Sunday, 17 January 2021

Bus service for proposed new town ‘just a fantasy’

BUS companies in Oxfordshire have raised concerns about a proposed “new town” at Chalgrove Airfield.

The Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach and Thames Travel say they have consistently expressed “fundamental concerns” about the ability of the development to sustain an “attractive” bus service.

They consider the airfield to be “inherently unsustainable” and claim the plans are “fantasy”.

Homes England, a government agency which owns the land, wants to build 3,000-homes, two primary schools, a secondary school, sixth-form college, shops, a healthcare hub, community and leisure facilities and parks as well as 40,000 sq m of employment space.

Campaign group Chalgrove Shield, which is opposed to the development, said the agency had claimed that there would be a “high quality” bus service linking the development to Oxford and a second one linking it to Didcot but the bus companies disagreed.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately, Homes England has neglected to consult the key experts in the field — the bus operators themselves.

“In a scathing and damning attack on the proposals, the Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach and Thames Travel have stated that they have consistently expressed fundamental concerns about the ability of this site to sustain an attractive bus service, or public transport offer, and that the site proposals lie at the most extreme margins of what could credibly be considered sustainable in transport terms.

“The operators reiterate that this site is, by virtue of its location, unavoidably dependent on personal motorised transportation — in other words, it will be a car-based settlement. They go on to say that the assumptions in the planning application in regards to bus services have been made by a transport planning consultant with no bus operating experience whatsoever.”

The group’s objection to the planning application analyses the commercial viability of the proposals and concludes that the ability of the development to support the number of buses proposed “lies in the realms of fantasy”.

It also concludes that Homes England’s funding proposals have been underestimated by more than
£18 million, a figure which would wipe out the entire surplus for the site.

Chalgrove Shield has always maintained that the public transport provisions are unachievable

In October  a letter signed by 23 parishes and two South Oxfordshire district councillors opposed to the development was sent to Henley MP John Howell.

The parishes, which included Benson, Watlington, Pyrton, Lewknor, Swyncombe, Shirburn, Cuxham with Easington and Britwell Salome, said they would be “materially affected” by the development, which would increase the population of Chalgrove from 2,700 to 9,800.

Mr Howell replied saying there was nothing he could do about the choice of the site for new housing.

Homes England didn’t respond to a request for comment.

More News:

POLL: Have your say