The last two weeks have been busy for those with interests in the Salt Cross Garden Village. The Government-appointed Planning Inspector held hearings on the wide range of topics covered in West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC) Area Action Plan (AAP) for the Garden Village. Eynsham was well represented at the hearings and many people made some excellent points – I sincerely hope the Inspector will take note. Thank you for your support and input.
While we don’t yet know what the Inspector’s verdict will be, the hearings revealed that his main concern is over the phasing of the development and how this relates to things like infrastructure payments from developers. He also had concerns about the timing of the A40 plans, in regards supporting the new houses, the business park and other developments planned for the Garden Village. (I’ll share more on the A40 plans in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the website.)
At Eynsham Parish Council, our worry is that all the fantastic work that groups and individuals in the village have done with WODC to develop the AAP – and with Grosvenor (the potential developer) at their design charrettes – may be watered down. At worst, I fear it may be lost completely.
This is particularly critical because the Garden Village is meant to be an “exemplar”, as was stated in the Government’s original bidding brief. (There was even a debate about exactly what this word means and how it can be measured.) We fully support WODC in their ambition to deliver 25% biodiversity gain and that the Garden Village should be net zero carbon. At the hearings, Grosvenor appeared to be challenging both of these goals as ‘too ambitious’ – one is left wondering what they want their legacy to be.
We also disagreed with Grosvenor over the number of houses on the development. Building more than 2,200 house is, we believe, inconsistent with the space requirements of a true Garden Village, but Grosvenor was pushing for more. One can only assume this is because more houses to sell translates into more profit for the developer. We have differing priorities.
The A40 plans – namely, the proposed connections across the A40 to link Eynsham and Salt Cross – remain a concern to us too. Previously promised landmark bridges have disappeared from the plans and we are left with an underpass (in the wrong place) and at least five sets of pedestrian-controlled crossings. This is not ideal as the A40 will be 40mph on this stretch. We have argued for 30mph and a boulevard-style design, as can be seen on the A40 at Sunderland Avenue in North Oxford.
We were continually referring to our adopted Neighbourhood Plan (NP) throughout the hearings, seemingly to the confusion of others. Sadly, the Plan seems to have been forgotten by WODC and others, but the NP is crucial for our village. This is our only powerful, legal lever to ensure things proceed as the residents of Eynsham wanted and voted for when they supported the NP. The Plan will be updated and strengthened in the coming months as we continue to push for what our community wants to see.
The outcome of these hearings remains to be seen. We suspect that the Inspector will make several significant modifications to the AAP, which could result in a further consultation and a redrafted AAP. It can be disheartening at times to think that so much power rests with one Government-appointed Inspector, when the local people and groups are so invested in this project and have put so much effort into the process. At least the democratic process allows us to have our say – and we did so articulately and convincingly. I hope the Inspector heeds our words and delivers modifications that will be best for our village and community.
There is so much more still to come. We will keep you all posted as soon as we know more. Any questions and thoughts can be directed to me, firstname.lastname@example.org.