Saturday, 20 October 2018

Protest leaflet inserted into newsletter without permission

A FLYER urging Shiplake residents to oppose the earmarking of four sites for development was inserted into the village newsletter without permission.

The anonymous leaflet, believed to have been written by a group of residents, was delivered to scores of households in last month’s edition of Shiplake News.

It said the four plots off New Road should be struck from the first draft of the village’s neighbourhood plan, arguing that developing them would erode the “green gap” between Lower Shiplake and Shiplake Cross and alternative land should be found.

The flyer was included without the knowledge or consent of Shiplake Parish Council, which produces the newsletter and is overseeing the creation of the plan.

One of the newsletter’s distributors is thought to have been responsible but the council says the issue has been resolved amicably.

The neighbourhood plan names six sites and a further three reserves where 33 new homes could be built by 2033 to comply with South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan. It earmarks two plots off New Road, one just east of the junction with Crowsley Road and another on the northern side, as main sites and another two to the south as reserves.

The nine sites were revealed at a public exhibition at Shiplake Memorial Hall last month and the plan steering group is inviting feedback before it submits the final draft for independent examination.

If the plan passes a referendum, it will become a legally binding aspect of the district council’s planning policy.

David Bartholomew, who is a member of the steering group and represents Shiplake on Oxfordshire County Council, said: “As far as I’m aware, the leaflet was written by a group of residents in close proximity to those sites in New Road.

“They clearly feel that including those sites would go against our own objective of preserving the green gap but in fact those sites would sit within a clear, newly-defined development boundary.

“The steering group welcomes debate and negotiation but our view is that it’s very unhelpful to put an anonymous flyer inside the newsletter as it caused confusion about whether it was an official communication.

“It appeared in the same edition as our report and some people weren’t sure whether the leaflet formed part of it. It also contained misleading information.

“Others who disagree with the choice of sites have come forward and made representations openly, which we’re perfectly happy with as we want to produce a plan that’s supported by the majority of residents.

“I hope those responsible now accept that it is better to have open and transparent dialogue on these matters.”

Peter Boros, the steering group chairman, said: “This was a wholly unauthorised and misleading flyer that was inserted in the newsletter by one of the distributors. We became aware of this spoiler but took the view that most people would recognise it for what it is — a resident seeking to move development away from where they live.”

Tudor Taylor, chairman of the parish council, said: “I have no strong views on it. I think they should have sought permission to include their view in a publication produced by others but if the information is relevant then that’s fine.

“It’s all part of the debate and the ongoing consultation, which we want as many people as possible to take part in.”

The other main sites in the plan are the Shiplake Motors garage in Northfield Road, two neighbouring plots opposite the main entrance to Shiplake College in Reading Road and a strip of land along the southern edge of Plough Lane.

The third reserve plot is a field east of Reading Road which runs behind the houses at the end of Baskerville Lane.

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