Cholsey Village Voice

The Parish Council has launched a new monthly newsletter, aimed at bringing a topical update to the village.
The newsletter – Cholsey Village Voice – is available free from most shops and pubs, The Pavilion foyer, the library and The Great Hall. CVV can alsobe read onthe Parish Council website.
Items covered in the first issue include a defibrillator update, services for young children and news about the new bus stop at Fair Mile.

County 2015/16 Budget Set

Oxfordshire County Council, meeting today at County Hall, has voted to save a further £20 million. This saving, caused by Central Government cuts, will be added to previous cuts of £64m.
Savings will come from:
Adult Social Care – £10m
Children, Education and Families more than £3.5m
£7.3m may come out of Environment and Economy
The County is still a large -half billion pound – institution,  but it is now able to deliver little more than statutory services.
As part of the debate we heard of OCC achievements in 2013/14, which include:
Repairing 45,000 highway defects
5,000 care assessments
2,500 trading standards interventions
5,000 fire and rescue incidents.

Major Gravel Pit Update

Following their recent purchase of New Barn Farm Adrian Hatt (of CAGE) and I paid met Grundons yesterday, where we met their estates director, and senior planner. They were very courteous and informative.

The previous option in favour of Smiths of Bletchingdon has expired. The land (all 163 acres) continue to be farmed by the existing agricultural tenants. Grundon stated that they have no interest in acquiring any adjoining land, which means that the overall site is rather smaller than we had previously expected, therefore increasing the potential buffer between the site and Cholsey village.

They have carried out some trial boreholes, and they consider that the gravel IS of good quality, and of uniform spread, although running to silt at the southern end of the site. The gravel is 20 mm or less, which means that no crushing or mixing will be required, thereby reducing the level of mechanisation. The strata is 5/6 metres deep. The farm selling agents suggested a total of 4 million tons, although with the various limitations and stand-offs, the extractable amount will be a good deal less than this.

Their declared intention is to make a planning application for extraction within 12 to 18 months, and before the revised Plan is published by OCC.
They consider that the demand is there, and do not see any advantage in waiting for the plan to be approved, given the long delayed timescale. In addition, it is anticipated that other contractors on competing sites will do the same thing. There is already an application by Hills on the 320 acre Culham site, although it is understood that it has been held up on archaeological grounds. 

Grundon’s approach is to carry out local consultation, so as to understand the nature of the objections, and to build in their suggested solutions as part of the planning application. If the local demand is for an enhanced use, rather than just agricultural, then this will be taken into account. They held an in-house seminar recently with their own employees, many of whom live locally, and are therefore concerned about the proposals. They raised the very same issues which we ourselves raised at the meeting. They are well aware of the substance of such objections, and of the planning history, and they consider that traffic movements will come top of the list.
Adrian enquired about possible use of the railway line for extraction. They will be speaking to the railway operators, but would anticipate difficulties with mainline connections, and this does not fit in with local use.

There will be a quiet period now whilst they work on their planning application, carrying out all the required surveys, and consultations. If OCC consider that their application is premature, then they will take note of such advice. Grundon are of course in for the long term, and whilst they are confident in their position now, they will continue to pursue the application in the years to come. If successful, it is, however, impossible at this stage to indicate the length of operational time, but this is likely to exceed 10 years. Their planning application would be more specific in this context.

They were at pains to emphasise that they are operating on their home patch here, and are very conscious of the need to keep up local consultation. This approach would be rather different from say Hansons, or similar multi/national companies who would have less local interest in the outcome. They would also expect to sell the material on a local rather than national basis. They do not, for instance, maintain their own vehicle fleet to deliver the material from the site. They rely on purchasers with varying size of vehicles to come to the site to collect. There would of course also be vehicles delivering inert material coming to the site for infill restoration.

Their standard extraction process involves working areas of five or six acres at any one time, with restoration of that area, when worked, before moving onto an adjacent similar working area. This means that there would be continuing agricultural (or enhanced) use of the surrounding area, rather than one large pit. Perhaps not the lunar landscape we had feared. Grundon have also offered to take people to nearby pits that they currently operate.

Standard objections to new pits of course include dust and noise. In this case, the water table is only 1.5 m below the surface, so that dust will not be a problem. They do not consider that noise will be a significant factor either. Visual impact will be limited by existing tree screens and new bunds. The principal problem is likely to be vehicle movements, and of course they will have to consult with the highways and other authorities. If the Wallingford Road is found to be a narrow but busy highway, flanked by cycle/ footpath, then it is more likely that the main site access would be off the bypass, from which they would construct internal roads. The main operating site with treatment plant would be approximately 5 m in height. It is unlikely that there will be successful housing applications on the nearby Winterbrook land within the bypass in the next few years, so that the gravel application would take time precedence, and not need to take account of any such further housing in the future.

Grundon will be willing to attend parish council meetings, and to hold exhibitions, but would avoid an open public meeting, as they consider them to be counter-productive.

I asked about the type of recompense or benefit which might be derived by the local communities, but they gave very limited examples of previous commitments elsewhere. If Grundon are successful in their application – which is not a “done deal” – I will strive to ensure that the maximum community benefit is procured.

We emphasised that we would be leading the objections to their application, which they understood. They were keen to deal with any issues and questions which we may raise.

Beer Festival

Don’t forget the CHOKO Beer Festival at the Laurence Hall.
Live music all day and entertainment for all the family.
At the Laurence Hall until late tonight – usually until the beer runs out!
Over the years this event has raised tens of thousands of pounds of self help money for the community of Kodumela in South Africa.

Apply Online For Primary and Secondary School Places

Applications for children due to start primary or secondary school in September 2015 can now be made online.

Families with children born between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011 are urged to visit the primary school admissions pages on the council’s website to find out more about how to apply for places for next year.

Applications for primary or junior schools also need to be made for children currently attending an infant school who were born between 1 September 2007 and 31 August 2008.

Families with children due to move up to secondary school next September should visit the secondary school admissions pages.

Stating three preferences

When applying parents are strongly advised to state three preferences and include their catchment school as one of these – even if it is their third preference school.

This does not in any way affect families’ chances of securing a place at their first-preference school.

Postal applications

The council still accepts postal applications but recommends families apply online where possible, as this helps speed up the applications process.

Applying online also means families receive an automatic response confirming their application has been received and can be quickly notified if further information is needed.

Those who apply online will also receive an email on allocation day informing them of the outcome of their application, thus avoiding a delay in waiting for a letter to arrive in the post.

Postal application forms, as well as information booklets are available from all Oxfordshire schools and nurseries, and from reception at County Hall in Oxford. Reference copies of information booklets are also available from all Oxfordshire libraries.

The deadline for primary and junior school applications is 15 January 2015. The deadline for secondary school applications is 31 October 2014.

Apply on time

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families Melinda Tilley said: “It’s important that parents ensure they apply for a school place for their child on time, as this increases the chances we will be able to offer them a place at a school listed among their preferences.

“Understandably, many parents have strong views about which school they would like their child to attend, however, we would always urge families to state three preferences on their application form, and include their catchment school as one of these – even if it is their third preference. This does not in any way reduce the chances of securing a place at your first-preference school. All the information about how to apply can be found on our website.”

The council was able to offer first-preference places for almost 90 per cent of children starting primary school in Oxfordshire this year. More than 90 per cent of secondary school applicants were offered a place at their first-preference school.

Post Office Drop-In

The Post Office will be holding a “drop-in” session this afternoon/evening at the Pavilion from 4 to 7pm..
The reason for the session is to hear opinions on the new Post Office counter in the village Tesco.
Can I encourage as many people to attend as possible. Many people have shared negative experiences with me and this is your opportunity to tell the Post Office direct.

Fulscot Bridge Sight Lines

Whilst everyone has welcomed the re-opening of the bridge, a couple of people have suggested that the sight lines on the bridge aren’t as good as on the old one.
I asked Kirsty Dickson, liaison officer at Network Rail, to find out if this is the case and she tells me that “the sightlines vary depending on where you are on the bridge although in all cases they are at least as good as before and in some cases the sightlines have been improved”.
I agree with this and am really glad that the bridge is substantially wider and has lost those awful brick pillars at either end.