Thursday, 09 December 2021

Village revamp on hold due to lack of funding

PLANS to improve the centre of Sonning Common have been put on hold due to a lack of funding.

The parish council first proposed improving the village in 2018 after a public consultation on the neighbourhood plan showed it was a top priority for residents.

In 2017, it spent £10,000 on hiring street design and traffic expert Ben Hamilton Baillie to come up with ideas on how to improve traffic flow and discourage poor parking.

The entire project would cost about £2million but Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, says there is no funding available at the moment.

In a letter to the parish council, the county council said: “We are currently conducting a large amount of work on walking and cycling in the county and this will continue to be a key focus of our transport work moving forward.

“The ideas you have shared are good and align with much of the work we are conducting elsewhere.

“Unfortunately, at present we do not have the resource or funding available to progress the schemes.”

The council said the plans could become part of its plan to create a Strategic Active Travel Network. The letter said: “The [network] will identify key existing and potential routes for walking and cycling between main destinations and prioritise interventions to such routes.

“Having it in place will not directly translate into specific schemes being funded or prioritised but it will hopefully contribute towards stronger bids and attracting funding for schemes in rural areas.”

Stuart Howe, who chairs the parish council’s village centre and environment committee, said: “We always knew this would be a long game with no defined timeline and funding would be the biggest hurdle.

“We have an approved set of plans and a vision for the future of the village centre.

“We will continue to liaise with the county council and South Oxfordshire District Council and engage with them as and when different funding streams become available.

“In the meantime, we will focus on other areas of the village that need our support.”

Chairman Michael Cann suggested that the parish council should discuss whether Sonning Common receives its “fair share of money” compared with other councils in Oxfordshire.

Councillor John Stoves said: “I think over the last few years we’ve done very well.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins, who is also a district councillor, said he agreed.

But he added: “The response is disappointing and I think it is something we should change.

“If it’s in the neighbourhood development plan, it’s something that has to be judged as desirable.”

Mr Hamilton Baillie suggested redesigning the village centre, where there are 10 shops, restaurants and other businesses.

He also suggested making the centre of Wood Lane a different colour to the edges so that it appears narrower and encourages pedestrians and drivers to take more care.

Suggestions were also made about redesigning the entrances to the village at the junction of Wood Lane with Peppard Road and with Kennylands Road and Reades Lane and introducing a central paved feature at the latter.

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