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Vale of White Horse District Council Update

September 16, 2020

Hello! We hope that you and your families are keeping safe and well, now that children are back at school and more people are returning to their workplaces.

Although it feels as though things are returning to normal, many residents are still feeling the impact of coronavirus in one way or another. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help: the council’s Community Support Hub is still available, see contact details below. There is also new emergency assistance funding available from the council for voluntary and community groups who are helping those in need. On that note, a huge thank you to Blewbury Good Neighbours and The United Charities of the Ancient Parish of Blewbury for your essential support for local residents throughout the past few months.

Savages have also done a fantastic job throughout the pandemic, continuing to provide delicious fresh fruit and veg to residents from Blewbury and beyond. We hope that residents were able to make use of the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme in August, to enjoy meals and drinks at The Blueberry, The Red Lion and other local venues. We recently met up for our first in-person catch-up in months over coffee and cake at the wonderful Style Acre Tea Rooms – a real community asset, we encourage you to support their crowdfunder if you can. Please do continue to support the lovely local pubs, farm shops and other local suppliers as much as possible, to ensure that they can keep going through these difficult financial times. Shopping locally is also better for the environment, particularly when it comes to locally grown, produced or sourced products, as they have travelled far fewer miles to get to your doorstep.

As always, we will keep you updated on council matters and the council’s response to COVID-19 through these newsletter articles, as well as on our dedicated councillor Facebook Page: Cllrs Hayleigh Gascoigne & Sarah Medley. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any issues or concerns – our email addresses are and

COVID-19 Community Support Hub

Whilst we don’t know how long the UK’s response to and recovery from COVID-19 will take, we do know it’s likely to be some time. One of the roles of the Community Hub when it was first set up was to help provide vital support to shielded residents (along with others who also need support), and even though the guidelines for those shielding has changed, we want all of our residents to know we’re still here to provide support and advice. The hours have changed due to demand, so it’s no longer open over the weekends and now reflects standard office hours of Monday to Thursday 8.30-5pm and Fridays 8.30-4.30pm. A summary of the number of COVID-19 cases across Oxfordshire, broken down to district level, is available on the following website and will be updated on a weekly basis each Wednesday:

To contact the Community Support Team:
call: 01235 422 600 Monday to Thursday 8.30-5pm and Fridays 8.30-4.30pm

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:

Cycling Update

Councillors and staff at the Vale have been taking part in “Cycle September” – a global event with a friendly competitive element, to help more people realise the benefits of riding a bike. More information can be found on If you took part in this yourself, or if you would like to spread the word about your favourite cycling routes around the local area, we would love to hear from you. One of our favourite local routes for cycling is along the Harwell link road, with its dedicated cycle path separated from the road, and beautiful views of the Didcot landscape and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We were pleased to see the new cycle-only access scheme on Chilton Road in nearby Upton, however we are continuing to push for better cycle provision in and around Blewbury, particularly given that the Active Travel plans that the County Council are working on across Oxfordshire still don’t specifically include plans for this area:

Car Park charges – Vale Cabinet puts local business recovery first

Vale of White Horse District Council’s Cabinet has prioritised supporting local businesses recovering from COVID-19 ahead of addressing the council’s own longer-term financial pressures in deciding about changes to car park charges across the district. Earlier this month, Cabinet considered a range of options for the district’s council car parks.  After listening to feedback from local residents and businesses, Cabinet members unanimously agreed to retain two hours free parking across the district in order to ensure that town centre shops and cafes can continue to benefit from the scheme while they recover from the pandemic.

Vale Cabinet Re-organisation

Leader of the Council, Cllr Emily Smith has made some changes to the Vale’s Cabinet that came into effect on 1 September.  You can read her public statement on the changes on our website here.  The new cabinet member responsibilities are below:

  • Councillor Emily Smith: Council Leader
  • Councillor Debby Hallett: Deputy Council Leader and Corporate Services and Transformation
  • Councillor Andy Crawford: Finance and Corporate Assets
  • Councillor Neil Fawcett: Strategic Partnerships and Place
  • Councillor Helen Pighills: Healthy Communities
  • Councillor Judy Roberts: Development and Infrastructure
  • Councillor Bethia Thomas: Community Engagement
  • Councillor Catherine Webber: Climate Emergency and Environment

Planning for the Future consultation

The government has started its consultation to overhaul the planning system and reform the way development is allowed. Its stated aims are to streamline processes, achieve community engagement early in the process and increase the use of technology in consultation and provide interactive maps, so it is more open and transparent. It suggests the reforms will drive our economic recovery, help build green, high quality homes and develop a framework of national green infrastructure standards.

Proposals include:

  • a 30 per cent discount to homes sold through the First Homes system with an emphasis on key workers
  • scrapping Section 106 agreements and introducing a new National Infrastructure Levy, with local decision making on infrastructure spending.
  • every area across England will have a Local Plan and can develop design guidance and/or codes, which will be binding on development decisions
  • strengthening planning enforcement and sanctions through a rule-based system.

There is a lot of discussion in the press about the proposed reforms, but we encourage you to read the consultation paper, link below, and get your comments to the Government by the deadline, 29 October 2020.