Something in the water …

After 25 years in local politics, I have seen my share of skulduggery and low cunning although I have seen no evidence of the corruption that members of the media and public like to assume goes hand-in-hand with political debate, particularly in planning.  When I  was persuaded to return to the political stage albeit it to the non-party-political stage as a parish councillor for Adderbury, I knew it was going to be tough but I was not completely prepared for the sheer nastiness that is clearly swirling around a few roads in this lovely village. A local resident, only half joking, conjectured that there must be something in the water in Adderbury to produce such unpleasantness.

Another local resident suggested my March Parish Council meeting would be “two hours of hell”.  In fact, it was two and a half hours and I heard some things said that the two speakers would be wise to retract and to apologise for but that has not happened to date.

Before the meeting, an anonymous leaflet had been circulated round some parts of the village.  I would guess it was the western side of Adderbury, particularly Horn Hill Road, Berry Hill Road, St Mary’s Road, Norris Close and the still-being-built Adderbury Fields estate.  The leaflet contained a series of untruths and half truths.  It alleged that the Parish Council intended to hand over land it has been given at Milton Road to the local football club with a club house and a licensed bar that would be used for functions generally.  The leaflet predicted noise and parking problems and a substantial increase in the council tax.  This is all nonsense and untrue.  The author of this pamphlet did not have the courage and decency to give his name but the e-mail addresses of three parish councillor were listed.  Whether this implied their endorsement of the leaflet or not, I have been unable to discover.

This land has been given to the Parish Council by Bloor Homes in compliance with an agreement with the District Council (called a Section 106 agreement) and subject to a restrictive covenant that the land must be used for “sports pitches and a community facility”.  Cherwell Council advises that the restriction (which is registered with the Land Registry) is valid and complies with the agreement they have with the developer.  A copy of the agreement is on the Cherwell web site (planning ref: 13/01768/F) .  The Parish Council or, at least, a majority of the Parish Council believes this gift of land provides an opportunity to improve sports provision generally (something Cherwell desperately needs to do) and that football could be a part of that provision but certainly not exclusively.  There is no intention to hand over the land and certainly none to subsidise development out of the council tax.  The Parish Council is consulting with village organisations to see what demand there is for sports use and a community facility generally.

We then move to the Annual Parish Meeting on Tuesday 4 April.  Again, an anonymous leaflet had been circulated and I would assume around the western part of the village if those attending are an indication of the distribution.  Once the normal business of the meeting was dealt with, there was a prolonged period of questioning, mainly clearly influenced by the statements in the anonymous leaflet.  The end result was a proposition for a Parish Poll to ask residents this question: “Do you support plans for football pitches and a clubhouse on the land north of Milton Road?” The law states that a Parish Poll must be held if at least 10 people demand it at the Annual Parish Meeting so the question will be put on 11 May to the electors of Adderbury.

There is no answer to this question because there is no plan for football pitches and a clubhouse on this site.  There is a view from a number of parish councillors that part of the land could be used for football pitches alongside other sports uses and in compliance with the restrictive covenant.  There is also a view that this could be an opportunity to build a community centre to meet the needs of Adderbury’s 3,000 plus residents which could include changing rooms for sports generally but also to meet the needs of the wider community and the many organisations that meet in the village.  None of this could happen unless there was a viable business case to demonstrate the facility would be self sustaining and without a call on the council tax.

The demand for the Parish Poll was signed by 26 electors of whom 12 gave their address as Horn Hill Road; 4 were from Norris Close; 3 were from the Adderbury Fields development still under construction; 2 from Berry Hill Road and 2 from Tanners Lane with 1 from Lake Walk and 1 from Lester Close.   The Parish Poll will take place on Thursday 11 May from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm at either the Institute or the Methodist Chapel.  Voting must be in person; there is no postal voting.  The cost will fall on Adderbury residents through their council tax.

How are villagers to vote for a question based on an untruth?  Given a view from a number of parish councillors that football pitches could be a part of the provision on this site and that a community facility could include sports changing facilities but much more and has the potential to create the sort of community centre this village deserves, we need people to turn out from all quarters of Adderbury and to answer YES on the basis that the land has to be used for sports pitches and a community facility and that football may well be a part but only a part of that provision.  The site is 7 acres so there is room for a variety of uses and plenty of off-road parking; something no other community building in Adderbury can offer.

Democracy is about trying to meet the needs of the whole community.  It is not about a  minority working the system to defend their own narrow interests.

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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