Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday

This photograph (above) was taken in June at Court Hill, Wantage near Letcombe Regis and seems a beautiful and fitting display of wild poppies to commemorate today when we remember our fallen members of the armed forces.

This morning, I attended the Remembrance Day service at St. John's Parish Church in Grove, where we paid tribute to those who died in service during both World Wars and beyond.  It was a full house with many young Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides all presenting their flags and standards in the church.  It was also good to catch up with members of the community after the service.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Budget Consultation and Children's Centres

The County Council is currently consulting on its budget proposals for 2016/17 until 2019/20 where £50m of savings will have to be made on top of those already announced in previous years' budgets.  This consultation has started on 20th October and details can be found at the County website at

Public events are being held from 7 - 8.30pm on the following dates and venues:

27th October at County Hall
2nd November at Banbury Town Hall
5th November at the Regal Centre, Wallingford

However, one of the proposals which I need to alert residents to, is the potential threat to our Children's Centres, especially those which are run locally to support families in the community.  Our Grove and Hanneys Children's Centre meet at St. John the Baptist Church meeting rooms and in Wantage meetings are held at the Butler Centre in Church Street.  If you wish to have your say on these services and how they will affect you please go to the following link.  
All details on the options proposed are available to read at the above link.  As you will see if you click on the appropriate file for our local centres, there are a considerable number of families using these services managed  by Action for Children on our behalf.  I am sure that these services will be sorely missed if we lose them now, especially as new families move into the area due to the housing development planned.  Please make sure you send in your comments whilst this consultation is live.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Cow Lane Closure

I should like to notify residents about the forthcoming closure of Cow Lane which is coming up on 13th October.  The duration of the closure is expected to be for about 35 weeks, which the notice (shown above) claims takes up until 15th June 2016.  I expect much will depend on the weather and the other works going on in the area by Network Rail.  

This work aims to replace the railway bridge at the Hanneys crossing because of the rail electrification project.  As I previously reported here, some time ago, the replacement bridge at the A338 is currently going ahead and due to be completed at the end of this year.  

As this by-way is currently only used by horse-riders, cyclists, dog walkers and pedestrians, I hope everyone manages to find alternative recreational routes in the area during the time of the closure.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Back to work!

I have been recuperating over the summer months after major surgery in May, and have returned to my duties at Oxfordshire County Council.  I made a commitment to attend Full Council  in September and last Tuesday I managed to do so (see photo above).  It was good to be welcomed back with a cheer and I was able to thank everyone for their good wishes and flowers which had been sent to me whilst recovering at home.

Main items for discussion at the meeting were the re-organisation of senior management after our Chief Executive leaves this month, followed by a debate on the Local Transport Plan 4.

We also saw a demonstration at the front of County Hall regarding the future of Children's Centres which is due to go out for public consultation after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.  I shall provide further details about these plans in a further post.

Some residents may be interested in the Local Transport Plan and the Connecting Oxfordshire document which was the subject of meetings around the county last year including one held in Wantage.  You can see my previous blog post of the event here.  Although Grove station got a mention in the latest transport plan, improved bus services in the area didn't.  Also, more cycling measures were included for urban areas, but nothing which helps us here in the more rural parts of Oxfordshire.

However, my main issue locally, regarding both LTP4/Connecting Oxfordshire and the recent bus subsidies consultation, is the lack of any connectivity between Grove and our main employment sites at Didcot/Milton Park and Harwell by public transport.  I did speak about this subject at the council meeting last week, and felt very strongly that although I had sent in my responses to all of these consultations, nothing appeared to have been taken on board in the final documents.  Very woolly references are made in the 'responses received' part of the document, which appear just to be added in as an afterthought, but whether or not anything will be done is yet to be seen.  I called for all comments made at the full council meeting to be taken on board.

I was pleased to see the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group making a statement at the beginning of the meeting, making similar points: that we are taking much of the new housing in the area, but without any added public transport infrastructure which is required, especially if we wish to see less cars on our surrounding congested road systems at peak commuter times.

It was also good to hold my first council surgery last Saturday after my illness.  Many old customers wished me well and lots of casework to keep me busy!  Next surgery will be held on Saturday 10th October in Grove Library from 10.30am - 11.30am.  As usual, no appointment necessary, just come along to discuss issues of concern.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Verdant Grove

As I won't be blogging for a while, I thought I would post this nice green and verdant view of Letcombe Brook near to Grove village green that I took on one of my recent walks around the village.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

New Defibrillator for Community First Responders

I was delighted to provide a donation of £2,000 from my County Councillor Community budget fund towards a new emergency medical kit and defibrillator for the Wantage and Grove Community First Responders.  The photographs above show the new kit on display on Grove Green.

The community first responders are a group of local volunteers who provide emergency life support to the local community, dispatched by the South Central Ambulance Service to '999' calls whilst an ambulance is also en route. The group currently consists of 12 responders, but there are currently only 6 medical kits which have to be constantly moved round.  This new kit means there will now be an extra one available to respond in an emergency, helping to save more lives within the local community.

The group currently respond to 40-50 emergency calls each month and rely solely on the generosity of local fundraising to support the group and buy new equipment and replace old kit. I was pleased that I was able to use funding from my last year's community fund before it was curtailed this February due to the current budget pressures at the County Council.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

St Ives Footbridge Repairs

I reported the repairs which needed doing to the bridge over Letcombe Brook on St. Ives footpath (shown above) after a resident came to my surgery to report it in December.  As you will see, it has now been done.  I used FixMyStreet, which is a good way of reporting problems as you receive updates and can check on their status. Alternatively, you can use Street Maintenance A-Z  on the County Council website.

I will only be posting sporadically to this blog for a while for health reasons, but will resume normal service as soon as I can.  Meanwhile, I hope to have my next surgery at the Library on 11th April, but after that I shall have a break from surgeries until further notice.  I shall inform the Libary once I know when I shall be able to come back again.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas to Everyone!

This year there were new lights in the tree outside County Hall as shown in the photo above, so I am taking the opportunity of sharing this with everyone at Christmas time.   They look prettier than the picture in reality as they have 'snowdrops' falling which is difficult to capture on my mobile 'phone!

I have only just recovered from a bout of 'flu and I know others have also been suffering, but hopefully now Christmas Eve is here, we can all relax and enjoy the festive spirit.

May I take this opportunity of wishing all residents of Grove and Wantage a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2015.  

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hanneys Rail Bridge and Cow Lane Closure

The next bridge to be done by Network Rail for continuing the electrification programme in our area is the Hanneys rail crossing at Cow Lane which is the bridleway shown in the above photo (right).   There are several notices at the entrance to the by-way (photo above left), which explain the temporary closure of the bridge from 20th January until 2nd February 2015 whilst ground investigation works take place.  

The bridge will be reduced in width, but there will be no change to the usage of the bridleway for pedestrians, cyclists, horseriders and farm machinery in the future.  The main works to the bridge itself will take place later in the year.  Dates have not yet been confirmed.

I was delighted to be at the re-opening of the A417 last week after the successful completion of the Challow bridge which happened on schedule as I had posted here previously.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Grants Awarded to Scouts and Cornerstone

I am pleased to report that I have recently had two more small grants approved for local community groups in Grove.  Firstly, the Grove Scout Group has been awarded £250 towards painting the scout hut to preserve it against winter weather.    This means that hopefully the hut will be storm-proof allowing activities to continue without problems.  There are over 160 members of our community who enjoy scouting and we know how valued they are locally.

Indeed, as Christmas approaches, I am sure many of us use their well-used Christmas post service to the local area.  Post boxes are to be found at several locations in both Grove and Wantage including outside Smiths at  Millbrook Square.  This will also raise more funds for their activities throughout the year.

My most recent successful grant application has gone to the Cornerstone Christian Centre for the amount of £170 which will go towards providing a Christmas lunch for lonely, elderly and vulnerable people in the community which will take place in mid-December.   This is an excellent opportunity to provide company and hospitality in the Cornerstone in a friendly and welcoming 'family' environment, and again, I was delighted to support this venture.

There is still a small amount of funding still available in my remaining County Councillor Community budget fund, so please go online here and download a form.  This money will come to an end next February, so needs to be spent as soon as possible.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Challow Bridge Update

I think the photos above provided courtesy of Network Rail say it all.   They show that the old Challow bridge on the A417 (top photo) has been demolished and the second photo shows the new bridge in place.  This work has all been undertaken over weekends in the last few weeks, and I have been assured that progress is going well and re-opening the road still planned for 5th December. For the latest updates from Network Rail click here.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Vegetation Cutback Undertaken

I have been working for several months trying to get overgrown vegetation cut back from key areas around Grove since the summer.  Residents will recall how long it took to get Newlands Drive done as reported here earlier this year.    However, these areas had all been reported to me and County Highways several times, so it has been frustrating to have to wait several months for the work to be completed.

As you will see from the photos above, the route from Grove to Wantage alongside the SSE substation by the recreation ground has been a cause of concern for a long time, as has the footpath along the busy A338 near to the rail bridge.   These stretches, as well as the walkway through from the end of Evenlode Close have now been cleared with money used from my Area Stewardship Fund.

The reason given for these projects taking such a long time, is to try to establish land ownership issues, but in some cases, this is either unclear or unresolved.  Residents need to be aware that they are responsible for vegetation from their properties which overhang the highway or footpaths, and must keep them cut back or they may be recharged from the County Council for undertaking the work.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Electric Blanket Testing in Wantage

Oxfordshire Trading Standards will once again be offering free electric blanket checks to residents this year. Working in partnership with Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue & Age UK they will be testing for 10 days in October at 10 different locations across Oxfordshire.

They  will be testing at Wantage Fire Station on Thursday 23rd  October from 9am. Testing is offered on a first come first served appointment system and the number for booking an appointment is 0845 051 0845 option 4.

This has been a successful campaign for many years, and  up to 100 blankets are tested a day. Last year, 24% of the blankets that were checked were unsafe to use, therefore removing them from circulation and decreasing the risk of fires and injuries. 

I hope that residents will be able to take advantage of this excellent free service.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Freedom of the County

Yesterday, I was delighted to attend the Freedom of the County parade for 4624 Squadron, Royal Auxilliary Air Force, Brize Norton.  They were conferred this honour by the County Council last year in recognition of over thirty years of distinguished service, demonstrating sacrifice and commitment to the defence of the realm and for dedicated support to local charities and communities.

The parade began in St. Giles and ended at County Hall (see photos above), where we were there to welcome them to a reception.  I enjoyed meeting many of them and hearing their individual stories, and it was inspiring to understand how hard they work on behalf of us all.  As reservists, many of them rely on the support of their employers and these can range from the NHS to private companies.  You can read more about it here.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review of Subsidised Bus Services in Wantage area

There is currently a review being undertaken on the subsidised bus routes in our area.  For full details of the services involved please see the link to the county website here.  The consultation is open now until 15th November, so there is time to ensure that you respond to the future changes which could be made.   With county budgets tight, the amount of money available to subsidise bus routes is decreasing, despite extra housing planned for the area.

Residents will be well aware that we lost our important links from Grove to the Harwell campus, Didcot and Milton Park at the end of last year, so I had tried to help the situation by providing some funding towards a local service as I reported on my blog here.  However, this service will also be under review as it is not clear if I shall have sufficient funds to continue to support this next year.

Looking at the list of the services affected by council subsidies in this review, we need to give our support for the evening and Sunday services run by Stagecoach no.31, and the Whites coaches shopper bus no. 38.  I know that residents greatly value these services and it will be a pity if we lose them because this will be a commercial decision made by the bus companies.  The original decision to abandon Grove was made by Thames Travel when they decided to run their services from Wantage leaving people in the village stranded or having to use other buses to get to the market place.   Please make sure you send in your responses if you value our local bus services.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Network Rail A338 Bridge Drop-in Session

Just a quick reminder for those who may have missed this on my previous blog post, on Thursday 2nd October Network Rail are holding a drop-in session for residents at The Old Mill Hall in Grove from 4 - 7pm.  This will be an opportunity to ask questions regarding the forthcoming works on the A338 bridge by the Volunteer (now an American Diner).

For some reason, the news that the A338 bridge work will not cause lengthy road closures like we are currently experiencing with the A417 has been recycled last week.  However, I reported it first here fresh from our county councillors' Network Rail briefing at County Hall in May.   It was also covered extensively in the local media. 

We had another briefing last week, where, the current programme has been updated, and then this news release was re-issued.  To keep up to date with the whole rail electrification programme, follow their website here.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Grant to Wantage & Grove First Responders

I am pleased to report that I have given a grant of £2,000 from my County Councillor Community budget towards a new medical kit and defibrillator for the Wantage and Grove Community First Responders.  This group of volunteers currently respond to between 40 and 50 life threatening '999' calls each month which can vary from cardiac arrests to breathing problems and convulsions.  

The group have to rely solely on the generosity of the community and local organisations who support them to help raise funds to buy equipment and replace old kit.  There are currently 12 responders, but there were only 6 medical kits to go around, so this grant will buy a complete new kit to be in use.  

The First Responders are a group of local volunteers who provide emergency life support to the local community whilst the ambulance despatched by South Central Ambulance Service is on route.  We all know how important it is to ensure that life-threatening situations are dealt with quickly and so I hope this will help this valuable cause.

I do still have some small funds available if there are any further community groups who would wish to apply.  You can find out more informataion and download a form via the County website here.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Newlands Drive Vegetation Cut Back

At long last, the vegetation alongside Newlands Drive in Grove has been cut back after months of chasing with the County Highways officers.  I ordered this work to be done right back in January this year, because we had hoped that it would be ready for the grass-cutting of the verge which was to start in the spring.  Unfortunately,  after chasing it some weeks later, we were told that it could not be done due to the nesting birds, but even after the birds had flown their nests, there was still no sign of anything being done!  

This week I went to visit the Highways Depot in Drayton to see how highways maintenance work is done, and we visited a number of areas including Ham Road in Wantage, where potholes were being repaired.   I reported how long this work had been waiting, and discovered that there does not appear to be a programme of works for vegetation cutback, so no wonder orders get lost in the system!  However, I was promised this would be done with immediate effect and that I should see it completed by Friday.  These photographs were taken on Friday evening, so it was clear that by leaving it so long it was a huge task to complete, as some of the brambles had been growing into the road.  This had made it dangerous, especially on the corners, where vehicles were swerving into the centre of the road to avoid getting scratched.

When attending my monthly surgery on Saturday morning in the library, I was alerted by residents to several other areas of vegetation cutback which are long overdue, so I will be chasing these again now.  I have been told that I have just over £12,000 to spend on highways works in the area, which is not much given the amount of projects which need completing.  This  includes gulley emptying, weed killing as well as vegetation cut back and footpath maintenance, so it will be a big task to try and prioritise. I have already promised the parish council that I will contribute to the village weed killing, as I have done for the past few years.  I shall continue to keep you posted on this.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A417 Closure Coming Up

I wish to remind residents that the closure of the A417 towards Faringdon is taking place this week on 6th September, so motorists need to plan their journeys well in advance.  I have reported on this here. This is to allow Network Rail to undertake the  work at Challow Bridge to enable the electrification project to go ahead.  You can read the county press release here

There is also a planned drop-in session on Thursday 2nd October at the Old Mill Hall in Grove from 4 - 7pm for residents to ask questions and see the work planned for the A338 bridge next to The Volunteer.   Preparatory  work is going ahead in November with the minimum of closures as already reported in my blog post here with the work to be completed in the summer of next year.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Fire Service Strike Action

This is to alert residents that industrial strike action is due to take place shortly by our County Fire & Rescue Service, but there will be cover in place.    This is due to a national dispute between the union and central government over pension reforms and will take place from midday to 2pm and 10.59pm to 11.59pm each day from Saturday 9 August to Saturday 16 August.  The full story is available at the County Council website here for further information.