Meeting Adderbury’s needs

Adderbury Church

Walking Coco in Adderbury at lunch time on Tuesday 28 March, a resident called across to me to say “you have two hours of hell tonight”.  He was referring to the Parish Council meeting and it was actually two and a half hours.  The public gallery was crowded and we heard a variety of views but it was clear that development on the Milton Road was what had brought several villagers to that rare event – a crowded meeting.  There is quite a lot happening on the Milton Road.

The David Wilson Homes development on the south side is substantially completed, comprising Wallin Road, Pargeter Close and The Robins with 62 homes packed in behind St Mary’s Road and Norris Close.  I was pretty shocked recently when I walked round St Mary’s Road and Norris Close to realise how much privacy and tranquillity some residents have lost with the new development directly adjacent to their houses and on what used to be open fields.  However, planning law does not respect views or long term tranquility in its decisions, particularly when there is a government drive to promote house building at almost any cost and Oxford’s Green Belt is pushing Oxford City’s housing problem on to Cherwell for solution.

To the north side and next to what villagers call Oak Tree Corner is a newer development, recently started by Nicholas King and currently named Clockmaker’s Turn for reasons I have yet to fathom.  The origin of this site goes back a long, long time, probably as far back as 2005 when I was last an Adderbury Parish Councillor.  At that time, I had lengthy discussions with Paul King whose company (Timms Homes) owned the land to the north of Milton Road and with the late John Harper who was the Adderbury District Councillor and with the late Charlie Swain who was a great supporter of the Adderbury Park Football Club.  The footballers were thriving but their pitch and club house on the Lucy Plackett field left much to be desired.  Our discussions revolved around Timms Homes securing planning permission for a limited number of houses on land to the north of Milton Road in return for which they would donate an area of the land for sports and community use and possibly contribute towards the cost of building a simple pavilion.  Discussions were lengthy and local views were very mixed.  John Harper, a surveyor, put in a huge amount of time in working up proposals and I am sure the parish council discussed them but there was considerable opposition from those living near the site.  Eventually, planning was sought and finally agreed.  I suspect the Parish Council supported the application because of the potential for community gain in the form of donated land although I do not know for sure.  I was no longer a parish councillor so not directly involved but I seem to remember that Cherwell rejected an initial planning application for a dozen or so homes, demanding more intensive use of the land and the end result is 20 homes currently under construction.  I believe the parish council had asked that the homes be predominately built in stone and I am very disappointed that Cherwell failed to make this a planning condition and we have mainly brick buildings fronting the site.  Not a good introduction at the entrance of one of North Oxfordshire’s most attractive villages.

As part of the process, the land owner, whether Timms Homes or a successor, I do not know which, transferred an area of land to the parish council and imposed a restrictive covenant that the land transferred should be used for “sports pitches and a community facility”.  Legal advice is clear that a community facility is a building for community use.  It is not a burial ground or a woodland.  With this land in parish council ownership, the council recently  consulted local organisations about their interest in the development of the site within the restrictive covenant it carries.  There is no intention to hand over the whole site to the football club or to restrict its use to football but we do know Adderbury Park Football Club continues to thrive and desperately needs a pitch and clubhouse that is fit for purpose.

For a village of almost 3,000 people, Adderbury is not well provided with community buildings.  The Institute is a fine old building but limited in capacity and lacking the style and facilities people increasingly expect.  The Methodist Chapel is similarly limited and, in my humble view, dour.  Church House is fine for small meetings and I should declare an interest as Chairman of Focal.  The Primary School has a hall but it is just that – a school hall.  The Lucy Plackett Activity Centre has passed its sell-by-date and is OK for the play group but that is all.  The Lucy Plackett pavilion is a disgrace and should be knocked down.  I think that is it!  We need something better and bigger for family anniversaries and weddings, for sports, for Adderbury Theatre Workshop and for the large number of organisations that are clustered around the village.

I do have a vision but it would take leadership and ambition to deliver it and support from a substantial part of the village although it will never be from all.  This is my vision:

  • Design a community centre on the north Milton road site that could accommodate sports activities with changing facilities, a decent-sized hall, a meeting room or two, a bar and servery with storage and toilet facilities and plenty of car parking.
  • Create a new charitable village trust to manage the Milton Road centre and to engage  all organisations that make a financial contribution in the proportion they can contribute and with the ability to control usage hours and activities.
  • Work in partnership with Adderbury Park Football Club to secure Football Association funding towards the development and to become members of the charitable village trust referred to above.
  • Work in partnership with the Institute trustees to secure their agreement towards the development, to put in the proceeds of the sale of the Institute and to become members of the charitable village trust referred to above.  I think the Institute would make a fine  conversion into a home.
  • Work in partnership with the Methodist Chapel to secure their agreement towards the development, to put in the proceeds of the sale of the Chapel and to become members of the charitable village trust referred to above.  Similarly, this building would make a fine home on conversion.

I know this is all a big ask but you do not make progress and achieve miracles without asking big!

I need to make one more declaration of interest.  Personally, I loath football and would never go to a match or take any interest in the game.  I think the noise is loathsome and the pay to big league players and managers is obscene.  However, it is the national sport and I am in a minority.  I also recognise the significant contribution Adderbury Park Football Club makes to participation and to enjoyment.  I welcome and endorse this even though nothing would persuade me to go near a football ground or to sit through a match report on TV!

Finally, I need to comment on a leaflet that I have just seen that was apparently circulated round some parts of the village concerning the Milton Road north development.  I am afraid this document is less than truthful and I hope you will take note of the facts and memories I have set out above.  Who wrote, published and circulated the leaflet is not clear.  Three parish councillors have their e-mail addresses at the foot of the leaflet.  Whether this implies their support for the contents or not I cannot tell.  I hope they will clarify their involvement because the leaflet contains several untruths.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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