Tuesday, 27 September 2016

New School for Grove


Last night, I attended a meeting at Millbrook Primary School to hear more about plans to deliver a new school for Grove. The evening consisted of workshops where parents and residents had an opportunity to express their views.  It was a very constructive evening with many positive and helpful suggestions about how the new school would become.

This has long been a campaign I have been involved with in the village for over 25 years, when the school bus was removed by Oxfordshire County Council taking children from Grove to Wantage.  I formed a 'Save the School Bus' campaign group and after presenting a petition to the Education Committee, schoolchildren and parents were given a year's grace, before the bus was stopped altogether. Since then, our children have had to make their own way to all 3 secondary school sites in Wantage.  Even now, as a local county councillor, I spend a lot of time dealing with casework on this issue. Time for some change I think!

When the Grove Airfield development appeared on the horizon, and the plans showed provision for a new secondary school in Grove, hopes rose that at long last this may happen. Indeed, much debate started again on this issue and one can see from my blog which started in 2007, I was headlining this topic!  

Well, here we are nearly 10 years later, and as the Airfield site still hasn't delivered to date, I was pleased to hear that the Vale Academy Trust has now become proactive on this matter. As new housing development has already taken place around the area and school places are becoming filled year by year as families move in, it now looks a good time to revisit the original plans.

The new school would aim to provide seamless education from 2 - 16, and would also provide community facilities we have been lacking for several years.  It will also mean that our schoolchildren will no longer have to travel at least 2 miles to reach secondary school with our ever-increasing busy roads and lack of proper cycle tracks or footpaths on the route.  A sixth form for the school has not been ruled out.

I look forward to keeping residents informed how this bid progresses, as I understand the case for the new school is being presented to the Department for Education by the deadline tomorrow. The new school, which could be called 'Grove Academy' expects to open in 2019, if all goes to plan.  Meanwhile, watch this space!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Maggie's Oxford Culture Crawl


As planned, I took part in the Culture Crawl organised by Maggie's Oxford. This started at Egrove Park in Kennington taking in various cultural stops across Oxford before finally arriving at Maggie's Centre next to the Churchill Hospital. I completed half of the route before I handed over to Cllr. Michael Waine who then walked the remainder. It was a very enjoyable evening whilst also raising funds for Maggie's who do a fantastic job supporting people with cancer and their families. Thanks to everyone who supported me and anyone who still wishes to make a small donation to Maggie's can do so using the link in my previous post.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Culture Crawl for Maggie's Centre Oxford


This Friday evening, 23rd September 2016,  I shall be taking part in an 8-mile Culture Crawl to raise money for Maggie’s Centre in Oxford at the Churchill Hospital site.  This is something which I am doing as Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council alongside the Chairman, Cllr. Michael Waine.
We would be incredibly grateful if you would be kind enough to sponsor us please by going to the following link:
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/OCC-Chairman-and-ViceChairman

Both Michael and I received excellent care from both the Churchill Hospital and Maggie's Centre during our recovery from illness and we both wished to put something back for the help and support we received.
Thank you in advance for your support for this very deserving cause. If you are not familiar with Maggie’s Centre and would like to know more, please visit their website:
https://www.maggiescentres.org/our-centres/maggies-oxford/

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Lay-by at Grove Recreation Ground Refresh


As you will notice from the photograph taken above, this is the lay-by at the side of the Recreation Ground in Grove. This area is well-used by those parking for the grounds and sports facilities on the adjoining fields. It was most recently in demand for the Grove & Wantage Extravaganza event (reported on my blog post).

I had delayed getting this works done in the past, due to the Grove Airfield development coming on stream, but as delays continue on this site, and the fact that there was money in the Highways budget that needed using up before the end of the financial year, now was the time to get something done.

I know this isn't a perfect job as you can already see some water from recent rainfall in some of the pitted areas, but at least something is better than nothing, and will make life a little easier for those parking to use the recreational facilities nearby.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ickleton Road Carriageway Maintenance


I have just been given notice that Oxfordshire County Council is due to undertake carriageway maintenance work on the B4507 Ickleton Road between the Ham Road junction and the next westerly junction with the road to Letcombe Regis (see map above). 

The works are programmed to start on Tuesday 6 September 2016 and are expected to last for three weeks, subject to any bad weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances during construction. The works will include widening and resurfacing of the existing carriageway, drainage improvements and the replacement of road markings. 

In order to keep traffic disruption to a minimum, the works will be carried out under a road closure. A signed diversion route will be put in place.

This work is long overdue and will be of benefit to residents in and around the Wantage area.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cow Lane Bridge Reopening


I have only just had the chance to wander down Cow Lane in Grove to see the new bridge over the railway line referred to as the 'Hanneys crossing'.  This has been the latest scheme in the area which has benefitted from the GWR Electrification Project.  You will see from the photos above, that the benefits are obvious on this well-used recreational route.  The track in the past has been muddy and wet and some times impassable, but thanks to some funding I used from my Highways budget to gravel the area, and more recently, Network Rail agreeing to my request to make it good after their works in progress, all is now greatly improved.

This well-known traditional by-way is well-used by horse-riders, cyclists, pedestrians and dog walkers on a regular basis and is a 'green corridor' in the village of Grove.  I have already commented on the new housing developments planned for Monks Farm and the immediate vicinity. Plans for urbanising this route and constructing crossings over it will be detrimental to the village of Grove.  Indeed, on my walk today, I met cyclists and families enjoying a walk on a Sunday afternoon in the countryside.  This should always remain a quiet and open space to be enjoyed by all of us for the future.

This, of course, is the second bridge in Grove to have to be rebuilt and I blogged here about the official opening of the A338 Wantage Road bridge back in July.  Next to be upgraded I believe will be the Denchworth Road bridge, currently no information on this to date.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Grove and Wantage Extravaganza


This afternoon the Grove and Wantage Extravaganza was held at the Recreation Ground in Grove. The weather was changeable, but that did not seem to dampen the spirit of the crowds of people attending. There were lots of side shows, displays and events for everyone to enjoy.  As you can see from the photos above, there a number of interesting cars dotted around the show. Congratulations to Roger Williams and all on the Extravaganza Committee who helped to organise this memorable event.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Roadworks Update


Catching up after returning from my summer holidays, I thought I would update residents on roadworks which are either ongoing or forthcoming over the coming weeks which could affect us.

A34 Chilton Improvement

Local road closures for five nights started on 15th August this week.  These closures will be in place from 8.30pm until 6am and are needed so that the team can carry out remodelling and resurfacing work on the roundabout.

There will also be nightly lane closures on the A34 southbound for around eight weeks to tie the new off-slip into the main road.  From 30th August for around six weeks, the northbound lane 1 will be closed nightly from 8pm - 6am.

I am sure many of you have noticed that much has been achieved over the last few months as the site takes shape which will benefit commuters for years to come.

Frideswide Square Improvements

Work to carry out some minor repairs and alterations on Frideswide Square in Oxford will begin on Monday 22nd August.

The County Council's contractor, Skanska, will begin two weeks' worth of work to slightly alter the kerb line outside the Royal Oxford Hotel along with repairing and strengthening a small area which has been damaged by vehicles running over the paving.

Work is being undertaken to take advantage of the quietest time of year on the roads, and hopes to be complete in time for St. Giles Fair in Oxford.

You can sign up for regular updates and newsletters regarding traffic management around the County by going to the Oxfordshire County Council website link Travel Choices.

My next surgery date in September will be on
Saturday 3rd September 10.30am - 11.30 am in Grove Library.  No appointment necessary.

Apologies for missing the August deadline for the newsletter this month, but I was on holiday at the time.  I shall update you with my usual report in the September issue.


Friday, 22 July 2016

Balmy Summer Days


We have been enjoying some extraordinary hot summer days recently starting at the weekend when I had the pleasure of attending the Mayor of Henley's barn dance which was held at the Boat Festival at Henley on Thames.  You can see the photo above where I am standing next to the lovely boat Gloriana, which earlier in the day sailed up the river with all flags flying.  I was there during the evening to represent the County Council, and the setting by the river was particulary beautiful in the evening sun.
During the evening I took part in the charity raffle, and was lucky to win a couple of tickets to the Henley fringe festival to see Twelfth Night performed by Page 2 Stage Productions Ltd.  An excellent performance enjoyed in the gardens of Rupert House School in the town.
The lovely hot weather continues which means that we can all feel that summer is here at last.  
I have no planned surgeries in August, but hopefully will arrange some dates from September onwards.  I shall keep you posted.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Heathcare In Oxfordshire Roadshow

This is a reminder to all residents that there will be a drop-in session tomorrow evening Monday 18 July 6pm - 9pm at The Beacon in Wantage to discuss options for the future of healthcare in our area and across Oxfordshire.
Transforming Healthcare in Oxfordshire has been given much media attention over the past weeks as the OUH Trust needs to save money over the next few years and make sure funding is providing best value for residents.  More information can be found here.
This is your opportunity to have your say on healthcare in this area, so please go along to speak to the professionals.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Oxfordshire Veterans' Forum

Yesterday I attended the Oxfordshire Veterans' Forum at the Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon to hear about the ongoing work on the Oxfordshire Community Covenant.   The orginal covenant was signed several years ago and certainly needs updating to ensure that personnel leaving the military after service, can get the help and support they need.  You can see my original blog post on this subject here.

Discussions were held regardng the transition into civilian life and the opportunities available to those who have undertaken military service, right through to pension support for those seeking advice and help.  

Overall this was a very useful briefing and helps to keep us up to date with the help the County Council is able to give.  Working both with charities and district councils, in particular,  housing departments, is very important. I was pleased to be able to attend as Vice Chairman on this occasion to represent residents in Oxfordshire.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

White Lining Refresh on Denchworth Road in Grove

I am pleased to see that the white lines at the junction to the Denchworth Road have been refreshed yesterday.  As many residents will remember, this route was used by many motorists some time back as a short cut when the railway bridge on the A417 was closed for six months whilst work was undertaken as part of the Great Western Electrification project.

I had previously paid for such work out of my County Council Highways stewardship budget, but this is no longer available so I was concerned that the new white lining had worn out.  Thanks to some money being available in this year's budget, this work has now been completed.

I have other work on the list which I have discussed with County Highways, so I shall update you if and when these projects have been completed.
 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Manor Road in Wantage - Temporary Road Closure


This is to notify residents that a section of Manor Road in Wantage is to close temporarily from 25th July for up to 6 weeks.  This is so that Thames Water can carry out essential drainage works, which need to be completed over the summer.  Several residents in the area have suffered from flooding of their properties in the past, and this work will hopefully resolve these issues as well address the new houses being built there.

I attended an exhibition and drop-in session at the Comrades Club in Newbury Street held on Monday 20th June, which was organised by Thames Water.   Several local residents attended who could ask queries and voice any concerns on the closure.  A photo of the plans is shown above.

It was some time ago that a resident attended my local surgery in Grove Library to voice concerns over flooding to  homes and gardens in this area, so I am pleased that Thames Water are now taking action to resolve this issue.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Opening of Wantage Road Bridge



This morning, I was delighted to cut the ribbon to open the new A338 Wantage Road bridge over the railway line at Grove.  Plans to close the road for up to 6 months had originally been made back in January 2014, but was turned down by Oxfordshire County Council due to the 18 mile detour it would mean for drivers on this busy route.  I do remember a great deal of protests by local commuters at the time.

I have kept residents informed of progress on the work using this blog and updates in the Grove Community Newsletter, including the recent closures at weekends where works were being done to re-align the bridge after raising it to accommodate the electrification of the railway below. Thanks to all those involved in the project, we now have a brand new bridge as an entrance to Grove and Wantage on the main highway which will be there for years to come.

The next step I am campaigning for, is to re-open Grove railway station after it was closed during the Beeching cuts in the 1960's.  The new Local Transport Plan put together by the County Council has given it the green light, but the recent re-alignment of this new bridge means that the site will have to be moved. 

The original planning permission for the station site lapsed in 2011, so new plans and a business case need to be submitted to take this forward.  I attended the County Council Cabinet last week to speak on this important subject. It may take as long as the year 2030 to get this plan moving, but with more housing development scheduled in the area and no signs of improvement to our public transport system, the sooner we can see this happen, the better it will be for our community as hopefully, there will be less cars on our already congested roads.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

100th Anniversary of The Battle of the Somme


Yesterday, along with many others, I attended a commemoration service held for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at Oxford Town Hall, which was hosted by The Lord Mayor of Oxford.  The photograph above shows me in my official capacity of Vice Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council at the memorial plaque placed in honour of those who died serving the Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry during the Great War.

The poignant service was addressed by Brigadier Robin Draper CVO OBE who gave us a description of what it meant to be "Going over the Top" on 1st July 1916 in The Somme.  The event was organised by the Oxford Branch of The Royal Green Jackets Association.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Civic Briefing at RAF Croughton


Yesterday evening I attended a Civic Briefing at RAF Croughton at Brackley, Northamptonshire on my first official engagement as Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council.  This was so that I could hear first hand the plans that the USAF have for rationalising their sites in the UK.  The base is situated just across the border from Oxfordshire, and certainly impacts on the highway network across north Oxfordshire. There was much discussion about future access to the site for construction traffic and a new main gate.

We were told that due to cuts in the US defence budget, there are plans to consolidate all telecommunications and operational activities at Croughton, which means that RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth will now close.  This is due to take place around 2021/2022, but the operation to build brand new facilities at Croughton is on the horizon and needs a great deal of co-ordination.  There were several local residents at the briefing, as the US take their relationship with the local community very seriously.  We were also taken on a tour of the base so that we could see what there is currently, and where plans are to build the new facilities, which will include schools and more housing for families as well as the operational buildings.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

County Council Unitary Proposals

There has been much discussion and articles written in the press about the proposals to move towards unitary status for the 2-tier council system in Oxfordshire.  Unfortunately, this led to the district councils commissioning one study with PwC and the County Council undertaking another study with Grant Thornton.  The cost to taxpayers for both studies is around £100K. You can see the press article on the County Council website here.

I would urge all residents to take part in the survey on the link at the County Council's website, because it is important that the public have their say on this very important issue.  It is hoped that having one council running all services for the whole county will save several million pounds in ratepayers taxes and will enable people to understand more easily where responsibility for services lie. The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/oxfordshire-evidence

Friday, 20 May 2016

Temporary Road closures Coming up on A338 Weekends in June

There are forthcoming temporary road closures and speed limits coming up on the A338 on consecutive weekends in June, so this is a warning of the dates ahead.  This is to allow Bam Nuttall Ltd. to undertake work at the rail bridge associated with the Network Rail Great Western Electrification Project to be carried out.

The weekends involved are from
 3 June 20.00 hrs to 6 June 06.00 hrs,
10 June 20.00 hrs to 13 June 06.00 hrs,
17 June 20.00 hrs to 20 June 06.00 hrs,
24 June 20.00 hrs to 27 June 06.00 hrs.

Each time the road is reopened a 10mph temporary speed restriction and ramps will be in place.  Appropriate traffic signs will be displayed to indicate when the measures are in force.  Notice of intention will be published in the local press.

I hope that appropriate diversion signs will be in place to drivers who will be unaware of the closures.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Newbury Street Resurfacing


Just a reminder that Newbury Street in Wantage is closed as it is being resurfaced between the Market Place and the Ormond Road junction. As you can see from the photo above, the work commenced today and is expected to finish on 20 May.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Election to Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council



It was a great honour today to be elected the new Vice-Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council for the year 2016/17.  Cllr. Michael Waine was elected as Chairman and I am pleased to be supporting his role in attending ceremonial duties out and about in our beautiful county of Oxfordshire.
After serving 15 years on this council, where I have seen many changes, I stood down as Leader of the Liberal Democrat group last year due to ill health Now, it is good to look forward to taking on this non-political role in the future.