When I was a County Councillor, my patch included the Domesday village of Bodicote. I spent a decade helping the village to fight proposals to build an urban extension within the parish. In the end, we lost and the green fields to the east of the Oxford Road in Bodicote are now being covered in concrete, tarmac and brick with what I fear will be a hideous urban estate of soulless little boxes. However, this is history although village residents and local drivers are now reaping the whirlwind of growing road congestion.
My gripe is about a specific aspect of the developers’ design for this urban blight. The Cherwell DC plans show that a considerable part of the road network will be “private road”. My old county patch comprised five villages and each of them had a private road that brought regular problems.
First, I need to explain the legal position of a private road. In Oxfordshire, where there are three tiers of local government (county, district and town/parish) roads are the responsibility of the county council. When a development with a road network is built, the developer must build the road to the standard specified by the county council. Once completed and approved, the road will be adopted by the council as public highway. Thereafter, maintenance will be carried out and funded by the council. Where a road has not been adopted, responsibility for its upkeep and the cost remains with the proximate land owners.
Second, in my old patch, there was at least one private road in each village: Meadow View in Adderbury; The Pound in Bloxham; Chapel Lane in Bodicote; Paradise Lane in Milcombe and what I will call Ironstone Lane in Milton. In all of these locations, I regularly received requests from residents for urgent repairs to fast-deteriorating roads. I had to refuse them all unless and until the roads were adopted to decent standards and this never happened because some residents always refused to share the cost.
I now find that a development of 1,000 houses in Bodicote, led by Barratt Homes, Bovis Homes and Taylor Wimpey includes some new private roads. I think including private roads in modern estates is a relatively new concept and I suspect I see cost cutting as the reason. If the private roads are not to be adopted by the county council, they can be built to a lower and cheaper standard and I am sure they will be. Ten or twenty years down the line, local residents will be driving, walking, puhing prams and cycling over large potholes and asking the local council to fill them in. The council will rightly say, “Sorry – not our roads”. Cherwell DC, as planning authority and Oxfordshire County Council, as highways authority, seem to have accepted these private roads and I think they will come to regret their indifference. However and most of all, local residents and their elected representatives will find they have another cross to bear and no redress to hand. This represents lethargy and indifference spelled large and it will come back to haunt some people. I am glad it will not be me.
Wake up Cherwell DC; you have let down the people of Bodicote village by permitting an urban extension that will join them up to Banbury against their will. Don’t impose sub-standard private roads on them as well.
Wake up Oxfordshire County Council; your elected members will come under pressure in years to come when these private roads start falling apart and there will be nothing to cure the problem. Why have you permitted them in the first place?
Shame on you both.