This report is being written before the County Council meeting of 5 April. We are in a period of “purdah” ahead of the District Council election in May, during which the County and District Council public announcements will be fewer and more restrained.
Happenings at County level
As you may have noticed, Covid has not gone away. Rates in Oxfordshire continue to rise. A high proportion of my councillor colleagues have had it in recent weeks. It is regrettable that the Government has made it much harder for people to test for Covid, including those wanting to test before visiting vulnerable residents. All we can do is continue to be careful, wear masks in crowded places, and act as though the Government hasn’t withdrawn their former, sensible advice.
There are a number of very big issues at County Hall at the moment. The Fair Deal Alliance has tentatively given the go-ahead for the HIF1 scheme in the south of the county, subject to the Government and Homes England guaranteeing any cost over-runs, and with an expectation that the new road will prioritise buses over cars. We have also agreed to keep progressing the possible move of Oxford United to near Oxford Parkway Station, subject to a lot of work on protecting the green belt and minimising car usage.
HIF2, which is the scheme we are more familiar with as it includes the A40 changes, will now go to planning later than the April meeting expected. There have been lots of comments and objections, including from each of the parish councils on the route and myself. The Shores Green junction application is also likely to come up later in the Spring and I anticipate it will impact traffic in the area.
Issues on the roads
Tragically, two cyclists have been killed our Oxford city roads in recent weeks. Both were killed by HGVs in areas with inadequate cycling infrastructure, namely at Parkway Station and at the Plain.
Cycling advocates and councillors had previously demanded better infrastructure, but been rebuffed. The Plain was redesigned in 2014 and the changes proposed by cyclists were rejected due to concerns it would slow down the buses and coaches. Parkway was opened without proper bike access. It’s so important that we ensure the proper cycling facilities are in place to protect vulnerable users – we don’t want any more lives lost.
You may have seen the new lane between Hanborough and Bladon. It’s still not good enough, but a huge improvement. It will be joined by a Lower Road path, to be funded out of the Section 106 contributions from the Garden Village.
There should be some news coming out shortly about Oxfordshire’s share of Tranche 3 of Active Travel funding. I’m hopeful that the news will be good. Less positive news for those who cycle from Eynsham to Oxford the Oxford North junctions have clearly been designed to slow cyclists. I’m working with my colleague (the County Councillor for the area) to get them redesigned.
Parking and pipes
As predicted last month, notice has been given to West Oxfordshire District Council by the County Council that its contract to deliver on-street parking enforcement will end in 12 months to allow enforcement to be managed properly.
Currently it’s not well handled, despite council tax payers subsidising the £400k loss that the District Council makes on parking enforcement each year. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Council Tax from the District Council increased by a higher percentage than from the County Council?
Be reassured that there be no change to the off-street parking, including the carparks in Witney which remain entirely under the control of the District Council. There are no plans by any of the parties, to the best of my knowledge, to charge for them.
I have had meetings with Thames Water, once again, to protest about their dismal performance. South Leigh sewage treatment work remains shut after more than six months, with all sewage going by tanker to Cassington. Despite video evidence to the contrary, Thames Water claim that Cassington is working fine. I will keep trying!
Closer to home
Residents of Eynsham may have noticed the traffic issues close to home. It would be helpful if the Parish Council could consider implementing some parking restrictions in key places. Extensions to the double yellow lines in places like the Acre End St/Station Road junction and the Acre End St/ Mill St junction might make these points safer and potentially protect the Jolly Sportsman from its regular bashing.
Conduit Lane remains shut; the County Council is still awaiting approval from the District Council. This is taking far too long, despite regular requests from your county and district councillors. All I can do is tell you is that we keep trying – and get angrier each time.
And finally, the first Ukranian refugees have arrived in West Oxfordshire. I am sure we will be welcoming, as we are to all newcomers to the area.
Feel free to 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.