But the new paths will make access to graves easier whatever the condition of the ground. We are now proceeding with additional landscaping of the site.

Finally, the Council decided at its last meeting to oppose Network Rail's planned closure of the Sandy Lane level crossing. The arguments for closure mainly concern the substantial growth planned in rail traffic along the line, and the fact that new housing developments in Yarnton and Begbroke will significantly increase road traffic along the lane. But we decided that on balance these arguments should not outweigh the likely loss of business for Kidlington centre traders, not to mention the inconvenience for Kidlington residents driving to Yarnton. This is simply one issue that illustrates the urgent need for greater clarity about the impact of planned housing developments in Kidlington and surroundings as a whole.
REPORT

November 2020


A s we enter the second lockdown, the Council's office staff are back to working almost entirely from home, tennis courts and the outdoor gym have been closed, and Exeter Hall bookings limited to essential work meetings. Uncertainty about the new regulations also led us, regretfully, to cancel the usual Remembrance Sunday service and parade. Instead we held a virtual event on the preceding Friday, in which the names of Kidlington and Hampton Poyle residents who died in the last century's wars were read out, the bugle played, two minutes' silence observed, and wreaths laid by representatives of local organizations. The whole event was recorded on video, and published on the Council website here on Remembrance Sunday morning: do please take a look. We hope people will see it as an appropriate and moving commemoration, in the present circumstances, of those who sacrificed their lives for their country.

How the new lockdown will affect Kidlington residents remains to be seen, but we can be sure that for many it will cause very real difficulties. The two local foodbanks continue with their invaluable work, the Cherwell Community Larder operating from Exeter Hall, and the North Oxfordshire Foodbank from the Baptist Church. Kidlington and Surrounding Areas (KASA) Coronavirus Community Help still has its teams of volunteers available to provide support for those who cannot leave their homes for whatever reason. We are updating the details about the support available during the emergency, and about services provided by local businesses and other organizations, on our webpage here.

It is a relief to be able to report two items of good news. The High Street bollard has been working most of the time. Looking forward to next year, the County Council have applied to the Department of Transport to provide civil parking enforcement in Cherwell and other districts from this time in 2021. This is something we have long been pressing for. It means that parking regulations will be enforced by traffic wardens rather than by the police, who no doubt understandably have tended to have other priorities.

Three major issues for the future remain in the realm of uncertainty. While planning for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway seems to have paused, the massive long-term development scheme known as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc still remains on the table, with the consequent prospect of a huge increase in the Oxfordshire population. Within Oxfordshire discussions on local government reorganization, and the possible integration of the five district councils into a single council for the county, have also paused. Whether or not this is desirable is a matter for debate, but there will be a real advantage if it brings with it a greater devolution of powers, something at present sadly lacking in the British government system. Finally, we are watching with some concern the progress of the government's White Paper Planning for the Future, which looks like removing much of the protection of essential interests that the present system provides.


REPORT

October 2020


S ince my last report, where I referred to the formal adoption of Cherwell's Partial Review of its Local Plan, the Council has agreed to support the application of the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance for a legal challenge to the plan based on two issues: that the calculation of Oxford's housing needs (4400 houses) is unsound, and should have been far lower; and that that proper provision was not made for a replacement of the North Oxford Golf Course in order to build houses on it. There are two stages to the process: first, obtaining permission to proceed to judicial review; second, if permission is given, the judicial review itself. At present we have agreed to support the first stage, and depending on the outcome, we will decide whether to support the second stage. Permission could be given to proceed on one issue, or both, or neither.

If the application is unsuccessful, what will Kidlington look like in ten years' time, when the proposed new housing has been completed? The Green Belt gap between us and Oxford will have been reduced to a narrow strip between the A34 and the railway line, after 1360 new houses have been built South of the railway. There will be 120 new houses at the South-West end of the village, by Stratfield Brake, and 430 around the Bicester Road cemetery. The size of Yarnton and Begbroke will be vastly increased, with 2490 new houses in the two villages, though we will be separated from the developments by a green gap between the railway line and the canal. All of this will be of limited value to Kidlington residents, since the affordable housing will be reserved for Oxford's needs

All of this makes the work that the Council is currently doing on environmental issues doubly important: not just as a response to global warming, but also to keep Kidlington as far as possible a green and pleasant place despite all the surrounding housing development. At the end of last year, along with many other councils, we declared a Climate Change Emergency, which means, among other things, that we are committed to try and make Council activities net-zero-carbon by 2030, and work with other partners to the same end. We have a Climate Emergency Working Party, which will involve local residents outside the Council, to develop and exchange new ideas for action. We are also developing new policies and initiatives on habitat restoration, rewilding, trees, cycling and walking, as well as an ambitious long-term scheme for a circular linear park or Green Ring around the village, a series of green spaces linked together by cycling and walking routes. We are looking at the provision of electrical charging points for cars around the village, and are about to instal solar lighting at the Orchard Recreational Ground, having already done so at Exeter Close and Ron Groves Recreation Ground.

All of this complements the work we are doing with Cherwell Council's K5 Better Together scheme to promote health and well-being in Kidlington and the surrounding parishes.


REPORT

September 2020


T hings have calmed down at the Council since the successful but expensive removal of the travellers on Lyne Road Green last month. The offices remain closed to the public, although most of our staff are back at Exeter Hall or have continued to work around the Parish throughout the pandemic. The recent updates to Covid regulations are somewhat confusing, but do allow us to take bookings of more than six people in Exeter Hall and the Pavilion providing we can guarantee social distancing and other measures to keep people safe. While these premises are considered Covid secure, sadly we are not yet able to accommodate important social events, particularly those for older people such as the Lunch Club. Other Oxfordshire councils are following the same rules.

A significant proportion of the Council's income comes from charges for the hire of facilities, and this has been much reduced as a result of Covid, though the loss has been partly offset by concurrent savings. This will remain a serious concern in the short-to-medium term, and will lead to some difficult choices as we begin the process of setting budgets for next year.

All Council meetings continue to be held on-line, via Zoom, and the main ones remain open to the public as usual: see the Council webpage (linked at the foot of this page) for details about meetings and instructions about how to attend.

The Cherwell District Council Local Plan has now been approved by the Inspector and formally adopted, though there might still be the possibility of a judicial review. As I have said before, of the 4400 houses allocated to this part of the District to meet Oxford's housing need, only a few will be built in Kidlington proper: 120 at Stratfield Farm, by the Sainsbury's roundabout. However, 430 will be built in Gosford around the Bicester Road cemetery, and the remainder in Begbroke and Yarnton and south of the A34 on either side of the main road into Oxford. This will not only remove most of the Green Belt gap between us and Oxford, but will also create real pressure on transport infrastructure and much else. One specific consequence is likely to be the blocking of vehicle access to Sandy Lane in Yarnton, with Network Rail set to close the two Yarnton level crossings. This will have an impact on the use of Kidlington's shops by Yarnton and Begbroke residents, as well as making access to the Yarnton Garden Centre more difficult for us. On the other hand, if the road is not closed, the added traffic resulting from the new housing developments is likely to make it unsustainable in its present form.

Finally, we have reached the last stage of the programme of work on the Bicester Road cemetery which began shortly after the present Council was elected last year, and well before the waterlogging problems that occurred last winter. We have received planning permission for an extensive new network of drains and paths, we have chosen a contractor, and we expect work to begin by the end of the month and finish by December.


REPORT

August & July 2020


I was thinking that, given the time of year, there wasn't much to report on this occasion. That all changed with the travellers' invasion of the Lyne Road green.

For those that don't know it, the green is a large and pleasant open space towards the top of the village between Lyne Road and the railway line. On Friday 31 July it was reported that a small number of travellers' caravans had set up camp there, and in the next days the number increased to 13 or more. The land belongs to the Parish Council, but negotiation with travellers is in the first place the responsibility of the County Council, who have a travellers officer. He visited the site on the Monday, and was told that the caravans were there for a wedding and would leave the next day. He visited the next day and was told that the wedding celebrations were continuing and they would leave on Wednesday. On Wednesday they were still there and said they were not leaving.

There are three ways to evict trespassers of this kind. The County Council can apply for a court order, but the process is slow, probably more so during the Covid emergency. The police can evict forcibly, but will only do so if there is hard prosecutable evidence of criminality or significant harm. In this case they declined to act, perhaps partly as a matter of prioritization, partly because they knew that the Council was willing to act. This left us with the third option of calling in bailiffs to evict, which is what we did.

The bailiffs served notice of eviction on Wednesday afternoon, with a deadline for departure of 1 pm the next day. When that time came there was still no sign of departure, so the bailiffs went in and started the eviction process. By 6 pm the site had been cleared, to the credit of the bailiffs in a peaceful manner. The police were also present to prevent disturbances. We left security guards in place overnight, and from first thing on Friday we were placing concrete blocks along the roadside edge of the green as a temporary measure to prevent access. This will give us time to consider long-term measures of a less unsightly kind, such as the creation of an earth ridge, perhaps with a ditch alongside.

All this has cost the Council several thousand pounds of council-tax payers' money, but I hope residents will agree that it is money well spent. I also hope they will feel that we acted as fast as we reasonably could. It is best to try negotiation to begin with in such cases, but as soon as it was clear that negotiation would not work we resorted to other means.

The invasion caused a great deal of anxiety, distress and nuisance to residents, and I want to thank them for their forbearance in putting up with it in such a civil manner. I also want to thank the County Council travellers officer for his advice and support, and the police for theirs. Cherwell District Council sent in a cleansing team during the occupation, and they were apparently subjected to some abuse. They then cleansed the site thoroughly on Friday morning. Thanks go to them, and then particularly to Parish Councillors and staff for their help, and above all our Facilities Manger Graham Kearney and his team who remained well ahead of the game throughout.

On other matters, Exeter Hall remains closed to the public at the time of writing, apart from a few bookings. Councillors and office staff have continued to work mainly at home since the lockdown, and we shall continue with our calendar of on-line Council and committee meetings. Playgrounds, tennis courts and cemeteries are all open. Tenders for the drainage work at the Bicester Road cemetery are now in, and we aim to start work as soon as we can once we have received planning permission.

The three main volunteer organizations active in the Village are still doing sterling work to meet Covid-related needs: Kidlington and Surrounding Areas Community Hub (KASA), the North Oxfordshire Food Bank and the Cherwell Community Larder, as well as several other smaller initiatives, all count among the heroes and heroines of the present emergency.


David Robey is Chairman of Kidlington Parish Council (KPC).
Visit the KPC website: here.