Open letter to District Councillors for Adderbury, Bloxham & Bodicote

To: Cllrs Chris Heath, Andrew McHugh & Mike Bishop

I am surprised and a little disappointed that I have to learn about the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal by a roundabout route and thanks to the initiative of a Cherwell Councillor representing a neighbouring ward.

I have studied the proposals which I understand are coming to Cherwell full council for a whipped vote on 26-Feb-18.  I am broadly supportive of measures to support Oxfordshire’s economy.  I believe Oxfordshire is a functional economic area with the City at its centre and prosperous and growing market towns circling it.  Oxford City is 20 miles from Banbury while Birmingham is 60 miles to the north so it is to Oxford that our immediate view is drawn for its economic and academic strength. 

Looking further afield, I believe that the Oxford/Cambridge corridor is a natural area for tremendous economic growth – a UK silicon valley – and it is inevitable that this will bring additional housing which Oxford City is so desperate to see already.  This corridor looks like (from south to north) Oxford – Bicester – Milton Keynes – Cambridge.

I therefore welcome signs that the East/West rail project is likely to proceed and hope it will not be marred by the prospect of nationalisation.  I can remember the railways when they were state run and we do not want to go there again.  We need an efficient private sector company like Chiltern to be involved.  I also welcome the discussions on an Oxford/Cambridge Expressway.  This journey by car is currently slow and dismal and anything that can be done to improve it can only strengthen the Oxford & Cambridge economies.  In addition and looking at wider Oxfordshire, the A34 and the A40 both need strategic measures to prevent the constant congestion and regular accidents that are commonplace.

I am, therefore and in principle, supportive of growing our economy through stronger links along the Oxford/Cambridge corridor.

There is, however, a major but and it relates to the villages you represent: Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote.  These are the largest villages in North Oxfordshire and have already taken a substantial proportion of new housing.  Some of this housing in each villages has been of a disappointingly poor quality, urban in style and resembling a suburb of Banbury or any other urban area. The housing has also been densely crammed and lacking adequate storage both for personal household items and for motor vehicles that are an essential element for villages poorly served by public transport and too distant to walk to town.

On the assumption you will be supporting the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal proposal when it comes to full council on 26-Feb-18, I want to know what safeguards you will be demanding for the villages you have been elected to represent? 

Specifically, I would expect you to exact an undertaking that rural locations like Adderbury, Banbury and Bodicote will not have urban-style estates imposed around their borders.  I refer to those on the north of the Milton Road at both the Bloxham and Adderbury ends of that road and the huge estate facing Bodicote across the Banbury Road.  These three villages will inevitably sit in the firing line for more and more housing and while it is only right that they should take a few, these must be sympathetic to the historic and architectural evolution of these three Domesday villages. 

In addition, I hope you will seek to reduce the fixation for density at any price and support changes in housing policy that provide for an acceptable level of storage in new homes to meet people’s increasing levels of personal possessions and to leave garages for their proper use of storing cars.  Equally, I hope you will press for more realistic levels of parking provision, at least in rural areas, where public transport, walking or cycling to get to work, school or the shops is simply impractical.  I am attaching a proposal from Adderbury Parish Council which addresses these issues in relation to planning guidance and also attaching a proposal for your scrutiny committee to examine the adequacy of storage for personal possessions and motor vehicles in recently built estates in the district.  These proposals from Adderbury Parish Council have my full support and I hope they will have yours.

 I wait to hear from each of you.



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Coffee mania

The news has been full of the debate about 2½ billion coffee cups  per annum, most of which  cannot be recycled because the cardboard outers have thin plastic inners bonded to the outer that prevent recycling in all but a few very specialised recycling centres.  This has no doubt become a topic of debate following China’s decision to cease taking our waste.  Naturally, the demand is for government action and a 25 pence “latte levy” is proposed on coffee sales hopefully to have the same impact as the 5 pence levy on supermarket shopping bags.

I should admit to being a regular coffee drinker – probably three cups most days – always black, made with a spoonful of Nescafe and no milk or sugar.  Never a very enthusiastic shopper, I rarely worry too much about brands and tend to take the cheapest one I can spot on the shelves but, with coffee, I have always looked for Nescafe and the reason is simple.  Years ago, the lefties on Oxfordshire County Council and in the days when it was horribly hung, imposed an embargo on Nestles’ products for reasons I never entirely fathomed.  I rather suspect the enterprising County Hall staff at the time retained a large non-Nestles’ coffee tin and regularly topped it up with Nescafe but I never said anything at the time and the silly embargo causes me still to select Nescafe 30 years later!

I do not share the obsession for all of the exotic forms of coffee that seem to be peddled today and which has gripped the imaginations of many members of the public.  Which brings me to my main point.  Whether on a train to London or simply walking on a busy street, there are vast numbers of people clutching a cardboard cup full of coffee.  Now, I assume they have left their home to get to the station and catch their train to work or to go to work or the shops in town.  Why on earth do they choose to pay several pounds for a product in a nasty cardboard cup when they could have prepared their own in a proper china cup or mug to drink in the comfort of their own home before leaving?  I rather think the style gurus have worked their modern wonders of persuasion to make people believe they either have not got the time to enjoy a coffee in their own home or that they cannot make it as tasty as their local coffee shop or – and this is my best bet – they have worked the same sort of flanker that has persuaded many utterly stupid women (and a few stupid men) to wear jeans with the knees cut away.  Yes, I think the coffee cup to take away is a fashion fad requiring people to be seen clutching a cardboard cup on their train journey.  Whether an extra 25 pence on the cost will thwart the designs of the marketing gurus or not remains to be seen but I do not understand what possesses people to want to carry a hot cardboard cup while walking or riding on a train from A to B unless it is some sort of cultural symbol of wealth and being “in”.  Leave me out!

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Goodbye Black Boy!

Black Boy

This will be a sad Boxing Day today for me as I take my leave of my local watering hole after 30 plus years.  The Black Boy in Milton is closing after today.

I have lost track of the number of landlords this pub has had since I came to Adderbury in 1984 but it has been quite a few!  You may be surprised that I choose a pub in a neighbouring village rather than one of the four in Adderbury but the Black Boy suits me and it welcome our Jack Russell, Coco, as well.  The first landlord I remember specialised in sausages with a long list of them in all imaginable formats.  Sadly, he got caught up in a banking boom and bust and, having borrowed heavily to finance some improvements, found himself with unaffordable repayments and fled, leaving a set of kitchen knives on the bar to demonstrate his feelings for the bank!

There have been a string of others since with varying terms and levels of success.  The most  memorable was Marco Pierre-White who was determined to close it as a village pub and turn it into a smart eaterie for his London friends.  This enterprise failed but only after he had decimated the bar, refused to serve lager and filled the place with alien and strange decorations.  After his exit, Pete Strickland and Catriona McConnachie took on the Black Boy and they worked hard to make a success of it.  They put back the bar, welcomed dogs, families and children, provided very good food at sensible prices and made everyone feel welcome.  In fact they returned the Black Boy to what most of us wanted – a good local village pub.

Sadly, it has not worked for them and they feel they cannot make it viable.  They blame:

  • the closure of the Milton Road to through traffic for a while and
  • the high cost of business rates.

I would add to this the minimum wage increases, the costs of holiday pay and other emp-loyment red tape which suffocates small businesses  and the growing burden of ‘elf & safety rules and food safety regulations.  In fact all the pressures that make it harder and harder for small businesses to survive and provide a living for their owners.

Sadly some of the Milton villagers have taken against the landlords and are getting up a petition.  Quite how this can turn an apparently unprofitable venture back into a profitable one, I do not know and I will not sign it.

I hope someone will come along with the enterprise that Pete and Catriona showed in their time and something extra that makes the Black Boy thrive.  Until then, I suspect I will be having my weekend pint at home which is a shame.

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Looking forward to 11 pm on 29 Mar 2019

As a determined LEAVE voter, I am looking forward to getting our country back on 29 March 2019.  It can’t come soon enough.

I am therefore delighted to learn that we are to get our own passports back at least looking something like the old dark blue ones of which a replica appears above.  It is in fact a replica used as a cover for the nasty red EU passport I found myself with from 27 September 2001 when my old British one expired.  However, this EU one has also expired after 27 September 2011 and I did not bother to apply for another one.  There are two reasons for this:

  • I wanted to wait for a real British one again and
  • I have no wish to fly anywhere given the appalling way in which air passengers are treated.

You may have noticed that I had blotted out the reference to the European Union on the first page of the expired passport.  I never voted to be part of a super state and I am glad we are leaving what is clearly intended to grow into ever closer union.

While blogging, I hope the government will also be retrieving our driving licences?  I had a lovely and rather battered old paper one until I celebrated my 70th birthday last July and had to apply for a new driving licence.  It came in the form of a little plastic card complete with photograph and unintelligible hieroglyphics and, to my complete horror, bore the dreaded 15 EU stars on the top left-hand corner.  It took only a couple of minutes to print off a small Union Jack and to paste it over this symbol of oppression but I hope my next enforced renewal in 2019 will bring one without the EU symbol.

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The question that dare not be asked

Boris bashing is clearly the new blood sport in Westminster but I fear it is hiding the real issues we should be discussing.  Boris has been castigated for a sentence he let slip to a Select Committee suggesting that the jailed woman – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – with dual British/Iranian nationality, had been teaching journalism in Iran.  Why did he say this?  Presumably he did not invent it?  Ministers are briefed endlessly on many issues so I am guessing that someone, somewhere told Boris that the lady was doing this.  Whether Boris was wise to let it slip may be another matter but where did the suggestion originate and why is the government clearly taking the line that it was not the case?

Iran is a pretty ghastly place but something must have prompted the state to notice this lady whom we are now to understand was simply holidaying with her family.  Is there some element of truth in what Boris said?  Is it being hushed up in the perfectly reasonable cause  of getting the lady freed and home in Britain?  We may never know but it seems Boris’s enemies are losing no opportunity to knock him.  While thus may be understandable when coming from the Corbynites, it is pretty inexcusable from his own side.

It is also preventing discussion of the real issue.  In this country, teaching about journalism is not a crime and someone doing this would be respected and allowed to get on with it.  However, in Iran it seems this is a criminal activity and that is the real disgrace of this story.  It seems that the lady’s husband understands this and looks to Boris to use his diplomatic sources to work for her release but the socialists and the Remoaners who are deflecting the arguments into Boris bashing are not helping the lady’s cause at all.

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What price a picture?

Auctions of works of art frequently make the headlines for the astonishing price collectors are prepared to pay for a masterpiece.  These are usually paintings or sculptures but photographs have been known to attract large price tickets where the subject was well known or the photographer was a master of the art.

Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci

Two Sisters

However, a new phenomenon has developed in Adderbury.  Our Berry Hill Road lawyer who sought to have two judicial reviews to overturn parish council decisions has taken grave exception to my including his photograph in blogs outlining the decision of the court which found both applications wholly without merit.

He is threatening to claim damages for breach of copyright and is valuing his photograph at £10,000 per day of exposure on this web site.

Given that Leonardo’s Last Supper has been on public display for 519 years, a similar daily value on this masterpiece would make its value some £2 billion so Mr Davies seems to be ranking his visage well above that of the wistful and enigmatic Mona Lisa!

Mandolin & Guitar

Now, of course, I can’t show you his picture to allow you to decide whether his estimation of its value is fair and reasonable because I would be breaching his copyright.  However, I can provide you with a link to his business web site where you can inspect his likeness in a friendly video recording.  Tell me what you think. Worth every penny of £10,000 per day?



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Heading for a rail crash

I am completely baffled to read that a majority of UK electors favour the re-nationalisation of the railways.  I grew up in a country where the trains rarely ran on time and were beset by strikes.  These days, I travel up to London several times per month, using Chiltern Railways from Banbury to Marylebone. I have an old codger’s Rail Card so can get to London and back for £12.00 return if I book early.  Chiltern trains are invariably on time, they are clean, there is free wi-fi, I can always get a seat and usually a table with a power point and the staff are friendly and helpful.  Marylebone is a delightful station, clean and accessible and the tube journey onwards is a lot quicker than trying to catch a taxi.  All-in-all, the travel experience is excellent.  On the rare occasions when a Chiltern train is a few minutes late, it is usually clear that the cause is a late running earlier train run by another rail operating company.

Now I accept that the Chiltern network is very straightforward, running from Marylebone to Birmingham with only a few distracting branch lines so I am sure it is an easier network to manage than more complex ones.  However, it works and works well.  Why change it and  send it back to a state-run monopoly?  Don’t people realise that the state is hopeless at running businesses?  It is subject to political pressures and when the government is a left-leaning one, it will favour the provider over the customer.

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