Category Archives: News

Planning permission granted: South Drive to be destroyed

ImageSouth Drive is to be levelled and up to 120 new houses are to be built on a new road layout; with no regard to alternative proposals, to the history of the site or to the wishes of existing residents. Link to decision.



Heritage to be razed; local opposition airbrushed

The following formed part of my objection to the planned demolition of South Drive. It was received by the council on 25th February:

“There is nowhere in the county quite like South Drive: a 1936 colonial-style Air Ministry development of mellow red brick, garden bays and sash windows,retaining its original road-layout and situated on chalk downland in an area of outstanding natural beauty. South Drive houses are among the oldest surviving parts of this former airbase.

No.8 South Drive, Sir John Cockroft s former residence, should be considered historically important in relation to the development of the site. The bomber station’s first CO decreed that the station should take the name of whichever parish his house was situated in: thus it was that RAF Harwell is what the UKAEA inherited in 1946, rather than RAF Chilton.” 

I was not the only North Drive objector to raise the soviet hammerheritage value of South Drive as a reason to not destroy it.  Yet here is the planning officer’s summary of our neighbourhood objections:

“3.3 Representations from local residents
– A total of 13 representations had been received at the time of writing this report, of which 11 object and 2 consider that there is not enough information submitted. The objections made are on the grounds of the following concerns:

•Loss of landscape setting and open character of the site
•Increased traffic generation and appropriate parking
•Adverse impact on wildlife, particularly bats
•Impact of construction on routes to the site
•Loss of privacy and of existing residential amenity

So when,  in Section 6.20, Heritage Assets, we are told:
” The proposal has no heritage assets within the site or within the surrounding area. The submission has not identified any heritage asset that is identifiable in the local area that would be subject to any adverse impact from this proposal.

… it is as if no-one had any other view.

Planning committee report: fall of the 5 Year Plan

Having scanned through the 46 page document, a few things jumped out which I’ll detail below and in the next post. Go through it yourself and see if you feel your objections were summarised adequately by the planning office.  My substantive factual comments on the heritage of the site have been airbrushed out of the report entirely. More on that in a moment. First though, here’s the context in which the “need” for this extra housing has been generated :

“6.2 The current lack of a five year supply of housingsoviet hammer
sites in the district is due to the lack of delivery of new housing by developers rather than an under-supply of allocated housing land. This has primarily been caused by delays in progressing some major allocations due to the economic downturn and the delay in bringing forward the council’s new local plan. The current lack of a five year housing land supply justifies some flexibility in line with the NPPF in the consideration of planning applications which do not accord with local plan policy.

Oh I see. Reality gets in the way of the 5 Year Plan so we must sacrifice a well-loved part of our locality to pay for the council’s duff projection. In the parallel universe of local bureaucracy, neighbourhood interests are mere trifles compared with the bother of amending The Plan.

“6.4  It is clear the application is contrary to local plan policy GS2. However, whilst the council does not have a five year housing land supply, policy GS2 is inconsistent with the framework. The proposed development, therefore, needs to be considered on its site specific merits and whether it constitutes a sustainable form of development as defined in the NPPF.

Inconvenient planning rule not to your liking sir? Chuck it away and make a new one! 

Will our elected representatives help? Remember the 2010 election campaign of Mr. Ed Vaizey, promising “…local people a say in how many, and where local homes are needed…”? Well, pre-election localism seems to have morphed into the NPPF post-election, with its notorious presumption in favour of “sustainable development”.  Use of the magic word “sustainable” gives ministers special permission to misrepresent and insult the people they were elected to serve.

Planning committee notification

E-mail received from Planning Committee…

Planning Committee Notification
Location :Land at South Drive Harwell OX11 0PT
Proposal: Outline application for demolition of existing 13 dwellings. Erection
of up to 120 dwellings with associated infrastructure, access, parking and
Application reference: P13/V0129/O

I am writing to let you know planning committee will consider this application on 22nd May 2013. The meeting will start at 6:30pm in the council chamber at Vale of White Horse District Council, Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon, OX14 3JE.

The officer’s recommendation to committee is to grant planning permission. You can see a copy of the officer’s report on our website at – search for ‘meetings and agendas’ and click on planning committee from the list.

If you would like to speak at this meeting, please let me know in writing by 12 noon on 21st May 2013.


To save you the bother of searching through the VWHDC site, here’s the link they didn’t see fit to provide:$ (pdf 85kb)

Feb 2013: objections to the South Drive re-development proposal

This post may be updated if and when  appropriate. If you have info that you think will be of general interest then please add your comment.

Feb 16 2013_0658_edited-1Thanks to Holly Spence for forwarding the following example letters of objection. These are downloadable from the links below.

New Harwell Doc

Objection to South Drive HS

I might add that the largest South Drive house, Sir John Cockroft’s former residence, can be considered historically important in relation to the development of the site. The bomber station’s first CO decreed that the airbase should take the name of whichever parish his house was situated in: thus it was that RAF Harwell is what the UKAEA inherited in 1946, rather than RAF Chilton. (Source: Nick Hance, 2006, Harwell: The Enigma Revealed)

For the full horrors of what’s being planned for our area, the list of documents relating to Goodman’s application is on the VWHDC site here. This is also the page to access the comment facility for your objections. So I think I’d better give it a bigger link. Here then is a nice big red objection-button, linking straight to the form:


Get ’em rolling in. Deadline for objections is 27th Feb.

Update! 19/2/13

Natural England object:

“Natural England objects to this proposal, as we consider that the scale of the proposal is likely to adversely affect the purpose for which the North Wessex Downs AONB has been designated.
The level of housing provision within an AONB should be directly related to the need for housing in that area. This application shows no justification for the need for 120 houses at Harwell.”

Vale and South Oxon Countryside Officer’s initial statement:

“Following my initial review of the submitted information I have contacted RPS the Ecological consultancy who prepared the ecological reports to request
further information regarding the extent and distribution of White Helleborine
across the application site. The site has been found to support a nationally
important population of this endangered plant and it is therefore important to
fully understand the impacts of the proposals before determining the planning

Meanwhile,  Thames Valley Police acceptance appears to be available on receipt of a  new car.

“Having undertaken a qualitative examination of the scheme and the impact of the policing the Local Police Area Commander has requested a contribution of £21,259. The contribution represents a pooled contribution towards the provision of a new marked PCSO vehicle to serve the site and surrounding area.”

Would the proposed development not be served by site police then? Like wot we are…?

November 2012

A glossy sheet of A5 has been plopped through our letterboxes this evening. In four short paragraphs we learn that Goodman are due to make a planning application for “approximately 125” houses on a site identified only as “South Drive”. The application will be made in December, with an exhibition for we likely-objectors on Tuesday 13th November in the cricket pavilion [4PM-8PM].

Immediate thoughts:

Are we expected to breathe a collective sigh of relief that the figure “400” has been replaced by “approximately 125”? Many of us were suspicious of the 400 figure when it was reported – an extremely high density of housing to try plonking on a relatively small and mostly never-developed area in an AONB. And/or is the 125 houses just Phase 1 of something even bigger?

Perhaps they’ve rightly considered the legal problems of access from our private estate roads…

What do you think? Reply below.

Where we are: how our objection to 400 new houses has progressed, from November 2009 – May 2011

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