From our district councillor
From District Councillor Elizabeth Gillespie, March 2015
On the post-fire situation I am pleased to report that the officers are continuing to manifest a stalwart front in what are extremely difficult conditions and that our main services, to all intents and purposes, are running as per norm. Our Crowmarsh offices housed 400 staff and currently the officers are having to share / alternate with the 40 places available at the Vale offices and work from home. Their networking has been impressive.
I would ask everyone to be patient with the Planning Department as they are running a little behind, but catching up fast. My personal plans for changes to the Grants policy have had to be put on hold now until after the election and, providing I am still in post, we will bring about any changes deemed advisable at that point.
In the short term we have negotiated the rental of a suitable building to re-house the staff, as it is less readily accessible to our public we have made the decision that all public meetings will be held at locations on Howberry Park, Crowmarsh Gifford, which is virtually next door to our old offices. We are still looking at our various options for long term office solutions and are in continuous dialogue with our insurers and assessors, but it is early days yet. In the meantime if anyone has any queries or problems please do not hesitate to contact me.
From District Councillor Elizabeth Gillespie 2014
This year has been a fairly eventful one on SODC's front. The majority of the Vale of White Horse staff have moved into our Crowmarsh offices. The building was actually depressingly empty and it is certainly a more vibrant environment now; however I do have concerns over the Planning departments being physically integrated as in many respects SODC has been far more vigilant in implementing policies and, in my opinion, generally more efficient.
The SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Appraisal) statistics have now been made public and as has been abundantly reported. Although the general response is that these require a growth of about twice the rate of that required by the South East Plan, if in fact one looks at the SHMA itself it does state in its body that it is merely a trajectory of housing requirements NOT a housing needs target. It recognizes that there are factors such as AONB and Green Belt that will inhibit its housing build. Their figures are based on anticipated enterprise growth and of course enterprise would be of benefit to our County. However on a practical level the predicted growth and its consequences are unrealistic and extremely unlikely to be implemented. As ever the various interested parties, now through the City Deal and SEP (Strategic Economic Plan) are attempting to realise their ambitions to build South East of Grenoble Road. Nick Bowles has been very useful to our cause in saying that the need for housing does not constitute the very special circumstances currently required to justify violating the Green Belt Planning policy, however there is now the 'duty to co-operate' between Councils and City have 21,000 houses to accommodate.
SEP. I have managed to secure a seat on the SEP in my role as Chair of LEADER and have done my best to ensure that the Green Belt is recognized in the document which has now been submitted to central Government and of course to ensure that our predominantly rural South Oxfordshire will benefit from the substantial funding which is due. At the beginning of the process funding allocation appeared very City-centric.
I have been vice Chair of Planning and Licensing this year and am Chair of LEADER.
LEADER. Although not yet properly defined, we anticipate the grounds for eligibility to be along the same lines as our previous LEADER allocation. We are currently putting in our bid to DEFRA for future funding, the indications are very positive and it looks as if funding could be already available early next year, we are therefore asking anyone one with projects in mind to contact me with an outline proposal which we could begin to process later in the year. If we are ahead of the game we are most likely to be able to benefit from this extra funding. I would also very much like anyone with knowledge which could be relative to join our LAG (Leader Action Group)
As you all know I do believe it is of real strategic importance to have a mini Neighbourhood plan which, unlike the Parish Plan, DOES carry material Planning weight. This plan should make clear our growth and design ambitions for our villages. The Planning department have repeatedly told me that it would be of considerable importance to us as a village, particularly in the current climate of massive build!
Mains Drainage in Toot. Once more I would like to encourage those interested to gather any new proof of evidence without which we do not stand a chance of success at this moment in time. There should be photographic evidence, reports etc which we can then submit to Thames Water and begin the process over again. There appears to be very little evidence at SODC about the previous application but Chris Nichols is a valuable source of information on this point and of course I was very much involved. However, I personally have not been aware of more problems than at that time; in fact the added problems that were created by the Mole Inn are now mitigated. Once we have a case of course I will do all I can to push it forward.
I hope that I am always readily available to help with any relative problems anyone has and can assure you that I am doing all in my power behind the scenes to protect and enhance our villages and City.