An article in today’s Guardian (20th January 2016) reinforces what Labour has been saying for the last 18 months about the development shambles that the Tory Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County Councils, ably abetted by their own Government, have been imposing on the town and its people.
Last year for example, we drew attention (‘Our Politicians Are Letting Us Down’ Blogpost 3rd Nov) to the total lack of understanding from our MP Victoria Prentis with her question to Cameron at PMQs on how well infrastructure was keeping pace with housing development in Bicester. Even more astonishing, the PM’s response – that the example of thousands of houses being built in step with infrastructure – caused us to wonder if he has ever been here (or perhaps his special advisers who write his answers to ‘planted’ questions haven’t?).
In December (‘What Kind Of Bicester Do We Want?’, Blogpost 29th Dec), we drew attention to the lack of affordable and social housing in the plans for our town and again, the lack of planned public open space and leisure and community facilities for old and young alike. More to the point, the lack of involvement of the people of Bicester in preparing the plan for the Town could, we suggested, turn Bicester into little more than a ‘soulless New Town’ much less a Garden Town.
The original idea behind Garden Towns 100 years ago, was that they would provide a balance between the best of urban and rural life, with ample public open and private space, mixed housing developments in both tenure and style, and a clear separation between industry and residential areas. Those principles are notable by their absence in the strategic plan for Bicester. The Guardian article today – ‘Dog’s Breakfast Springs to Mind’ http://gu.com/p/4ftvy/sbl – makes exactly these points with particular reference to the fact that planning in Bicester is being driven solely by commercial and developers’ interests, whether housebuilders or unaccountable business interests through the Local Enterprise partnership (LEP). The voice of local residents and businesses seems to be singularly absent and the concerns for the natural environment and conservation as a key asset are being ignored.
Apparently, according to the Guardian piece, plans for our town are currently being ‘refreshed’ (Cllr Barry Wood, Leader Cherwell DC). In Labour’s view, that refresh exercise should engage fully with the residents and embrace fully the principles and practice of a true Garden Town before it’s too late!