SODC Election Result

Unfortunately I failed to get re-elected to SODC on Thursday.
I always thought it was a tall order due to the high turnout at a General Election and the boundary changes. However, I got my highest vote ever.
The make-up of SODC is now 33 Tories, 1 Lib Dem, 1 Henley Resident and 1 Labour.
Losing the election will not diminish my commitment to the village and I will still be available as much as ever if you have an issue or problem. I still hold the County Council seat.
The full result was as follows:

Election Results for Cholsey

Elected

Pat Dawe   Conservative    2154     24.35%

Jane Murphy    Conservative    1746    19.77%

Not Elected

Mark Stuart Gray    Independent    1323    14.98%

Adrian Lee Cull    Liberal Democrat    810    9.17%

Ginnie Herbert    Labour    683   7.73%

Sam Casey-Rerhaye    Green    567    6.42%

Steve Beatty    UK Independence Party (UKIP)    559    6.33%

Barbara Tompsett    Labour    539    6.1%

Bob Nielsen    UK Independence Party (UKIP)    455    5.15%

EA Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme

Some initial thoughts from the Environment Agency. They are aware that the threat of water being dumped further downstream is an issue for us. I will keep abreast of this issue.

Background
We are working with our partners, who include Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council, to develop a scheme to reduce flood risk in Oxford. One of the options is to improve capacity in the western floodplain of the city with a £120 million flood relief channel.
We have not designed a scheme yet and have not decided what the size and location of the channel will be. However if approved by Defra and HM Treasury, and subject to funding availability, a channel is likely to be formed from a combination of widened existing channels and new sections of channel.
A new channel and/or altered existing channels would work with the natural processes of the local watercourses and the floodplain to help manage the movement of water through Oxford. During a flood this would reduce the risk of water entering homes, businesses and disrupting transport links.
The channel will reduce flood risk but it cannot remove it completely. In extreme weather the western floodplain would still be utilised as the channel would fill up and be overtopped, with flood water spilling into the surrounding floodplain.

What happens during a flood?
After rainfall, flow in rivers increases and water levels rise. After prolonged heavy rainfall the capacity of the local rivers may be exceeded and water will naturally spill out onto the floodplain. The floodplain acts as a temporary additional flow route and storage area taking excess water that will flow downstream and rejoin the river channel when levels fall.
In Oxford flood water and river levels rise slowly in response to rainfall and flooding continues for many days. The size and nature of the Thames catchment upstream of Oxford means that the city is mainly at risk of flooding during periods of excessive rainfall, combined with saturated or frozen ground conditions, which results in more severe flooding.

Consideration of downstream areas
We work to reduce flood risk overall, not to transfer it from one community to another. As part of our detailed design of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) we will use our latest river modelling to assess any changes in flow that the scheme may bring. Before the final scheme is approved we will share this information with communities in Oxford and in downstream areas.
We will include a detailed Flood Risk Assessment with any planning application we submit for the scheme. This assessment will contain information on any potential changes to downstream flood risk. It will also include details of any mitigation measures we will take, if required, to protect properties in the unlikely event that their flood risk is changed.
Alongside the Oxford FAS we are also developing business cases to provide flood alleviation schemes for other communities at risk of flooding from the River Thames, as part of our six year plan of works.
Together with our partners we take the management of flood risk very seriously.

Cycle Path Consultation

Cholsey Parish Council are consulting on a cycle path to run along the Wallingford Road.
The cycle path will replace the existing path and will be used by both cycles and pedestrians.
Money for the route has come from developer infrastructure contributions.
In addition to the cycle path the scheme will include a small “build out” to slow traffic entering the village.
The consultation will take place at The Pavilion, Station Road on Friday 20th March from 3 to 8pm and Saturday 21st March from 10am to 1pm

New Housing Consultation

SODC are holding a consultation event to look at where the new housing in the village should go. In the period of the next local plan (to 2031) Cholsey has to take at least 128 new homes.
The sites are :
1 Land at East End Farm
2 Celsea Place
3 The large field between Reading Road and Celsea Place.
The event will be in The Pavilion, Station Road this Friday 21st between 3 and 8pm.

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.