Great turnout for engagement meetings
Our nine events around the neighbourhood in January were a great success. Over 300 people braved often freezing weather to show their support for the Neighbourhood Plan and to ask many questions. Most of these were answered on the spot by Forum members, and all of them will influence the policies and the Plan document that is now being reviewed.
Traffic remains top issue
Although questions ranged across infill housing, future schemes at Heyford Park, green spaces, and other topics, traffic-related issues were most commonly raised. Concerns about speeding, increasing volumes of traffic – especially HGVs on country lanes, and the need for more bus services, were raised at most of the events. MCNP’s Traffic and Transport working group has been gathering proposals from each of our parishes to develop an overall traffic mitigation scheme that can be included in our draft Plan. This will need to be successfully negotiated with CDC, OCC and major developers at Heyford Park if it is to have the desired effect.
Possible new policies
While yet to be discussed by the Forum, a number of ideas put forward by local people for additional Plan policies look likely to be agreed. There has already been wide support for a new “dark skies” policy controlling light pollution – particularly from street lights in new developments. Another might be to control the loss of existing trees and hedgerows, together with other biodiversity-related policy, while a further new policy would seek to protect important views in and across the neighbourhood. These possible new policies will be considered at the March Forum meeting.
Heritage and character assessment
Some of our policies seek to protect the traditional rural character of the villages and the neighbourhood as a whole. To have real effect, the rather vague notion of “character” needs careful definition, and to that end MCNP has received Government support to commission consultants AECOM to carry out a “Heritage and Character Assessment” of the Plan area, which is now under way. This document, when completed, will be an important plank of “evidence” supporting our policies. Parish councillors and local historians have been gathering relevant documents which detail the heritage and the history of our villages, which AECOM will use as a basis for their recommendations.
Local green spaces
Recent legislation permits local communities to nominate valued green spaces for designation that would protect them from development. MCNP has asked the 11 parish councils/ meetings to put forward nominations that can be included in the Plan. So far we have 54 nominations and we are looking at ways of shortlisting these so that the most important green spaces are included; we have sought advice from Cherwell DC about the extent of protection that already exists. Land owners may object to such designation of their land; the Independent Examiner will take objections into account when the Plan is examined later in the year.
MCNP comments on development proposals
Although the Dorchester Group participates in the Forum, the parish members of MCNP may from time to time wish to submit comments on planning applications submitted by Dorchester. Such is the case with two recent applications – the first for a new commercial zone on the “Southern Bomb Stores” site and the second for Phase 9 housing – the construction of 297 new dwellings on the part of the site closest to Upper Heyford village.
MCNP ‘s concerns on the commercial zone relate to heavy goods traffic and the basis of figures submitted by the applicants which may be questionable; concerns about the housing scheme are, unfortunately, numerous and echo many of the issues raised by CDC’s urban design adviser. Our letters can be seen on CDC’s website
and entering “Heyford Park” in the SEARCH box.
MCNP also responded to CDC’s recommendations following consultation on the Partial Review of the Local Plan Part 1 – the so-called “Oxford overspill”. Our response was to support Cherwell’s findings that our area was completely unsuited to take large-scale housing to assist with Oxford’s problems. We asked that the “search areas” which include the MCNP neighbourhood area be deleted from further consideration.
Dorchester consult on new village centre
Designs for the proposed Village Centre at Heyford Park will be on show on February 8th at the Brice Road Community Centre.
The scheme comprises three mixed use commercial and residential blocks, one of which will include a convenience store. The blocks will also include a number of one and two bedroom apartments, of which 30% will be affordable.
Click here for more details.
Congratulations to Bloxham
As we reported in our last Update, parishioners at Bloxham have voted overwhelmingly in favour of their Neighbourhood Plan. Following this, the Plan has now been “made” and officially adopted as part of the Development Plan for the area. We offer our congratulations to the second NP to achieve this status in Cherwell (Hook Norton being the first).
MCNP Forum members continue to scrutinise the valuable experience of groups whose Plans have successfully undergone Examination, and we learn something new from each one.
What happens next? Following the January local engagement meetings, we will review what you have said, take expert advice, and modify the Plan and its policies. The full Plan document will then be made public in the “pre-submission consultation”, after which it goes to Cherwell District Council on its way to the Independent Examiner. So….we have a few hoops still to jump through.