Annual Parish Reports in the absence of an Annual Parish Meeting in 2021
1. Chairman of the Parish Council Report
2. Parish Council Planning Report
3. Blewbury Pre School
4. PCSO Report
5. County Council Annual Report
6. District Annual Report
7. Malthus Trust Accounts
8. United Charities Annual Report
9. Blewbury Village Hall Chairman's Report
1. Report of the Parish Council Chairman in the Absence of an Annual Parish Meeting 2021
It goes without saying that none of us would have expected to be still in lockdown at the end of a complete council year. However, that is where we are and although there are the first signs that some restrictions on our lives can be lifted, we are well aware that realism trumps optimism in these difficult times.
The Parish Council is elected to serve the village and everyone who lives here. We try to do what we can to preserve the community and its ideals. What has been apparent over the last 12 months is that we have a village whose residents pull out the stops as soon as soon as a crisis raises its head and by so doing relieves the pressure on council and allows it to continue its essential work. Blewbury Good Neighbours were brilliant. One individual has to be singled out and that is Karen our postmistress, a big personality with a big heart.
Despite the pandemic, the work of the Parish Council continued. David our Lengthman continued the village maintenance programme as he could do most of this in isolation.
The council has to be mindful that each householder contributes to the running of the Parish Council through the Council Tax system where an element known as the Parish Precept resides. Without this money, the Parish Council would have no money at all to carry out village maintenance, a prime responsibility, or represent you as best we can on a broad range of other matters. Historically, insurance has always been a major cost item. We were made aware that perhaps we had been underestimating the amount of trees we were responsible for, the potential for remedial work costs and the implications of any accidents involving them.
Consequently council committed to a large scale and costly survey of trees and a programme of one, three, six and twelve month remedial works to avoid future litigation costs. As you are walking the village you may notice metal tags with a number on some of the trees in our ownership.
Performance against budget
Our total expenditure for the year exceeded the planned £65000 but by excellent financial control this was kept to a minimum. Every year we expect the unexpected which is why we include a small contingency to cover the cost. The shortfall was covered by a mixture of local grants, community infrastructure levy and robbing our reserves.
For the protection of the village’s finances we are obliged to keep the reserves at a set level which is a multiple of the precept. So a small increase in the precept for 2021-2022 was deemed necessary.
Changes at County and District Councils
Councillors at County and District levels have all worked hard on our behalf during what has been a very difficult time for them.
Mike Fox Davis faces an election this year and has decided that enough is enough and he will not stand again. We would like to thank him for all his hard work & achievements during his tenure, and wish him well for the future.
Footpaths and verges
In spite of the lockdown which limited the opportunity to arrange work parties and the occasional biblical downpours, I still consider the village to be in good shape with the condition of footpaths commensurate with living in a rural village.
The future of Development
I recall saying last year, ‘other examples of proposed development such as the Oxford Cambridge Expressway and others continue to exercise our minds’. Well, March 2021 and central government have taken the decision not to proceed.
Future Transport Options
The 94 bus service is safe for the time being and we even have a limited Saturday service now. The Downland Villages Transport Group which provides the weekly service to Wallingford is at present suspended and we await what will happen in the future. Our new District Council puts public transport higher on the agenda but cyclists in the village still risk their lives on a regular basis cycling along the A417 and the B4016.
Any Parish Council is reliant on the help of voluntary organisations within their village to carry out supplementary tasks. The BVS continues where it can to support village events but major fundraising events have suffered. There are many other voluntary groups and individuals who have helped through the year such as Blewbury Good Neighbours and Sustainable Blewbury.
As reported last year, the Village Hall refurbishment commenced in January 2020, only to be affected like everything else by the pandemic and social distancing measures. Although the work progressed, the pace was painfully slow and we still have not signed off the build.
Tickers Folly Field and the Recreation Ground
Tickers Folly Field continues to be very popular and a destination of choice for families from around South Oxfordshire and the Vale. It is one of the areas that has been allowed to stay open under most levels of restrictions
There has been no occupancy of the Melland Room and consequently no income. Through an injection of parish funds and covid grants, we redecorated and carried out a limited programme of repairs ahead of a limited reopening. A flood in the Clubhouse in February has meant further work, but fingers crossed this will not affect the re-opening.
Cricket hopes to get going again this year, something we all encourage.
Emergency Plan and reacting to emergencies
We have a plan but so does the village
In a village like Blewbury the parishioners soon take over. It was heart warming to see the speed at which the village responded to the pandemic with over a hundred Blewbury Good Neighbours coming forward within days and still available.
Safety around the village
The village has got together both the equipment and the personnel to run a Community Speedwatch. At last there are signs that PCSO support to this project, post Covid, is finally going to be realised. Do not hold your breath.
The PC leaped headlong into the 21st century with a Zoom council meeting in March 2020 and after a year we still love it as much.
And finally again
I am heartened by the village’s response to the current crisis and amazed that there has not been a drop in enthusiasm to help others in spite of us all being heartily fed up of the whole thing.
Once again I am grateful to all my fellow councillors, our Parish Clerk and the Lengthman for the contributions that they have made towards the effective running of the village over the past year.
And in conclusion
Whilst Chris Lakeland kindly wrote this annual report, he has now hung up his cap as both Councillor & Chairman of the Parish Council, after a considerable number of years as both. He is immediately much missed, but it is heartening that his knowledge & expertise will still be there to be called upon. The council’s enormous thanks & good wishes to Chris.
- Blewbury Parish Council (BPC): Annual Planning Report, April 2021
Planning in Blewbury
There have been 36 applications for planning permission or listed building consent since the last Annual Planning Report in April 2020 (a drop on the year before, when 46 applications were processed). Five of these were withdrawn, thirteen are awaiting determination by the local authority and the rest were granted. An application refused last year for the conversion of an existing double garage and swimming pool enclosure to form a new dwelling at Rumsey’s Barn on London Road was granted on appeal.
During the various lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 virus since March 2020, planning applications are still being considered, but planning officers are working from home and not visiting sites unless absolutely necessary. There have been some attendant delays in processing applications at the Vale. At BPC, councillors are discussing planning applications over email and ratifying decisions at electronic PC meetings every month.
BPC assesses planning applications primarily by email. They are then discussed at monthly council meetings. Sometimes an application needs to be dealt with before the council meeting, but if it is contentious we can ask for an extension to the time limit. BPC, however, is only a consultee: we do not make the decisions.
BPC scrutinises applications on the basis of the policies in the village’s Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), along with the Vale’s planning policies. If an application conforms to both the NDP and the Vale’s local plan policies, ‘material considerations’ are the only other means we can use to object to an application. Planning law does not define material considerations – they are derived from case law, but can include:
- Overlooking and loss of privacy
- Overshadowing and loss of light
- Local circumstances (local knowledge from the PC is key here)
- History of a site e.g. if contaminated
- Local knowledge of drainage or other possible problems with services
- Noise, disturbance, smells
- Traffic and highway issues
- Scale of development
- Public view across the land
- Loss of important open spaces
- Design, appearance, layout and materials
- Retention of important physical features
- Conservation of buildings etc.
- Impact on surroundings e.g. whether it affects the character or an area
- Emerging planning policy, depending on what stage it’s at.
They cannot include:
- Morals or motives of the developer
- Effect on the value of a property
- Private property rights such as boundary or access disputes
- Possible future development not included in the application
- Comparison with other previously approved schemes on the site
- Matters covered by laws such as alcohol or gaming licences, or Building Regs.
Those interested in planning applications should first of all consult the Vale’s website*. BPC encourages parishioners to email the Vale’s planning office, either in support of or against an application – the more voices that are heard, the better.
Blewbury’s Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP)
The presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ remains enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework – this effectively means that the job of planners at the Vale is to enable (rather than block) planning applications which meet the correct criteria.
We believe that Blewbury’s NDP has helped to protect the village from speculative development applications during the past year, although planners at the Vale do not consistently cite the NDP’s policies in their decision letters. In one case (Abners, Church Road – P20/V2625/FUL) our NDP was not even listed alongside the other relevant parts of the local development plan. This was quickly rectified by the case officer, but is indicative, in BPC’s view, of a general indifference among the Vale’s planners to our NDP and its policies.
Planning in the Vale of White Horse DC
Both parts of the Vale’s Local Plan 2031 are now adopted and in use. Plans for Didcot Garden Town carry on in development. BPC remains sceptical that Didcot will look any greener or more garden-like at the end of the Garden Town process, however we have a representative attending Parish Council ‘sounding board’ meetings and will continue to monitor the plans closely.
There are proposals for South Oxfordshire DC and the Vale to combine forces to create a joint local plan beyond 2031. BPC has discussed the pros and cons of this, and is generally in favour.
The Oxfordshire Growth Deal
In 2018 Oxfordshire’s local authorities signed the ‘Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal’ with central government, accepting a £215m infrastructure fund, in exchange for building 100,000 houses by the mid 2030s. This would grow the housing stock of Oxfordshire by 40% in the next 15 years, which by some measures is roughly three times the rate needed to meet the county’s actual housing requirement. As part of this deal, local authorities agreed to produce a Joint Strategic Spatial Plan (JSSP) for the whole county, guiding development in the area up to the year 2050.
Following local elections in May 2019, Liberal Democrats lead the Vale of White Horse DC. One of the first things the new council did was order a review of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which is the vehicle in charge of delivering the JSSP and the Growth Deal. As a result of this and delays necessitated by Covid, the timetable for delivering the JSSP has been pushed back to 2023. An unfortunate side effect of the delay has been the government’s decision to end Oxfordshire’s flexibility on housing land supply. The provision had meant the county’s five local planning authorities only had to demonstrate three years’ worth of housing land supply, rather than the usual five years required under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), but this flexibility has now been removed.
The proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway
The proposed expressway between Oxford and Cambridge has been cancelled, following the government’s decision to pause the nascent plan in March 2020. The government said ‘extensive analysis and local engagement’ revealed the expressway ‘would not be cost-effective for the taxpayer’, but will investigate instead ‘the need for more targeted road interventions in the area, recognising the vital role that transport investment has to support sustainable growth in the region’. The East West rail link is central to plans for future transport infrastructure – investment in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc remains high on the government’s economic agenda. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was ‘committed to boosting transport links in the area, helping to create jobs and build back better from coronavirus’.
- Blewbury Pre-School Parish Council AGM Report 2021
2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Blewbury Pre-School. We are very proud to have been providing early years education for the children of Blewbury and the surrounding villages for the last fifty years.
As a charity, Blewbury Pre-School is managed by a committee of volunteer Trustees. A team of three staff care for the children, preparing them for school life, both socially and educationally.
Sadly of course the pre-school had to close in March 2020 due to the nationwide lockdown. The pre-school team all worked above and beyond, creating robust and workable policies and procedures, to enable it to re-open in June.
The main challenge for the teachers since re-opening has been to provide a rich and varied curriculum, whilst adhering to the risk assessments based on the advice received from the Government, Public Health England, and Oxfordshire County Council. The teachers have worked tirelessly to ensure the children continue to receive the best care and education in a safe and healthy environment.
The curriculum at Blewbury Pre-School covers the seven areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage: Personal, Social & Emotional Development; Communication & Language; Physical; Mathematics; Expressive Arts; Literacy; and Understanding of the World. The children begin the Foundation Stage at pre-school from 2½ years and will finish the Foundation Stage at the end of their reception year at primary school.
During the first term of this academic year we looked at Autumn, Winter, hibernation and festivals of light. We dressed up to raise money for Children in Need, painted poppies for Remembrance Day, tasted sausages for Bonfire Night, took part in some country dancing for St Andrew’s Day and enjoyed Christmas activities and learning about the Christmas story. We were especially delighted to welcome a socially distanced Father Christmas (complete with face mask!).
This Spring we’ve been learning about the life cycle of frogs and searching out mini-beasts and bugs outside to learn more about nature. We’ve been planting seeds in the garden, growing ‘cress heads’, and learning about how plants grow. We dressed up in red to raise money for Red Nose Day. We also learned about traditions and celebrations for Chinese New Year, St David’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day and of course Easter.
During the upcoming summer term the teachers will be preparing all the children due to leave this year for the transition to their chosen primary schools and ensuring they are all school ready. This includes beginning a high-quality phonics programme which will continue once they start primary school.
Despite a recent increase in numbers of children enrolled at Blewbury Pre-school, fundraising remains vital to its continued existence. The Early Years’ sector has faced years of underfunding for the free childcare schemes, and now with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic most childcare providers face huge challenges.
This last year, the Committee Trustees and the teaching staff worked hard to raise money including home-based sponsored activities with the children and selling firewood by the trailer-load. However our major fundraising events for 2020 were cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions, so we are particularly grateful to Blewbury Parish Council, The Malthus Trust, and councillors Hayleigh Gascoigne and Sarah Medley, whose generous grants have been a lifeline to the pre-school over the last 14 months.
In light of fundraising challenges, the Trustees have therefore looked to create an alternative regular source of fundraising that aims to generate the majority of the shortfall in underfunding.
We are therefore delighted to announce the new Blewbury Pre-School Lottery will launch this year. For £5 per month members will be entered into a monthly lottery with a chance to win one of three cash prizes. There will be a 50:50 split of money between fundraising and prize money. That means there will be three cash prizes each month, with the other half of the proceeds going to Blewbury Pre-School to help fund equipment, resources and to meet any other funding needs. If anyone would like to receive an application form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.blewburypreschool.co.uk for more information and full terms and conditions.
The Trustees are confident that the money raised from the Blewbury Pre-School Lottery, added to our other fundraising activities that take place throughout the year and the revenue from the extended hours now offered, will ensure that Blewbury Pre-School will be in a good position for the years to come.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your ongoing help and support – it is hugely appreciated.
Chair, Blewbury Pre-School CIO Committee, email@example.com
- Police Report – PCSO Gary Kirby
Crime reports of interest April 2020 – April 2021
Theft of bike from garage
Theft of lawnmower
Theft of strimmer from shed
2 x Theft from garden
Theft of purse from vehicle
Criminal damage to vehicle
Theft from shed
Theft of van
Theft of registration plates from vehicle
Criminal damage to building
Burglary to the petrol station
JANUARY 2021 – April 2021 – No reports of concern to the Village as a whole.
June 2020 – February 2021
20 reports relating to rural crime including theft and hare coursing but mainly consisting of criminal damage by vehicles driving on farmland and private gallops.
As previously mentioned we have been working with landowners advising on target hardening such as ditching and restricting access to private property. We have been carrying out rural crime operations in the area and continue with our routine patrols. Reports of hare coursing in progress has been low this season.
There were also reports of various fraud incidents. For information on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud please look at the Thames Valley Police web site or at Action Fraud
If anyone would like any crime prevention advice regarding their property please get in touch with me at Gary.firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Speed watch
The Blewbury Community Speedwatch scheme was heading in the right direction and was very close to going live, when everything came to a halt due to Covid.
During this time work has been ongoing designing a new system.
When restrictions are lifted, schemes will be able to restart their former activity to keep their communities safe by checking for speeding vehicles. At the same time, a pilot scheme will be launched to trial a new system, supporting and training volunteers, as well as capturing the data for community speedwatch in order to better analyse data for potential police activity.
At this time I am still awaiting the finer details and dates. As soon this becomes available I will be continuing to assist in the launch of the Blewbury Speedwatch scheme along with the help of some very dedicated volunteers who I thank for their patience and understanding during this time.
- Annual Report from Mike Fox-Davies – County Councillor for Hendreds and Harwell
As we head into the Spring, I am looking ahead to the end of lockdown and (hopefully), slowly and safely back to normality for us all, thanks to the highly successful vaccine rollout.
During this last year, the County Council was soon used to working by video call and meetings of all the committees, sub-committees and Full Council were back to their normal timetables in this new format.
You may not be aware, but I am standing down after serving as your County Council for the past four years so I thought I would give a quick recap on my time representing Hendreds and Harwell.
At Full Council, I presented four motions over my time, all carried with unanimous cross-party support. (Many councillors present no motions during their term as elected members.)
- HGV Routing Agreements –My motion was to link a financial effect with those agreements, so that if they were flouted in the future, there would be a commercial imperative to ensure the developer or operator did not repeat the practice.
- HGV Developer Road Damage – My motion put more requirement on the developers to be responsible for the damage they cause, by demanding they undertake condition surveys before development starts and then return the damaged routes back the prior condition at their cost. This became a two-page spread across the front of the Oxford Mail.
- Steventon Reservoir – This reservoir (which will be the size of Heathrow and can be shown not to be needed) would be the largest and most intrusive construction project in the area, spread over ten years and highly disruptive to traffic in all local areas. It is being presented by Thames water as the main option in its draft plan, but the Council agreed to demand a second consultation with Thames Water. This was then further strengthened when I presented an amendment to the cabinet paper to demand a public enquiry, again accepted
- Adoption of New Housing Developments – There are several new developments across my division, with developers finishing their housing for sale, but in many cases, not finishing the elements fully so that the County can adopt the roads and lighting infrastructure. This motion called on the County Officers to use all their powers to push the developers to complete the works so that OCC can sign off the final adoption for the development. As overall planning permission actually sits with the District Council, I suggested that no more planning permissions are granted to any developers who take unreasonable time to complete outstanding snagging. District Councillors have yet to action this.
Support for Parishes
During the past 15 months, I have attended the majority of my eight Parishes’ meetings; reporting back from the County Council, but also hearing about local issues where I can bring additional pressure to bear on behalf of the residents. All the meetings from March 2020 have been by video call, which makes it easier when visiting two or three parishes on the same night. However, members of the public who attended many of the public meetings, tended not to join the video calls and I did miss that contact and hearing the residents’ concerns face-to-face, although email communications increased.
One of the over-riding issues continues to be traffic volume and speed and I continued to push for 20 mph limits within all Hendreds and Harwell residential areas, and more traffic calming where necessary.
Councillor Community Fund
During the past three years, a Councillor priority fund of £15,000 per year has been made available for each Councillor to spend in their own Division on specific community projects. Across my parishes, this has been fully invested in over 20 community projects including Playground equipment; Village Hall repairs; Replacement of recreation ground equipment; new footpaths; car park; lights for pedestrian crossing; extra street lighting; primary schools – healthy eating programme; Covid 19 support; Arboreal safety management.
Committees and Role
As well as assisting at Parish Level and attending the Full Council of the County Council, I have used my previous business and local government experience on three committees; the Performance Scrutiny Committee, holding County Council departments to account for performance; Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (where we kept Pet-CT Scanners within the JR); and the Planning and Regulations committee looking at minerals and waste. (Residential waste is the responsibility of the Districts, not County.)
Additionally, among my sub-committees were the transport Cabinet Advisory Group and I chaired our County Locality Group, as well as being the Group Deputy Chairman (Backbenchers). The most satisfying committee has been the Climate Action Cabinet Advisory Group, inputting into the Council, which has aimed to combat climate change, since before its official recognition.
The aim of the County is to achieve net-zero carbon on the OCC estate by 2030 and enable all Oxfordshire to achieve net-zero by 2050. The County supports over 85 community climate action groups, including many of my Parishes local sustainability organisations. OCC is pursuing over 80 projects, including; five Cycle Network routes; converting street lights to LED (initially over 30% completed); low traffic neighbourhoods; installing 240 Park and Charge EV charging points in Council owned car parks; delivering zero emissions zone in Oxford; Home to School transport decarbonisation plan; developing policy for zero-carbon new build schools; developing hydrogen strategy; sourcing zero-carbon grid electricity; programme to increase rooftop solar generation and improve energy efficiency in existing buildings.
I am proud to have been part of a pro-active Carbon Zero focussed Oxfordshire County Council.
Finally, I must thank all who have contributed to my work and to those valued residents and hard-working Parish Councillors whom it has been my honour to quietly serve.
Cllr Mike Fox-Davies, Oxfordshire County Councillor email@example.com
6. Annual Report from your District Councillors
Cllr Hayleigh Gascoigne and Cllr Sarah Medley
Parishes of Blewbury, Harwell, Chilton and Upton, 7th April 2021
Hello! It is hard to believe that it is now almost two whole years since we were elected as your district councillors, and it is even harder to believe that half of that time has been during a global pandemic. In last year’s annual report we reflected on our busy first year as councillors, getting used to how things work and attending a myriad of wonderful local events in our ward. This past year has been very different; almost every aspect of our role as your district councillors has now moved online, with much fewer opportunities to get out into the community and chat to residents in person, which is what we love doing best. However, we are very grateful that we have still been able to ‘attend’ parish council meetings virtually, and we would like to commend each of the parish councils for getting up and running with online meetings so smoothly and efficiently. In this report we reflect on the activities of the council and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has of course dominated most of the past year. In spite of these difficulties, the council has however made progress in other areas, which we also summarise in this report.
Coronavirus Community Support
We would like to thank the residents of all the parishes we represent for helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, by observing the restrictions and supporting your community. At the start of the first lockdown, it was so wonderful to see everyone looking out for each other and keeping spirits up. On the local Facebook groups, we saw neighbours donating food, plants and surplus supplies to one another, sharing tips on which small local businesses to buy from,
and even doing weekly fancy dress when they put their bins out! On top of that, incredible volunteer support groups were set up in a matter of hours, and they have done an amazing job ensuring that food, supplies and medicine are delivered to their neighbours in need. It has been a very tough year with further lockdowns since then, however the community spirit has been indomitable, and the volunteer groups have kept going throughout. Although we do not usually have any individual councillor grants, this past year each district councillor was allocated a small amount of funding to use to support community groups and initiatives in their activities related to the
pandemic. We have used this to support a number of local organisations, including the Harwell Helpers, Chilton Mutual Aid, the United Charities of the Ancient Parish of Blewbury, the Great Western Park COVID-19 Community Support Group, the Harwellian, the Blewbury Pre-School, the Harwell Village Hall and the Wantage Independent Advice Centre. We would like to say a massive Thank You to all the hard-working volunteers in these local groups; you have provided vital support to vulnerable members of the community during a very difficult year.
The council itself has had a significant role in the response to the pandemic. In March 2020, the district councils acted early by asking the majority of their staff to work from home a week ahead of the national lockdown beginning. Within days they had launched a brand-new Community Hub which immediately began identifying and working with charities and voluntary groups across the districts to help those most in need. From coordinating prescription collections to arranging emergency food parcels the district councils and their network of community
groups were at the forefront of the local Covid-19 response.
Throughout the pandemic, the councils have stayed in touch with those most at risk from the virus. So far, calling over 27,233 vulnerable and shielded residents to check they’re ok and to offer support. Officers have also been making socially distanced doorstep visits to residents they’ve been unable to reach by phone. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on local businesses, so a significant amount of officer time has been dedicated to administering and processing a wide variety of grants amounting to more than £65 million to businesses across both districts. As well as dedicating significant officer resource to the cause both councils have also made its buildings
available. Since Cornerstone Arts Centre closed its doors to the public in March last year, it has been home to the council’s food distribution service, helping to ensure hundreds of families received urgent food parcels when they had nowhere else to turn. In February this year, The Beacon in Wantage opened as a Covid-19 testing site for publicfacing workers and volunteers who are not displaying symptoms. This will remain available to those who need it for a long as is required.
The impact of the pandemic on residents and businesses has been significant, and the councils’ Covid-19 response work and the subsequent recovery periods will remain a huge focus for years to come. Both councils have committed to this in their Corporate Plans. The council leaders have sent a personal message out to residents, community groups and businesses looking back
at the challenges everyone’s faced together and thanking them for their relentless support in helping their communities, particularly those most vulnerable and for following the necessary measures to protect others. Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the way in which our communities in the Vale have come together to help those most in need, Not just by looking out for their vulnerable neighbours, but also by supporting our local businesses as much as they can through the pandemic”.
“I am pleased that we have been able provide one of three symptom-free testing sites in Oxfordshire at The Beacon. This is invaluable as part of the fight against Covid-19 and our team there and those across all of our departments have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our response to the pandemic has been at the forefront of residents and business’s needs”
Please click on the links to watch video messages from Cllr Emily Smith and Cllr Sue Cooper to residents, and click this link to view a video timeline of the councils’ response to the pandemic.
The Community Hub continues to be available to help people access support and essentials during the lockdown if they have nobody else to turn to and can be contacted on the usual details below.
To contact the Community Support Team:
call: 01235 422 600 Monday to Thursday 8.30-5pm and Fridays 8.30-4.30pm
fill in an online form at: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/communityhub
Remember, for the most up-to-date coronavirus information relating to district council support and any changes to services, please take a look at the dedicated Vale webpage for updates: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19
- The councils’ Housing Needs team are available to help people who are at risk of being made homeless or who are sleeping rough – for more details visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/housing.
- Support is also available to residents who are experiencing financial difficulties – to find out more please visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/benefits.
- If you are having difficulty paying your council tax please visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/counciltax or call 0345 302 2315.
- Businesses can sign up to our newsletter and find out the latest about business grants and support we can offer by visiting svbs.co.uk
Overall, the decrease of infection rates in the UK is slowing down and so the public messaging is to ensure everyone continues to follow social distancing guidelines, especially as lockdown restrictions are being eased in the coming months. The latest COVID-19 figures are updated on the county council’s interactive dashboard on a daily basis.
Online Committees: A New Way of Working
Over the past year of the pandemic, like many other organisations, the district council has had to shift to a new way of working. For councillors, the main change has been that all council meetings and committees are now online, ever since the first online Planning Committee was held in May 2020. This has not been without its challenges, however we feel that overall, the move to online meetings has been a very positive change. Councillors can now attend these meetings without travelling across the district (thus reducing our environmental impact), and it is also much easier for public speakers to attend and express their views to committee members. Perhaps the greatest advantage of online meetings is that it makes the activities of the council so much more open, accessible and transparent – principles we value greatly. Every meeting is broadcast live online and
recorded for viewing later – all of this is done via the councils’ YouTube channel: South and Vale Committee Meetings.
For the past year, we have been serving on the following committees:
- Hayleigh: Climate Emergency Advisory Committee, Wantage Area Committee (Chair), Joint Scrutiny
Committee and Scrutiny Committee.
- Sarah: Community Governance and Electoral Issues Committee (Vice-Chair) and Wantage Area Committee.
The Scrutiny Committee is responsible for holding the Cabinet to account, policy development, and external scrutiny. It does not make decisions but makes recommendations to Cabinet, Council and officers. You can speak to the committee or ask questions about items on the agenda. To do this, you must register with democratic services by 5pm on the last working day before the meeting. This is something we would greatly encourage any residents to do should they want the committee to consider their views.
Council’s 2021/22 Budget addresses Covid-19 challenges
Like many councils, the Vale still faces significant financial challenges which have been caused by years of reduced funding from government, and the lack of clarity about the future of local authority financing. Along with the other Oxfordshire councils, the Vale has repeatedly called on the government to urgently provide additional funding to help ensure the future of vital public services.
The council’s income also remains significantly affected by the Covid-19 restrictions. Since the pandemic began, the district council has re-allocated significant resources in order to provide vital support for residents and businesses across the district. This has included: administering more than 3,300 Covid-19 grant payments to local businesses totalling £21 million. We provided the new Community Support Hub, supporting 5,208 vulnerable residents, including providing direct assistance for 785 people. It is currently expected that this work will need to continue well
into 2021. At the Full Council meeting on 10 February, the Council approved its Budget for 2021/2022. This budget protects front line services, continue to support local residents and businesses through the pandemic and help stabilise the council’s finances for the medium term. The budget has resulted in an increase of less than 10p per week on Band D Council Tax. Annual council tax will be £141.69 for services provided by the district council, up from £136.69 this year. The Vale currently has the 15th lowest council tax in the country for a shire district and significantly lower than the national average of £194.22. The budget report and papers can be viewed under item 10 at the following link:
Cllr Andy Crawford, Cabinet Member for Finance at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “This year we are required to adopt a budget under extremely challenging circumstances. As a result of Covid-19, we have had to redirect significant resources in order to provide additional vital support for our residents and local businesses. “We recently adopted our new 2020-2025 Corporate Plan and we will continue to work towards our key priorities such as working as a council and with others to tackle the climate emergency, and to ensure our own long-term financial stability.”
New Corporate Plan: Our Vision for the Vale
At the end of 2020, The Vale of White Horse District Council launched our brand-new corporate plan outlining how we will serve its communities over the next few years. The corporate plan is used to guide policy development, projects, and the work of council officers. The plan includes what the council’s priorities should be while supporting the district through COVID-19, the recovery, and beyond. The plan highlights priorities including economic recovery, housing and the Climate Emergency. The themes in the plan were developed following a record-breaking public engagement exercise where councillors asked residents which priorities were most important to them. Following many hundreds of responses, the most the council has ever had to a Corporate Plan engagement, the priorities highlighted are based around six key themes:
- Providing the homes people need
- Tackling the Climate Emergency
- Building healthy communities
- Building stable finances
- Working in partnership
- Working in an open and inclusive way
After initial development by the Deputy Leader of the Council and other cabinet members, the corporate plan was opened to consultation, revised following resident feedback, and reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee. The council then approved the content for its Corporate Plan at a Full Council meeting on 22 October 2020.
Motions, Questions and Achievements
In spite of the challenges of COVID-19, it has been a busy year at the council, with many motions passed on a range of local issues. As your district councillors, we have taken the opportunity to ask questions of cabinet members at Full Council Meetings. There have been other achievements throughout the year which we are proud of as a council. In order to save space in this report, we have summarised these in the table below, with a link to the relevant council webpage where more information can be found.
Date of CouncilMeeting
Motion Question Press Releases:
July 2020 Motion 5: Active
Question D: Black Lives Matter
October 2020 Motion 1:
Opposition of Government’s White Paper on Planning
Question B: Valley Park Roundabout
December 2020 Motion 1: Improved water ways
Joint Local Plan
March 2021 Motion A:
Question A: Safety of women and vulnerable people
Motion B: Cycling Standards on Roundabouts
Question B: Great Western Park Infrastructure
Heat Pumps for Leisure Centre
We have spent a lot of time over the past year gaining a better understanding of the proposals for, and issues with, Valley Park. The Valley Park development is a proposal for over 4000 new houses to be situated between Didcot and Harwell. The plans have been in the pipeline for several years – the planning application for this development was first submitted in 2014, five years before we were elected as the ward councillors for this area. Given the sheer scale of this proposed development, it will have a significant impact on all four parishes in our ward, and hence it is a key focus for us.
Over the past year, we have held multiple meetings with the planning officers at the Vale, in order to better understand the details of the application. At the full Council meeting in July, we highlighted the concerns of many residents in Harwell and Didcot regarding the cycle accessibility and safety of the proposed design of the B4493 roundabout as part of the plans for the Valley Park development. We have since raised this issue on multiple occasions with the county council highways officers and the local county councillor. However, this is just one of many aspects of the Valley Park proposals which are less than optimal with regards to sustainability and active travel. With this in mind, we were very pleased with the outcome of Vale of White Horse District Council Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday 16th February – the committee agreed unanimously to DEFER the decision on the Valley Park planning application. This was great news, as it means there is now more time available for residents and councillors to really push for our own local vision of what Valley Park should be. Deferring the application was voted for on the basis that further clarity needs to be sought on the following key issues with the Valley Park proposal before a decision can be made:
B4493 Roundabout between Harwell and Didcot. Planning Committee asked council officers to look at this design again and consider alternative options to make this monstrous 5-arm roundabout safer and more accessible for cyclists. Thank you to local campaign groups HarBUG (Harwell Bicycle Users Group) and Sustainable Harwell for their excellent speeches on this issue, and thank you to local resident Kate Stevenson Weal for your Facebook comment about an underpass on the roundabout – this sparked an entire debate the possibility of an underpass, bridge or another alternative solution to be explored in the design.
Healthcare Provision. The committee asked council officers to go back to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) once again to obtain a proper answer regarding the medical provision for Valley Park. This site would bring 10,000 new residents to the area and yet there was no provision in the original plans for a GP surgery or any Primary Medical Care, primarily because the OCCG didn’t even respond to the consultation in the first place! Thank you to Patient Participation Group (PPG) chairman Stewart Lilly for speaking on behalf of all 3 Didcot Medical Centres – we’re certain that your eye-opening statistics about the pressure our local services are under was key in
influencing this decision.
Biodiversity. Well done to Sally Povolotsky from the Hendreds Environment Group for her fantastic speech raising the issues with biodiversity considerations on the site, including the protection of red kites. Thanks to this, the committee as ed for the financial contributions from the developer relating to biodiversity off-setting (totalling £200,000) to be brought forward from a staged payment (after 1000th house is occupied) to a full amount paid upfront prior to commencement of the development. This was a big win for protecting the natural environment before the first house is even built. The link below contains our extensive written statement that we submitted to the committee in advance of the meeting – we used this to clearly lay out our objectives, with the council policies to back them up. Two different members of the committee commended us for the high quality of our statement: https://sustainable-harwell.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2021/02/Ward-Councillors-Statement-Planning-Committee-16.02.21-Valley-Park-P14-V2873-O.pdf
You can watch the meeting on the YouTube link below to see the speeches and
Updates since the planning committee meeting on 16th February:
- The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) have now responded to the Valley Park planning application, asking the developer to provide just under £4million for healthcare provision, as well as allocating land for a GP surgery site, in the event that the one on Great Western Park does not get built. This is brilliant news, as previously there was no response and hence no money or land allocated for healthcare, which was extremely concerning, and one of the key reasons the planning committee voted to defer the decision on the planning application. The response from the OCCG needs to pass various planning tests so it is not yet set in stone, but we are very happy that this is a big step in the right direction.
- There have been many rumours flying around about when Valley Park will be coming back to planning committee for further consideration. We would just like to clarify that it can only come back to committee once the planning officers are satisfied that the issues raised at the deferral decision have been addressed.
- Thank you to everyone who attended our online residents’ feedback session on Valley Park in March. It was great to hear your views, it is clear that there are still a lot of concerns and questions around the roundabout design, the healthcare and biodiversity/sustainability. We plan to organise further feedback sessions in future to focus on these topics, so watch this space! In the meantime please feel free to email us your ideas and thoughts about the roundabout design, we can pass these on to the planning officers for consideration by the developer.
- The news of the decision on Valley Park was featured in a February edition of the Didcot
Herald: https://www.heraldseries.co.uk/news/19111212.plans-4-000-homes-valley-park-near-didcotdelayed/? fbclid=IwAR2itsHerQwA3Ghqs8J1xdgNZGn1zMsK6nW0GPI6Zz6cnDVmPQ_8IwK9iVE
Didcot Garden Town Project
The most up-to-date source of information on the Didcot Garden Town is the website:
Over the past year, there have been a series of online public meetings relating to the Didcot Garden Town. These ‘sounding board’ meetings have allowed residents, businesses, and parish councils to provide their views and feedback to the district council, county council and other partners who make up the Didcot Garden Town Advisory Board. The details of these meetings are published on the council website and social media pages in advance, so we encourage all residents to attend where possible, as all four parishes in our ward are within the Didcot Garden Town Area of Influence.
The following press releases provide more information on the details of the Didcot Garden Town meetings held over the past year:
Thank you for taking the time to read our annual report. We hope that this time next year we will be able to report less news relating to COVID-19 and more on activities and events taking place in the community, where we can meet with residents in person once again. Until then, we will continue to keep you updated on council matters and the council’s response to COVID-19 through monthly parish council reports, parish newsletter articles, and on our dedicated councillor Facebook Page: Cllrs Hayleigh Gascoigne & Sarah Medley. Please do not hesitate to email us with any issues or concerns – our email addresses are below:
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
- THE MALTHUS TRUST
UNADOPTED FINANCIAL SUMMARY FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2020
£ £ £
Monetary assets at 1 January 2020 24033 14972
Receipts for year ended 31 December 2020
Charities Investment Fund 12042
Charities Income Shares 2724
Charity Deposit Account 28
Rent of Old School 1000
Payments for the year ended 31 December 2020
Grants to Individuals 2300
Grants to Organisations 6800
Christmas gifts to the Elderly 1400
Admin costs 56
Insurance of Old School 0
Repairs to old School 0 10556 7926
Excess of Receipts over Payments for the year 5238 7661
Exceptional Receipts/(Payments) for the year
Donations 250 1400
Legacies 0 0
Monetary assets at 31 December 2020 £29,521 £24,033
Summary of Monetary assets 2020 2019
Lloyds Bank plc 18764 13304
CCLA Charities Deposit Account 10757 10729
Summary of Investments ( Exc Old School) 2020 2019
20275.86 COIF Shares 364473 342471
2949.10 COIF Shares 53012 49812
34054.234 Charinco Shares 66203 64907
TOTAL FUNDS ( Excl Old School) £513,209 £481,223
Growth in Total Funds 6.60% -4.30%
8. The United Charities of Blewbury, Upton and Aston Upthorpe (2021)
The two main functions of The United Charities of the Ancient Parish of Blewbury, Upton and Aston Upthorpe are firstly to help people of all ages, who live in these parishes and who may need financial help and/or may have fallen on hard times and secondly to be responsible for the maintenance of the two alms-houses in Blewbury. The charity has the care and upkeep of the alms-houses in the Church yard which is one source of the charity’s income plus some wise investments from the sale of land gifted to us over the years. We have undertaken and continue to undertake significant investment and improvements in both alms-houses. We cannot emphasise enough the burdensome cost of maintaining these Grade 2 Listed properties to a reasonable, habitable standard
Whilst the United Charity’s origins date from the 1600’s, it aims to remain current with the needs of those within the villages who may require assistance and also to make everyone aware of the valuable work it does close to home in the community we all share. Anyone needing help, or who knows of someone in need, should get in touch with the Trustees. An outcome of the global pandemic is that our financial capacity to help those in need has been seriously affected. This in turn seriously impacts on the financial help we are able to give to others. Fortunately, we have been relatively successful in our applications for COVID 19 Grants and have been able to support a number of families and individuals impacted by the pandemic. This funding ends on March 31st. This year, in response to a substantial increase in requests for help, we established a dedicated panel of Trustees to deal with applications for Covid Grant applications and all other applications. All applications are at the trustees’ discretion and looked at entirely on a case-by-case basis. Amounts will vary depending on levels of need.
IF THE TRUSTEES DO NOT KNOW – THEY CANNOT HELP
If anyone wishes to make any type of gift or bequest to the charity to enable us to continue way into the future, that would be most welcome.
The existing trustees are:
Blewbury: Sheila Loy (Chairman), Neil Buckley, Louise Butler, Chris Savage and Jill Willison,
Aston Upthorpe: Mike Wigg, Louise Brimacombe. Upton: Carol Walker
Clerk/Treasurer: Hazel Lightowler
Guardian: Elizabeth Taylor
Accounts to 21 December 2020 available on request.
All communication: firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Blewbury Village Hall Chairman’s Report
Blewbury Village Hall Executive Management Committee
Report of the Chairman of Trustees and Audited Accounts for the
Financial Year Ending 30th September 2020
The 2019/20 financial year was an extremely unusual year, the circumstances of which will hopefully never be repeated.
The year started well. Q1 was an exceptional trading period with a number of successful fund-raising events to increase the money available for the imminent refurbishment of the Hall. However, quarters 2, 3 and 4 saw very little trading owing to closure for refurbishment work and Covid19 security. The Post Office, which is housed in a stand-alone part of the building, was able to stay open for most of this period as a provider of essential services. However, the main building remained closed for the rest of the financial year.
Although the building is open again, the range of activities permitted under covid19 restrictions is still greatly reduced and many clubs and societies are not looking to return to the Hall until September
2021. This will have a severe negative impact on income from lettings for the current financial year.
In order to continue Blewbury Village Hall business under covid19 restrictions the Trustees approved a number of changes to the normal methods of management committee operation at a special
“virtual” Trustees meeting dated 2nd May 2020. The main changes were:
1) To suspend the obligation to hold an AGM in January or February of each year for the year
2) To hold the next AGM as soon as possible after the reopening of Blewbury Village Hall to the
public following the completion of renovation work and the lifting of restrictions on public
3) Existing Trustees, Officers and Committee Members to continue in place until the composition
of the management committee can be reviewed at an AGM.
4) Until the lifting of restrictions on public meetings and such time as face-to-face business meetings can be safely conducted, VHMC business to be conducted by email and, if considered
appropriate, an agreed on-line meeting platform.
These changes to normal working practice were extended under a further mandate from the Trustees at a Zoom meeting of 30th April 2021, which also included the approval of the accounts for the financial year ending 30th September 2020.
A copy of the audited accounts for the financial year ending 30th September 2020 is included in this report as Appendix A.
Compared with previous years the financial statement is highly distorted by exceptional events – Hall refurbishment fundraising, refurbishment grants, refurbishment closure, covid19 closure, additional expenditure to ensure covid19 safety compliance, covid19 business continuity grants.
Lettings for the whole year were £3,961, down from £9,007 in the previous year owing to extensive periods of closure. Rental income was also reduced to £4,304 from £6,240 the previous year, with only
the Post Office paying anything like a full year rent. Total receipts excluding business support grants related to covid19 closure and restrictions of were £9,699, down from £16,020 in the previous
financial year. The receipt of a business support grant for £10,000 during the financial year makes total receipts look healthy, but hides the real situation. Blewbury Village Hall continues to draw on the
business support grant monies into the current financial year.
Outgoings for the financial year were less than the previous year, but only because of the one-off match funding payment of £8,062 in the previous year. Like for like expenditure was in fact around
£3K more than in the same period last year, mainly because of increased spending on new equipment and maintenance services, not covered by the refurbishment project.
Funds raised for the hall refurbishment and paid into the refurbishment account during the year totalled £74,862.74, up from £23,359.55 in the previous year, as money was drawn down from grants awarded for the refurbishment project. Refurbishment expenditure during the financial year totalled £149,376.
There are a number of challenges going forward, but the Management Committee is confident that when covid19 restrictions are lifted, most previous revenue streams can be re-established and new revenue streams added. This is underpinned by a newly refurbished Village Hall with greatly improved
heating, lighting, insulation, and ventilation, which will enable more efficient operation for the management and a more attractive venue for users. The move to an online booking and invoicing
system will also make booking the facility easier for a wider range of users.
A B Gibson
Chairman, Blewbury Village Hall Executive Management Committee June 2021