‘Help us to chart our village’s future’

John Bleach says that without more help, the Wolvercote Neighbourhood Plan will be delayed

John Bleach says that without more help, the Wolvercote Neighbourhood Plan will be delayed Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

WOLVERCOTE’s neighbourhood plan could take more than two years to produce if more volunteers do not come forward, it has been warned.

Neighbourhood Forum chairman John Bleach said the group currently lacks the manpower to study both the Northern Gateway proposals and also research and produce its own document.

The community could influence what kind of development happens locally – such as the gateway – but it needs to produce a neighbourhood plan.

He said: “We need more people to be working with us on this. Progress will be very slow if more do not come forward. We have kept momentum and public interest up until now but it needs maintaining.

“Following meetings we had where local people told us their priorities, we need volunteers to look at our draft plan in more detail and concentrate on about 15 areas which need work. That includes our concerns about traffic and flooding. Residents need to come in and examine these issues and form working parties. They are important and will affect people’s children and grandchildren – what Wolvercote will look like in 20 years time.”

Mr Bleach said the group was in most need of administrative help, as well as a project manager.

Neighbourhood plans were introduced through the Localism Act in April 2012. They allow communities to create detailed development plans for their area, within the limits of any larger council plans, that can dictate where new homes and offices should be built and what they should look like. Once a plan is drawn up, it must be approved by a local referendum and will then be legally binding.

The Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum was formally recognised by Oxford City Council in January, following resident concerns about a 190-home plan for a former paper mill site and the city council’s Northern Gateway business park scheme. The gateway proposals, councillors hope, could go before a Government planning inspector for approval in January 2015.

The Summertown and St Margarets Neighbourhood Forum is also currently compiling a neighbourhood plan. But chairman Martin Peters said the group was making very good progress.

Village issues

Paper mill – Paper production in Wolvercote dates back to at least 1674. In 1870 the 17-acre mill site, south of the A34, was bought by Oxford University Press, but it was closed in 1998 and demolished in 2004.

The year after, Oxford University revealed its plans for a £40m development including 190 homes for its staff. Those plans have currently been shelved following public outcry, but the university is currently considering selling the land without planning permission.

Northern Gateway – A 100-acre site near Wolvercote which Oxford City Council wants to develop into a business park with some homes.

The council is currently creating an Area Action Plan (AAP) for the site similar to the one it created for Barton West. It must be approved by a Government planning inspector before any work can go-ahead.

It is hoped that will happen in January 2015.

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