Keep Harwell Rural Campaign

The story so far

KHR was formed in 1998 when Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) launched a consultation called Which Way Didcot. Didcot had been identified as a growth town and 3500 houses were to be planned for 2011, through The Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011.

The question was where should the extra houses go: to the north to extend the Ladygrove estate, to the west, or a mixture of the two?

One of the problems is that Harwell lies in Vale of White Horse (VWH) District Council but Didcot is part of South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC). Didcot is expanding into both areas. This causes problems when integrating policies and infrastructure.

Approximate boundaries of Harwell Parish and VWH and SODC District Councils

Plans up to 2011

OCC decided to expand Didcot to the north east but received sufficient formal objections to trigger an Examination in Public (EiP), chaired by an independent Inspector.

KHR was officially represented at the EiP into the ‘Alteration to the Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011’ held in 1999, and supported the OCC position that Didcot should expand to the north east not to the west on sustainability grounds (not building on the high quality agricultural land to the west as recommended by the EiP panel report).

In March 2000 the Environment Committee of OCC was persuaded by supporters of the western site, including the developers and their agent, RPS Consulting, to vote to reject the EiP recommendation. Subsequently OCC put the western option rather than the north east option into its 2011 Structure Plan.

Extract from the Alteration to the Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011, adopted April 2001.

KHR held a meeting in Harwell in the summer of 2000 to see if people wanted to continue fighting the western expansion of Didcot. There was strong support in the village and it is from this meeting that the current KHR Committee was formed.

From 2000 to 2004, KHR was active in the consultations held by VWH and SODC on their Local Plans for 2011. This involved a lot of work and liaison with many people in Didcot, Harwell and West and East Hagbourne who shared the same views. KHR was represented at the three Public Inquiries held on the Local Plans. The Inspector’s report on the Didcot Public Inquiry did not recommend any significant change to the proposals for ‘Didcot West’ (later known as “Great Western Park”) but it did recognise that the expansion of Didcot posed problems to the infrastructure and traffic levels around Didcot.

Great Western Park

Approximate location and boundaries of Great Western Park (light blue). The dark blue triangle is the location of the new Orchard Centre in Didcot.

Outline planning permission for Great Western Park was granted by VWH and SODC in the summer of 2006. KHR has continued to comment on the impacts of the development and the detailed planning proposals. The agreements reached between VWH, SODC and the developers include some funds that could be put towards a future ‘Harwell bypass’, but this will not be built as a consequence of Great Western Park itself.

For more details about the planning applications for Great Western Park, please see the GWP page on the Parish Council website.

Great Western Park is currently in the process of being built.

Plans beyond 2011

Planning beyond 2011 started around 2005. KHR contributed to the debates and the EiP on the Oxfordshire Structure Plan for 2016, which included further expansion of Didcot. This was superseded by the South East Regional Plan (SE Plan) to 2026, which replaced the Oxfordshire Structure Plan.

Growth point status

The SE Plan included more housing at Didcot. To start with about 3,000 houses were proposed but 1,500 were added when SODC applied for and won ‘Growth Point’ status for Didcot. This meant that Didcot was awarded Government money for infrastructure, on condition that even more houses were built. VWH and SODC agreed to share the total of about 4,500 houses equally. These proposals were opposed by KHR through several consultations and at the EiP on the SE Plan held in 2007. The housing plans for Didcot were incorporated in the SE Plan published in May 2009.
The local councils started to prepare their Local Development Framework Core Strategies (the documents that replaced the old Local Plans) in late 2007.  SODC adopted their current Local Plan in 2012.   VWH has been drafting and consulting on its next Local Plan and is about to publish its "submission" version.

New roads

The draft VWH Plans in 2009/2010 included a Harwell Strategic Link Road from the A417 near the Kingswell Restaurant to the A4130 east of the Milton Interchange with the A34 and a Harwell Field Link Road from the A417 to the entrance of the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus on the A4185. Unfortunately neither of the two draft versions of the VWH Plan (2013 & 2014) include the Harwell Field Link Road.

Oxfordshire County Council is continuing to study potential road improvements in the area. The current absence of the Harwell Field Link Road threatens Harwell with more traffic on the A417 Reading Road.  It would appear that the 2014 draft VWH Local Plan is suggesting upgrading the existing Hagbourne Hill road instead.

http://www.keepharwellrural.org/photos/story_so_far_clip_image007.jpg
Link roads and proposed additional housing in VWH in 2009/2010

Houses to the NE of Didcot

SODC’s latest Local Plan was adopted in 2012.  It includes plans for 2,030 houses to the north east of Didcot, which have yet to be built.

Valley Park

VWH’s draft Local Plan published in 2013 contains proposals for a further 2,150 houses west of Great Western Park by 2029 in an area to be known as “Valley Park”.  This would bring the edge of what is effectively Didcot right up to the A34 and further into Harwell Parish.

An even bigger Valley Park is proposed in the most recent draft of the VWH Local Plan published in February 2014.  See the Home page for details of this and other additional housing near Harwell proposed in that document.

Last update March 2014

 

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