It doesn’t really feel like 18 months since we first became aware of Goodman’s / UKAEA’s desire to build 400 houses on the fields behind North Drive. For those who haven’t been around for all of this, here’s a quick summary of what’s gone on…
In November 2009 Karon Hawthorne of North Drive was opted into the Harwell Parish Council and in her first couple of weeks was made aware of plans for new houses to be added to the VWH local development plan and core strategy. Luckily there was a meeting of the North Drive Management Company a week away. Karon emailed a few members of the residents committee to make us aware of the situation, and to ask our managing agents to put this on the agenda of the NDMC meeting coming up! Neither the Vale nor the Parish council had, at this point in time, made the residents of North Drive aware of the potential development.
With objections due by the 29th January, the plans only being exhibited in Harwell on the 7th January and the busy Christmas period coming up, this did not leave much time for us to form our objections, or let the majority of the North Drive residents who were still in the dark, become aware of the situation…
I held a meeting with a few residents between the Christmas and New Year period to plan a method of attack for getting the word out to residents and to split up the unenviable task of reading our way through all the literature on the VWH website in relation to the Local Development Plan and the Core strategy of which the 400 houses would be an additional amendment.
We set up a residents meeting for the 10th January, arranging an interview and photo shoot with the Oxford Mail. Luckily the weather that year paid us a favour and with copious amounts of snow in early January the Vale postponed the planned exhibition from the 7th to 28th January, and consequently the consultation period was also extended.
Over the next 6 weeks or so we (the residents) held meetings, attended the open session at the parish council, made contact with other local campaign groups and interested parties, read our way through the VWH literature, formed our formal objections, attended the exhibition (and made our views very vocally known!!), made contact with charities and societies for advice and got in touch with councillors and MPs alike (phew).
We then drafted, read, re-drafted, read, etc. and finally submitted objections from the NDMC/NDRC as a whole. Lots of residents submitted their own objections too. All these can be viewed on the council website. [pdf file: opens in new window. Arguments for and against the proposed development on North Drive are found on pages 23-27]
And then we played the waiting game…we had been told we would hear by June 2011
However all can change with a general election and sometime around the 27th May the new coalition government announced the abolishing of the need for councils to produce ‘regional spatial strategies’ – i.e. the local development framework! Our celebration was short lived…upon contacting the VWH I was informed they were still pressing ahead with their LDF, but that due to being ‘overtaken by events’ there would be a ‘slippage’ in the councils response on the amendments to the LDF…we are still waiting to hear on these! The last LDF expires in 2012, so we hope we hear before then!
In the meantime I was contacted by Goodman’s (the AEA developers) as they would like to meet with me, Karon and David Marsh (Chair of Harwell Parish Council) to ‘share and discuss’ their plans for the Harwell site with us. In addition to this I asked Clare Howells and Emma Coghill as directors of the NDMC committee, and Ade Brown as a long term resident to attend this meeting at well. We met with them in August 2010 and again in October 2010
I will write a separate article about these meetings (and what we thought of Goodman’s and their associates!) but all in all it appeared they only wanted to meet with us in order to show the council we were on board and had agreed to their plans, to tell us how wonderful it would be to have all these extra houses here and to imply that they already had permission so there was no real point in us objecting! At our second meeting with them we presented them with a letter informing them that the overriding position of the North Drive residents was to object to the proposals and therefore we were not in a position to comment on any of their plans.
We also went to see Ed Vaizey and Reg Waite came to visit some of the residents towards the end of last year. No clear voice of support or otherwise came out of these meetings.
Since then it has all been a bit quiet…that is until last week, when an article appeared in the Didcot Herald. Our fate is finally going to be discussed on the 8th July!
So that’s a summary of the last 18 months or so! Hopefully we will get key documents and things uploaded to the site for you all to view. Things are going to hot up in the next few weeks so we will keep you posted and look forward to us all getting as geared up again as we were 18 months ago!!!
Posted by Susannah
Chair of the North Drive Residents’ Committee