This report was presented to Eynsham Parish Council by Cllr Dan Levy, Oxfordshire County Council, in March 2022.
It’s a bit of a transport-heavy report this month, so prepare yourselves..
The County Council passed its budget at the February Full Council meeting. Among other projects, we will see a restoration of youth services (after years of cuts) and feasibility studies on the expansion of rail services, including a potential link between Cassington, Witney, Eynsham and Oxford, for which I have been campaigning for a long time.
Active travel and community buses
The Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance is committed to encouraging public transport and active travel.
Work has already begun on a feasibility study for the cycle and walking path between Eynsham and Hanborough Station. The cost of the path is detailed in the Section 106 (S106) payments from the developers of the Garden Village. The new path will join a cycle track currently being created from Witney to Bladon along the A4095. Blenheim Estates is working closely with the County Council to handle the pinchpoints under the railway and at the corner in Bladon.
I am pleased to say that the First and Last Bus service between Standlake, Stanton Harcourt, Eynsham, Freeland and Hanborough has now been running for two months. It’s being well used, both by pupils travelling to Bartholomew School and by the general public. The funding for these buses came via S106 money from the County Council but the service doesn’t rely on subsidy to keep operating here in Eynsham. This is a relief, as the Government has decided to cease the payments it started during lockdown to keep buses going, leaving many services under threat.
Making the best of inheritance
We inherited two deeply-flawed, large-scale road schemes from the previous administration in which money from Homes England (intended for creating new houses) has been directed towards new or widened highways.
I don’t believe that building roads is a way to combat climate change. If anything, it discourages people from using better forms of transport than the private car – vehicle use will always expand to fill the road space available. However, we may find it impossible to prevent these schemes because of the way they are funded, even though any cost or time overruns – and these things always overrun - are likely to lead to cuts in County Council spending on things we actually want to do.
Local residents will know about the HIF2 scheme, which plans to dual some of the A40 (up to the west of Eynsham) and create bus lanes along the A40 from Eynsham to Wolvercote. Although there are some benefits to the scheme (such as sorting out the mess that is the junction by Cassington), these are outweighed by the costs to the environment, the dangers for people crossing the road (especially in the Salt Cross/Eynsham corridor), and above all by the likelihood that the new scheme won’t actually reduce congestion or increase bus use.
These points were all made by my predecessor, too. The scheme will shortly go to planning committee at the County Council and I have put in an objection, as I know many residents and parish councils have too. Unfortunately, the scheme is more likely than not to be approved, primarily because of the way funding has been fixed. I will continue to push for improvements within the plans, on top of the ones we have already secured since the scheme was first devised. We’ll try to make the best of a bad situation!
HIF1 is, if anything, even more problematical. It involves building a new road from the A34 near Didcot, across the site of the old power station and then around Culham. Again, new roads aren’t the correct approach at a time when we should be treating climate change as an emergency. Many of us believe that we should unlock the 12,000 proposed homes without building a major new road, especially on a site so close to a major train junction.
More car news
On the topic of cars – and closer to home – the County Council is likely to give notice to take on-street car parking enforcement back in-house. The issue is currently managed (very badly) by West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC), which absorbs £400k of council tax payer money each year without delivering an adequate service.
You will have noticed how rarely we see parking enforcers here in Eynsham. This results in dangerous parking at junctions, with the limited time spaces (designed to encourage local shopping) being used all day. These problems will likely result in requests for Residents Parking Zones and I predict Woodstock will probably be first. Residents have a real problem finding spaces near their houses because of the influx of visitors.
For the avoidance of doubt, WODC will retain control of its own car parks, including the ones in Witney. It is entirely up to WODC whether it charges for car parking. You may have seen petitions and rumours circulated by political mischief-makers suggesting that the County Council will charge for off-street car parks. The rumours are utterly unfounded – and a new low even for the person behind them.
Last bit of road news: work has begun to connect Old Witney Road to the Thomas Homes (TH) old nursery site. This access was approved as part of the planning application for the site, after TH appealed against a WODC refusal. The plan is that, once the West Eynsham site is developed, access for motor vehicles will be via the West Eynsham roads, with Old Witney Road being blocked to motor vehicles at some point along its length. In the meantime, please be assured that HGVs remain banned from using Old Witney Road.
Keep being kind
Finally, a plea for everyone to be neighbourly. Covid hasn’t gone away, and the rates in Oxfordshire remain stubbornly high. Although the Government has ended all Covid-related laws, advice remains to isolate if infected and to take appropriate heath measure like mask-wearing.
The appalling events in Ukraine are on everyone’s minds. There are many people from Ukraine and Russia, or who are second generation immigrants from these countries, living in our community. They need our support and compassion, and I am sure they will get it. We stand beside you during this difficult time.
As ever, please contact me with any issues, comments or suggestions you may have. You can reach me on Dan.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 07852 748362.