My name is Caroline Newton. I have been your representative on the District Council (SODC) since September 2017 when I stood for election following the resignation of the previous District Councillor, Steve Harrod (who remains your County Councillor and Chair of Great Milton Parish Council) . Having been born and raised in South Oxfordshire, I now live with my family in Britwell Salome.
I’m writing this briefing to let you know of recent changes at SODC and how they may affect you.
The District Council is responsible for many of the local public services you use from planning, to social housing and waste collection (while the County Council is in charge of social care, the roads, education).
One of the main focuses of the District Council at the moment is the creation of the Local Plan, our vision for the development of our district over the next 15 years. This Local Plan identifies where housing, retain and employment land should be located, as well as the infrastructure needed to support this growth – like new schools, roads, health services etc.
Just before Easter, my fellow councillors and I called for a pause to the Local Plan as we were concerned that the developments it proposed could not (and should not) actually be delivered within the 15 year time-frame of the Plan. The main concern for most of us was the inclusion of a proposal to build around 3000 on Chalgrove Airfield. I had, in any case been far from convinced that this was the right place to locate thousands of new homes. But in the months running up this decision to pause there had been two critical developments. Firstly, it had become apparent that there was a big gap in the funding available for the infrastructure necessary to make such a big settlement work (particularly the road-building infrastructure), and secondly we realised it was far from clear that the site would be vacated by its current tenants (Martin-Baker) in that time-frame.
Partly as a result of this concern about the direction of the Local Plan, councillors decided it was time for a new Leader at SODC. The Council is still run by a Conservative Administration, but in mid-April councillors elected Jane Murphy to replace the former Leader, John Cotton, whom many of you knew. As part of this reshuffle, Jane invited me to join her Cabinet where I am now responsible for Housing and Environment for the Council.
Under this new leadership, the Council has decided to look again at all available sites for major housing development in the district, as long as the extra time it will take does not significantly impact on a countywide housing growth agreement (the so-called Growth Deal).
We intend to reassess each of the main housing sites currently proposed in the Plan, along with previously-considered locations and some additional sites that have more recently been put forward by developers:
• Current proposed sites: Culham, Wheatley, Berinsfield and Chalgrove Airfield;
• Previously considered (but not progressed) sites: Thornhill, Wick Farm, Lower Elsfield, Grenoble Road, Northfields, Harrington and land at Great Western Park;
• Additional sites submitted by developers: land at Emmer Green, Reading, Reading Golf Club, Playhatch at Reading, land off Thame Road, North Weston.
The sites of greatest concern to residents in Great Milton will be Chalgrove, Harrington and North Weston. Chalgrove and Harrington are well known you. You may recall that Harrington was not considered a suitable site for such a large number of houses in the
most recent SODC assessment. Without wanting to pre-judge the work of the Council, I am not aware of any new factors that would change that assessment.
As for the North Weston, I understand that an outline proposal was put to the Planning team at the end of last year, much too late to be considered for the Local Plan as it then stood. I have asked officers for information about the site and will share that with you once I have it.
I work hard to represent the interests and concerns of residents of my ward amongst my fellow councillors and with officers. I try to come to Parish Council meetings where I update on Council business and am tasked to investigate matters relating the parish. But am also available between times so please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will respond as quickly and helpfully as I can.