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Local Group Web Manager: Jane Tomlinson - CPRE Oxfordshire
Local Group Web Manager: Jane Tomlinson

Local Group Web Manager: Jane Tomlinson

Jane Tomlinson, PR manager, CPRE Oxfordshire

Thursday, 15 March 2012 15:03

National Planning Policy Framework

When the Government published its draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in summer 2011 it seemed unprepared for the uproar that followed. The document sought to replace existing planning policy guidelines with a single 50-page outline framework. It combined a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ with a seemingly one-sided focus on economic objectives.

Monday, 12 November 2012 13:03

Fewcott wind turbines application

In November 2008, Bolstertone plc announced a proposal to build a £10m wind farm on farmland between Fewcott and Fritwell, near Bicester, consisting of four 125 metre (400 feet) turbines, a control building and access, adjacent to the M40, close to Cherwell Valley Services.

Bolsterstone considers Fewcott to be a good location, claiming that it has good wind speed, no problems with aviation or communications links, is close to a grid connection, is an accessible site, not in a designated protected area, and there would be limited visual impact.

We opposed the proposal, arguing that not only would it be an unacceptable blight on the surrounding countryside, but wind speeds are too low for the turbines to produce enough electricity to justify the damage caused. In January 2009, we submitted our comments to Cherwell District Council on Bolsterstone's planning application, calling for it to be refused.

In April 2009, Cherwell District Council’s planning committee voted unanimously against its own officer's recommendation, and refused approval.

In November 2009, Bolsterstone appealed the decision and it went to a Public Inquiry in the spring of 2010. We were represented at the Public Inquiry, where we made our case against the proposed wind farm.

In July 2010, however, the planning inspector gave the go-ahead to the wind farm. He acknowledged that there would be a degree of harm caused to the landscape, the built environment and local villages, but concluded that this would be outweighed by the benefits.

Both we and local campaigners were extremely disappointed at the outcome. We see this as a major test of policy on wind turbines in Oxfordshire and are extremely concerned it will pave the way for other large turbines in the open countryside, and a flood of similar applications up and down the M40.

Unfortunately, the only way forward now would be to take this to the High Court, which is an expensive route to take, especially for a charity like CPRE and the other objectors, when there is no guarantee of success.

Monday, 12 November 2012 12:24

Ash dieback hits Bicester copse

Dieback disease: 20 ash trees planted earlier this year to celebrate CPRE's 80th anniversary have today been destroyed

Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:14

Village green preservation: a change in the law

A Village Green or Town Green is, to most of us, a green, open or undeveloped space within a settlement.

Monday, 01 October 2012 10:53

Neighbourhood plans

The Localism Act, which came into force in November 2011, introduced provisions for neighbourhood planning. But what’s it all about and what does it mean for communities in Oxfordshire?

There are three main elements to neighbourhood planning:

1 Neighbourhood Development Plans – these are very localised versions of Local Plans and will include polices on the development and use of land.
2 Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) – these can grant planning permission for a certain type of development, in a certain area. The permission can be unconditional or subject to approval by the relevant planning authority, which in this case could be the parish council.
3 Community Right to Build Orders – these are a special type of NDO that can be prepared by a community organisation. They will grant planning permission for a specified development in relation to a specified site.

What is a 'neighbourhood' and who is responsible for neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared by the relevant town or parish council or, where neither of these exists, a ‘neighbourhood forum’ designated by the local planning authority. Once a plan is drawn up, it must be submitted to the local planning authority to ensure it complies with regulations. It is then put forward for Independent Examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Finally, the plans must be approved by more than 50% of those voting in a local referendum. Presuming it gets through all these stages, the local authority must adopt it as part of the local development plan.

Who pays?

The local planning authority must pay for the Independent Examination, the referendum and any administration associated with processing the plan.
However, the costs of developing the plan itself have to be met by the parish or town council, or neighbourhood forum.

The opportunities & challenges

Theoretically, this puts decision-making back into the hands of local people. Neighbourhood plans could bring communities together around a positive vision for their area and a clear plan for sustainable development. If it works as the Government hopes, these plans will feed strongly into Local Plans.
But things are never as simple as they seem!

Firstly, neighbourhood plans will have to conform with the strategic elements of the Local Plan, including housing and economic development requirements. In turn, Local Plans have to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework So, it seems it will be OK for local communities to say ‘yes’ to development, but ‘no’ is still not a valid response.

Secondly, neighbourhood planning could cost local communities a great deal, both in terms of time and money, with figures of anywhere between £17,000 and £70,000 being thrown around. Advice and support from external consultants can quickly push costs up.

So, while preparing these plans might prove a useful exercise, expectations must be realistic about the work involved and the degree to which communities can set their own agenda.

Local planning authorities will have an important role to play in this as they will need to support communities through the process. However, with scarce resources, it is not clear how planning departments will cope with any significant influx of plans, especially when their priority may be on getting Core Strategies in place within the 12 month deadline set by the National Planning Policy Framework.

What’s happening in Oxfordshire in 2012

To encourage take up of neighbourhood plans, the Government has identified a number of Front Runners to receive grant funding of £20,000. In Oxfordshire these are: Banbury, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Thame, Woodcote and Wroxton.

Geoff Botting, Vice- Chair, Woodcote Parish Council says: "My advice for communities without planners on tap is to organise the project, to build expertise and evidence, and include the community from Day One."

Hilary Sherman, Deputy Town Clerk of Faringdon Town Council says: "Early on we took the view that the plan should be driven by the townspeople as a whole rather than merely ‘consulting’ with them. This has been remarkably successful."

Astrid Harvey, who is working to support the Chipping Norton Neighbourhood Plan, says: “Building momentum and sustaining enthusiasm in the town for the Neighbourhood Plan is challenging. We are very grateful to the 400 households who completed a residents' questionnaire, and to those who attended our workshops and focus groups. What they told us is helping to build a clear picture of the sort of town we need to plan for."

Monday, 01 October 2012 10:31

Roadside clutter

Road signs provide essential information for road users and promote road safety. But increasingly there are too many signs. Some are officially sanctioned, but many more are unofficial advertising. Each sign is no doubt introduced with the best of intentions, but such clutter can create confusion, distract motorists and deface the rural landscape.

Artificial gates, flashing illuminated signs, coloured road surfaces, rumble strips, speed humps, chicanes of planters: when used together, they disfigure villages and roadsides and they’re expensive to install and maintain. A balance is needed. Essential signs should of course be maintained but they need to be sensitive to the character of the surrounding countryside.

A particularly ugly recent phenomenon is the growing number of advertising hoardings in fields by the roadside, and old vans emblazoned with advertising which park more or less permanently in laybys.  To report an illegally parked advertising van to the authorities you need to have observed it twice during the day perhaps on your way to work or the shops and on the way back. Take photos of it to prove it hasn’t moved. The authorities then have enough information to contact the advertiser and get it removed.

Saturday, 30 June 2012 10:49

Oxpens meadow

Oxpens meadow is one of the last remaining vestiges of open green space in Oxford's West End area. It is a well-maintained field next to the ice rink used by walkers, residents and sportspeople. It is owned by the City Council and measures about 2 hectares (5 acres). It’s bounded to the south by the river Thames; to the east by the Castle Mill Stream and to the west by land owned by British Rail Board (Residuary) Ltd.

For decades the Meadow has been threatened. If the City's current plans for the redevelopment of the West End are realised, only about half of the Meadow would remain for public enjoyment. The site has been earmarked by the City Council as part of its West End rejuvenation scheme to include a conference centre, a police station, a relief road and riverside apartments.

These threats prompted SENDRA (St Ebbes New Development Residents’ Association) to apply to Oxfordshire County Council to register the Meadow as a Town Green under the Commons Act 2006. Town Green status would ensure the retention of Oxpens Meadow in perpetuity as a public open space. The Friends of Oxpens Meadow (FOM) was born. CPRE Oxfordshire strongly support FOM’s efforts.

Saturday, 30 June 2012 10:38

Trap Grounds

The Trap Grounds is six acres of reedbed, ponds, and woodland in suburban north Oxford. They were successfully registered as a Town Green in 2006 after a four-year legal campaign by the local community.

Saturday, 30 June 2012 10:32

Radley Lakes

Radley Lakes near the village of Radley, Abingdon in Oxfordshire, is a 30-acre lake, bristling with wildlife, surrounded by mature trees and studded with islands where birds nest. The lakes are exceptionally biodiverse with County Wildlife Status. It wasn’t always like this.

Thrupp Lake was the subject of a long and at times bitter battle between local residents and energy giant npower, who own the land. Npower planned to infill the largest surviving lake with fly ash from nearby Didcot power station and Oxfordshire County Council awarded planning permission for the tipping in breech of the local plan.

A group of local people formed Save Radley Lakes and applied to get Thrupp and Bullfield Lakes declared a Town Green. Alas in 2007 the application was rejected. After a long and active campaign, in May 2009, npower announced that the Earth Trust had been appointed to manage the lakes. Save Radley Lakes became the Friends of Radley Lakes and now work closely with Earth Trust to protect and nurture the Lakes.

CPRE Oxfordshire supported the campaigners in their fight to save Radley Lakes. We administered their funds, enabling them to collect Gift Aid and we helped with their media and publicity.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 09:04

A little rough guide around the hedges

This little guide is a celebration of our unsung hedgerows. We wanted to share our passion for them and encourage more people to care about them too.There's a handy hedgerow plant identifier for when you’re next exploring our beautiful countryside.

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