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.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Major Roadworks taking place on A420 at Shrivenham

This is to remind residents that work to improve the A420 Shrivenham Bypass is to start next week on 23 July. The road will be completely closed between Watchfield Roundabout and Lower Bourton Junction and diversions will be in place.  The closure is expected to last for 7 weeks, however the County Council has pledged that crews will work extra shifts to get the job done as quickly as possible. You can read the full press release here.

Public Meeting in Faringdon on A417 Bridge Closure

I would like to alert residents to a public meeting being held next Tuesday 22nd July at 7pm at The Corn Exchange in Faringdon about the forthcoming closure of the A417 for four months later this year.  This will be attended by staff from Network Rail, officers and councillors of the County Council and Faringdon town councillors.  It will be an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions and find out the plans for the diversion routes when the A417 is closed for the bridge to be raised at Challow for the Great Western Electrification project.  See my previous blog post here.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fun at Wantage Memorial Park

As I had previously posted on Thursday, there was a Wantage and Grove Play & Activity Day at Manor Road Memorial Park in Wantage for families in the area.  I went along to see the event in action on Saturday afternoon and was delighted to see some of the activities on offer.  As you will see from the photo above of the Graffiti Wall, there had been a lot of budding artists showing off their drawing skills during the day.  I even added my own small contribution (the mini horse's head) - a pre-requirement if you take a photograph of the wall!

There had been a steady flow of children all day long, and everyone had enjoyed the day.  I was pleased that I was able to contribute some of my County Councillor Community budget fund towards the event which was organised by the Oxfordshire Play Association, and hope that we can repeat the venture in future years.  I do still have some small funding available from this year's budget, if anyone knows of a community and/or voluntary organisation needing some financial support.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Grove Challengers Rising Stars

Yesterday, I was delighted to present certificates to the 'Rising Stars' at the Annual Grove Challengers Six-A-Side competion at the Recreation Ground.  These are the youngsters who are coming forward showing their talents in a competition with the same age group from Didcot Town.  It was an excellent event and I am always impressed every year with the skills these young people are showing on the pitch.

I have been able to provide funding from my County Councillors' Community budget towards moveable goalposts, security equipment for the clubhouse, and more recently some new line marking equipment for the pitches, so it was good to see everything in good use and benefitting families in the community.  The weather held off raining for most of the day, so it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Wantage & Grove Play Activity Day

This Saturday 5th July there will be a Play and Activity Day at the Manor Road Memorial Park, Wantage from 11am - 3pm.  This is a FREE EVENT for all families, children and young people of all ages which I have put some of my County Councillor budget funding towards.

Activities include:
  • Go Kart Party                                                    
  • Body Zorbing
  • Graffitti Wall
  • Drumming Skills
  • Bouldering Wall
  • Sports Tasters
  • Scrapstore
  • DIY Face Painting
  • Art & Craft Activities
  • Storytelling with Winnie the Witch
  • Tricky Trails Biking
  • Soft Play 
  • Den Making  and much, much more....
Feel free to bring a picnic along as food and refreshments will be available, but need to be purchased.  NO Childcare is provided and there is Disabled parking only on site.  I hope the day will be a success and enjoyed by families in the area.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Connecting Oxfordshire

The Leader of the County Council is arranging a consultation on his vision for transport in Oxfordshire with a series of meetings around the county.  Last night, I attended the one for the Wantage area at The Beacon (formerly Civic Hall) where a number of residents expressed their views. 

There was a lot of support for the re-opening of Grove station, but unfortunately the Leader seems to have given up on the idea because he claims Network Rail do not have it in their investment plans.  Well, it would be helpful if the leadership at County Hall actually showed some enthusiasm for the project.  Residents will know that I have campaigned for many years for this to happen, especially in view of the extra housing numbers projected for the area,  but there does not appear to be the political will to move this on.

There was also concern expressed about the lack of buses in the area, particularly serving the employment sites at Harwell, Didcot and Milton Park, and we were told that we have to wait for the commercial market to pick this up, rather than pump-priming services ahead of future housing development.  

Cycling was mentioned several times, and the lack of a good cycling network - again between Harwell and Wantage, and despite housing developments being approved, no money appears to have been put aside to improve this for our area.

This is an opportunity to make sure you have your say as it is important that residents' views are listened to.  You can do this online at this link, but it must be done by 1st August.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Network Rail Drop in Sessions on A417 Bridge Closure

This is to alert residents that Network Rail will be holding drop-in sessions shortly to answer questions and discuss their plans for the forthcoming closure of the A417 Challow bridge for electrification works on the railway due to go ahead in September this year.  The dates and venues are as follows with both sessions taking place from 4 - 7pm:

           Thursday 26th June – Faringdon Corn Exchange, Faringdon

    Wednesday 2nd July – Stanford in the Vale Village Hall, Stanford in the Vale


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Neighbourhood Action Day in Grove

This morning I joined forces with other members of the Wantage West Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) to try to recruit more Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators and new members to sign up to receive Thames Valley Police Alert messages in Grove.

These alerts are an excellent way of finding out about criminal activities in the area and what is happening with the police team locally.  To register click here.    The alerts can be sent to your mobile 'phone, email address or to your home telephone.  We had a very good response on the doorstep with many people wishing to get involved.  We plan to do more days in the future in other areas.    Today we were focussing on old Grove.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

New Harwell/Didcot Bus Service Includes Grove

Thames Travel have announced that their new timetable for the A1 beginning on 9th June will include serving Grove at the beginning and the end of the day.  I hope that this is because they have now seen how the impact of losing bus services to Grove has disadvantaged  the village.

I have been calling on them and the County Council to help restore the services we lost at the end of last year so let us hope that this is just the beginning and more will follow. The A1 service change which will begin next week will stop at Mayfield Avenue in Grove at 06.58am before calling at Wantage and continuing the service to Harwell, Didcot and beyond. On the return journey it will drop off at Mayfield Avenue at 18.55pm for those returning in the evening.

I appreciate that this will still not suit everyone and we are still lacking the continuity of the services we received before, but this does go some way to helping early commuters and those wishing to get home in the evening.  To view the complete timetable see Thames Travel's website, where you can download and print off a copy if you wish.

May I also remind residents that there is still a direct service from Grove to Didcot on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Millbrook shopping centre.  I have placed a copy of the timetable at the bus stop so that passengers can see this. You can also view the times here.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A417 Challow Road Closure

I have heard this week that it has been confirmed that Network Rail intends to close the A417 Challow Road to undertake the bridge work associated with the Great Western Rail electrification project.  At a meeting of all county councillors two weeks ago, we were told that a solution was being sought to undertake the work to the bridge which would cause minimum  disruption similar to the scheme found for the A338.

As my previous blog post reports, we had a good result from our negotiations on the A338 Wantage Road bridge, but sadly this cannot be said for the A417.  The road closure was agreed by senior officers, the Cabinet Member for Transport and the local member for the division in which the bridge is located.  So the fact remains that the road will close from September until December this year, with the main diversion route being the A420 and the A338.  Obviously, local light vehicles will find their own way round through the country lanes and we can only hope that this will not cause mayhem.

The decision was published by Network Rail on their website last week with a direct press release without any consultation with local elected county councillors affected by the route!  So despite their words about 'working with communities', this does not appear to be the case.

The A420 is due to close in July for major roadworks taking place on the Shrivenham bypass so we can only hope that all this work will be completed in time for this road closure, because the official diversion for the A420 closure is going to be the A417!  It will be absolutely crucial that there will be co-ordination going on between Network Rail and the County Council.  Sadly, not much evidence of this so far!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A338 Update on Wantage Road Bridge Rebuild

I attended a briefing for Oxfordshire County Councillors yesterday, where Network Rail confirmed that they have now developed a proposal for the A338 Wantage Road bridge rebuild that will keep the road open.  This scheme will build a brand new bridge alongside the old bridge which will then be demolished once the new bridge is in place.  Obviously, the road will have to be realigned slightly to take account of this, but discussions are ongoing with county officers and Network Rail to ensure that disruption is minimised whilst the work takes place.

We were also assured that they have taken into consideration other highways work being undertaken by Oxfordshire County Council and therefore the Challow Road (A417) and Steventon High Street (B4017) bridges will not be closed at the same time and access for pedestrians will be provided during the work on the bridges.

I understand from the presentation that we were given that all being well, the work will start at the end of this year, with a completion date around May 2015.  However, this timetable could change if further information comes to light which needs to be taken into account.  

We were also assured that residents who live near to the railway line will be notified of the works taking place overnight, and this will happen nearer the time. I have heard reports that the electrification work is done quickly with 1km a day being undertaken in other parts of the country.

I have been campaigning hard to ensure that the best solution possible is undertaken for this work to go ahead which will minimise any road closure, so I was pleased to hear that Network Rail have listened.  I will keep residents informed as soon as I hear further news, but it is good to hear that long road closures are to be avoided.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Art in Ardington

Yesterday was Bank Holiday Monday, so I took the opportunity of visiting Art in Ardington,  which is being held as part of the Oxfordshire Art Weeks festival.  The gallery is open in the Loyd Lindsay Rooms with many paintings and works of art of several artists to view.  There is a delightful walk around the village with a magnificent display of sculptures on display in stunning settings.  Some of these are photographed above as you can see, but there are many more on show which can be purchased if you do get a chance to take a look.

The exhibition is running until 11th May and is open every day, but please check the link above for full details of times and venue.   We are very fortunate to have such an exciting exhibition so close to home, so it really is worth your while going along if you can.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Opening of the Sack House Museum in Wantage

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of the Sack House Museum and Wilts and Berks Canal Information Centre in Wantage.  The Wantage Silver Band were out to celebrate the event (see photos above) and along with many of the local volunteers, we were able to look inside at the history of the wharf area before it was developed for housing.   

Cllr. Jenny Hannaby and I contributed some of our County Councillor Community Budget funds towards the lighting inside the Sack House itself and as you will see from the photos above, this was all in good working order on the day!  Brian Stovold has worked hard as the East Vale Branch Chairman to co-ordinate the event on behalf of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust.  They are always looking for volunteers, so do click on their website link if you wish to get involved.  This link also gives information about the opening hours for the museum and the background.

I should like to use this opportunity to flag up that I have a new pot of money for local community and voluntary groups to bid for in the new budget round, which although reduced to £5,000 per councillor, is still a boost to those who are looking for help. Please contact me at my email address if you wish to find out more. I would also urge those interested to contact me sooner rather than later, as funds are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Royal Visit to Wantage

Yesterday, along with hundreds of residents, I was in Wantage to welcome the Earl and Countess of Wessex who were visiting Oxfordshire as part of Prince Edward's 50th birthday celebrations.  As you will see from the photos above, it was rather a soggy occasion, with umbrellas as much on display as the flags and bunting.  However, this did not detract from the cheerfulness of all around as the Earl and the Countess seemed to enjoy mingling with the crowds.  Cllr. Jenny Hannaby and I were there as county councillors to represent our constituents and you can see us by King Alfred's statue on the right and under our umbrellas in the middle as we await the royal procession.  HRH seemed to be quite impressed with the statue and took a good look at the old King of Wessex standing over us all!

The visit had begun at Dorchester Abbey where they met Ride and Stride volunteers and cut a birthday cake.  They had lunch at Edward Brooks Barracks (Dalton) Abingdon and then went on to King Alfred's Academy to open the new £1m creative arts block.  They then went on to Crown Packaging on the Grove Technology Park before arriving back in the centre of Wantage.  Once in the market square they had a long walkabout and met the Wantage Silver Band (above right) who were playing throughout the occasion, as well as councillors, community groups, schoolchildren and members of the public.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Open Day at Lambourn

On Good Friday, I visited the Lambourn Open Day to see the local racing yards and the events programme in the afternoon.  Nicky Henderson's yard was a real treat where we could look at the wonderful heroes of the racing world, including Bob's Worth, Long Run, Shakalakaboomboom and many others in their stables.  

During the afternoon, we were able to see the parade of the horses including Kauto Star (above middle), Sprinter Sacre, Present View and Toast of New York.  The Household Cavalry (above right) gave a stunning display immaculately performed which was then followed by schooling sessions on the gallops.  The afternoon ended with a show jumping competition with top jockeys and soldiers of The Household Cavalry battling against each other.  Mick Fitzgerald was on hand to provide some of the commentary too.  The weather stayed fine and everyone seemed to enjoy the day.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Full County Council Meeting Webcast

On Tuesday this week it was our full Council meeting which was held at Bodicote House in Banbury at the Cherwell District Council Offices.  You can view the full recorded meeting at the following  link which takes you to the district council website.  Items I spoke on included paying tribute to the late County Councillor and Alderman Charles Shouler, the recent recommendations on the remuneration panel which pays councillors' allowances, questions on the lack of bus services to connect to Didcot, Harwell, Milton Park, infrastructure issues generally including Grove station, the poor state of our roads due to potholes not being repaired, and paying tribute to the emergency services giving us the help in Grove during the flash flood of the Letcombe Brook in Cane Lane.

One of the remarkable events of the afternoon, was our Lib Dem motion about improving air quality under our new powers of public health.  This was successful due to all political groups voting with us, recognising the importance of this issue for Oxfordshire - all except the Conservatives, including the Cabinet Member for Public Health, who voted against it or changed their minds and abstained!  You can see the Chairman's hand go up to vote against, then his face changes as he looked at his group in disarray and his hand goes up in the abstentions.  Remarkable!  Then the Cabinet member  for Public Health walked out of the meeting altogether.  Now there is no overall control at the council, the ruling group will find it very difficult to have their own way.  This is a victory for Oxfordshire residents, as the high pollution levels we are all suffering this week makes air quality a very important public health matter.