Adderbury Parish Council By-Election

I hope you will be going to vote on Thursday in the by-election for Adderbury Parish Council  following the resignation of Chris Shallis.  If you want to assess the two candidates who are standing, you could do no better than look at the Adderbury News web site.  This will give you a very clear indication of the relative styles and aims of the two candidates.  I will make no comment.  I think the manner in which they have answered questions speaks volumes …..

Voting is at the Methodist Church hall from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.  You do not need to take your polling card but it can speed things up if you have it with you.  I hope to publish the result late on Thursday evening.

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Work starts on Milton Road land

If  you have noticed machinery on the Milton Road land between the Henge Close estate and Ball-Colegrave, you are probably wondering what is happening.  This is the archaeological digging that is required by Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council as a condition for granting planning permission for the field to be used for sporting and community uses.  The work will take a few days and the results will then be examined by the county archaeologists.  If nothing of significance is found, work can then proceed with the necessary drainage works for the field to be suitable for sports activities such as badminton, cricket, football, netball and running (all in alphabetical order to deny any precedence or priority!).  If an ancient Roman fortress or something similar is thought to lie beneath, further exploration will be required.  Of course, certain individuals living not a million miles from Milton Road might be hoping for this but we shall have to wait and see!

At the same time, I hope the parish council will agree to commission architects to examine the evidence of need found through village surveys and start the work of designing a community centre that will meet the growing needs of Adderbury for indoor sporting and community facilities and also satisfy the exacting stylistic requirements expected of an ironstone village of this quality.  Needless to say, access to the site will need to be considered together with the traffic implications of a sports and community facility in this location.

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Lies, damned lies and statistics

The quote that forms the title of this blog was made popular by Mark Twain but attributed  to Benjamin Disraeli, among others.  It seems to be applicable to the traffic calming debate in Adderbury.

While there is no doubt there is an issue caused by traffic speed and volume in the village, sensible debate is not helped if false statistics are employed.  Campaigners have focused their attention on West Adderbury,  including Horn Hill Road and the Milton Road and adjoining new estates.  Their focus has been sharpened by a striking statistic which seemed to show an increase in traffic flows along Horn Hill Road between 2012 and 2018 of 141%.  This does seem a huge increase and has been quoted repeatedly by those wishing to subvert the Milton Road development by spending funding designated for sports and community facilities there on an expensive 20 mph traffic calming scheme.

Well, a sharp-eyed parish councillor has spotted that the figure is wrong!  It failed to  compare like with like and took traffic movements along Horn Hill Road in both directions in 2018 and compared them with movements in one direction only in 2012.  The true increase over this period on a like-for-like basis is apparently 17%!

Whether this false statistic was the result of ignorance, human error or deliberate misrepresentation, I leave to others to decide but at least we have a truthful figure now with which to inform public debate.

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Advice to those seeking public office

Adderbury experienced a hustings meeting last night at The Institute in preparation for the Parish Council By-Election to be held on Thursday 21-Feb-19.  It was organised by Iain Corcoran who is one of two candidates standing.  The other candidate  is Vicky Head who has distributed a leaflet round the village with information about her.

The meeting was attended by some 20 residents, mainly of more advanced years and with some half a dozen clearly supporting Corcoran and a similar number opposing him.

Having watched Iain Corcoran at the hustings for the first half hour, here are some tips for  him or anyone else seeking public office. They are based on my own experience as a county councillor for 24 years; as a parish councillor for much of that time and as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council for eleven years.

  • Know your constituency:  It was quite unwise to demonstrate your ignorance of the name of the Aynho Road.  It is one of the main roads leading into the village and contains the village’s primary school.
  • Be inclusive:  Omitting the Oxford Road and the Aynho Road from your list of roads requiring traffic calming certainly did not win the support of those living in or near them.
  • Reflect on your body language:  Addressing a meeting with your hands in your pockets is not a good idea.  Your hands say a lot about you and are a valuable asset if used moderately and to good effect.  For an ex-soldier, standing with hands in pockets seemed an odd contradiction?
  • Know your audience: It was highly likely that your audience was going to comprise mainly older residents and of a small “c” conservative disposition.  You might have  been better off  in a shirt, tie and jacket and with proper trousers rather than jeans.  Blair and Cameron masqueraded as men of the people but many villagers want to see those aspiring to public office decently and respectably attired.
  • Respect your audienceWagging your finger at your audience and reminding one of them that you are likely to outlive them are unlikely to win many friends or votes.
  • Do not insult your audience’s intelligence: Trite comments about “bobbies on the beat” might fool a few who are living in the past but many understand the real world and will not be impressed by your intention to address the Chief Constable of TVPA.
  • Understand democracy; It is foolish in the extreme to refer to seven members of the (currently) 10-sstrong parish council as “the opposition”.  The opposition in any council are those who cannot secure a majority of votes.  While it is unusual to find an opposition in a parish council, it is a sad fact that Adderbury Parish Council has one but it comprises three members and not seven!
  • Have clarity on your policies:  While you are clearly majoring on your desire for traffic calming, you need to be honest about their implementation with chicanes, build-outs and other aspects that those living near them might find objectionable.  You also need to be clear about the unavailability of much of the developer contributions that you seem to think could be spent on traffic calming and the police’s unwillingness to enforce 20 mph seed limits.
  • Milton Road development: You need to be clear about your intentions for the Milton Road site.  You kept referring to it as a “sports facility” and, as a resident of a nearby development, there may be a suspicion that you wish to derail any development there to prevent something you might see as noisy or intrusive.  It is not clear whether you had been to the Institute ever before or have seen the other meeting places in the village.  None of them is sufficient for the 21st century and a village of Adderbury’s size.  It is the intention of the majority on the parish council to develop a modern community centre and sports facility at Milton Road that meets the needs of the village.  It s also clear that a group who oppose development of the Milton Road site are seeking to spend funds allocated towards it on a highly expensive and questionable traffic calming scheme.  You may be thought to be a part of that group if your position is not clarified.

All in all, I think you have something to learn about standing for public office.

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Contemplating a coronary?

I very much hope that we see no heart attacks in Adderbury although some of the goings on in this village could provoke one!  However, the village is prepared should anyone suffer a coronary.   Thanks to generous donations from customers of The Bell, from Hook Norton Brewery and several local clubs and organisations, a defibrillator has now been installed on the front wall of The Bell.  It is sited under the street light in an illuminated cabinet next to Adderbury Stores.  It is available 24 hours per day and anyone requiring access to the unit needs to ‘phone 999 where they will be given the exact location, the code to unlock the cabinet and instructions on caring for the patient.  It is an intelligent unit and although one hopes it will never be needed, it will not allow a shock to be administered unless it detects a requirement.

Hook Norton Brewery have kindly offered to run training courses to ensure residents would feel comfortable if the need arose to operate the defibrillator.  There will be two courses at The Bell on Thursday 7th March.  The first will run from 2:30 pm to 4;30 pm and the second from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.  They are free to attend and tea & coffee will be provided.  Anyone wishing to attend should ‘phone The Bell on 01295 810338 or e-mail Chris Shallis to reserve a place.

Congratulations to Chris Shallis who led this project and to all who contributed.

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Traffic calming – myths and motives

There is a lot of debate about traffic calming in Adderbury at the moment.  Some is the result of genuine concern about both the volume and speed of traffic on some village roads; however, there is also a campaign to stir up this concern for an altogether different motive.  More of this later.

There is no doubt we have a traffic problem in Adderbury.  There is considerable congestion at the Aynho Road traffic lights in the morning and evening rush hours with considerable tailbacks along the Oxford Road, Banbury Road and Aynho Road.  One result of this is rat running through the streets in that part of the village known as Twyford.

Whenever it rains for any time, there is a flooding problem on the Banbury Road where the drains are clearly not coping with a rush of water and need a good clean and, perhaps, some structural exploration and re-engineering.

The new estates on the Milton Road are experiencing difficulty in entering and exiting due to traffic volumes and speeds along the Milton Road.

The Oxford Road also causes concern with traffic volumes and speeds making it difficult to enter the road from side roads or properties on it and there are occasional times at the junction with Berry Hill Road when there are tailbacks.

Residents of Horn Hill Road (well represented on the Parish Council) complain of excessive speed here although it is unclear what the base figure is for which a 141% increase is claimed.  I suspect it is not as high as some would have us believe.

I have no doubt the problems are real to various degrees and are a function of the County Council’s precarious financial position leading to an inability to fund road improvements which are their responsibility and the growth in houses in the village which has increased car usage in and through the village without adequate provision for the extra numbers.  I also think there is a minority of drivers whose inconsiderate speeding is a serious worry.

Some time ago, the Parish Council formed an informal working group to consider traffic calming.  Unfortunately, it was largely taken over by a single individual, formal meetings were not called, proper minutes were not maintained, all members were not included and a report that purported to be from the group was clearly the work of a single person with a distinctive agenda.  The outcome was a recommendation to spend over half a million pounds on a number of traffic calming schemes including a 20 mph speed limit through much of the village.  Two sources of funding were proposed.  They were to spend developer contributions held for Adderbury and amounting to something like this sum or to borrow from the Public Works Loans Board and to finance the repayments by an increase in the council tax.

This is where the motivation behind these proposals needs to be understood.  There is a core of individuals who are bitterly opposed to development of sports and community  facilities on the donated Milton Road land.  A large part of the developer contributions held for the village are a single sum specifically allocated to the Milton Road scheme.  Using this for a different purpose would require the approval of Cherwell District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the developers and, I suspect, would not be forthcoming.  I am afraid residents have been sold a pup in the recent WARA Traffic Survey which suggested this funding was available.  When offered a free gift, few people will refuse it so it is not surprising that the WARA Traffic Survey comes out resoundingly in favour of raiding the developer contribution for the Milton Road although many people responding would have been unaware of the nature and unavailability of the fund.

I further suspect that many residents may not have thought through the implications of a 20 mph speed limit in the village.  First, Thames Valley Police do not favour them and would not enforce one. Secondly, the County Council would insist on measures to enforce speed reduction such as chicanes and build-outs.  While some residents may favour a 20 mph speed limit, I suspect they will be less keen on having chicanes or build-outs near their homes with the inevitable slowing and speeding of vehicles on either side and the consequent impact on air quality.  Thirdly, there is some evidence that they do not work and are going out of favour.

The Parish Council dismissed the proposals from the informal Traffic Calming Working Group and disbanded a group that had not been working effectively.  It added traffic calming to the responsibilities of the Environment Committee of the Parish Council.  This has met regularly, in  public with the clerk taking minutes and has made substantial progress with issues that are affordable and capable of addressing some of the immediate problems.  The Parish Council has co-opted a non-Parish Councillor with expertise in traffic matters and he has added considerably to the quality of the debate and the speed with which matters are being addressed.

It is proposed to increase the delegated powers of the Committee and to give it access to the sum in the Parish Council budget for traffic calming.  This will further speed up the decision making process while retaining accountability for public funds.  It is a shame that an issue that is a genuine concern has been hi-jacked by a small group with an entirely different agenda and one that seeks to deny modern sporting and community facilities to the residents of Adderbury.

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Parish Council gets its money back

You will see from the Parish Council web site that Adderbury Parish Council has had the legal costs it paid in fighting two judicial reviews repaid.  The judicial reviews were sought in May 2017 by a solicitor living in the village and were dismissed by His Honour Justice Purle in July 2017 as being “totally without merit“.  Due to an oversight, our legal advisers had not requested costs to be awarded and the judgement was silent as to costs which amounted to £6,100 for the Parish Council.  The Parish Council subsequently applied for costs to be awarded and this received a favourable decision at first in March  2018 but this was taken to the Court of Appeal in December 2018 where the local lawyer was given leave to appeal the order for costs.  As a result of the statements by Rt Hon Lord Justice Holroyd in the Court of Appeal, our lawyers negotiated a settlement with the local lawyer and agreed to repay the full legal costs paid by the Parish Council.

This issue has consumed hours of time by the Chairman and Clerk and some members of the Parish Council were severely intimidated by the nature of communications they received employing complicated legal terminology for which they had had no training.

It is clear the whole process was intended to bully the Parish Council into abandoning its plans to build a community centre and sports facilities on the gifted land at Milton Road.  I am personally very pleased that the majority of members of the Parish Council had the courage to stand up to the bullying and intimidation and to win through at the end.

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