Thursday, 24 September 2020

New village plan outlines £340,000 improvements

A DOCUMENT outlining more than £340,000 of improvements to be made in Whitchurch has been published.

The village plan, which replaces the one written in 2009, lists more than 20 projects to tackle congestion, improve access and provide better facilities for residents.

Whitchurch Parish Council, which oversaw the creation of the plan, hopes that most of the projects can be completed within three years.

It has agreed to pay £97,370 towards the improvements and the remaining funds will come from grants and fundraising.

The council chose not to make a neighbourhood plan, a legally binding document outlining where new housing developments should go, because Whitchurch is such a small village that it was unlikely to be allocated a quota of homes.

The biggest expenditure will be on the redevelopment of the sports pavilion on the village green off Eastfield Lane. This will cost £10,000 to plan and £260,000 to build. The council will contribute £30,000.

The existing building, which dates back to the Fifties, is dilapidated and beyond economical repair. The new building, which was granted planning permission last year, will have better facilities, including a
30 sq m general purpose room, separate male and female changing rooms and showers, a small kitchen and disabled access.

It could also be used by schools and community groups.

Whitchurch’s football and cricket clubs helped shape the design of the building, which will be owned by the council and let out to the sports clubs and other users.

There are also plans to upgrade the village hall off Manor Road at a cost of £23,000 with £3,000 coming from the council.

The roof will be cleaned and repaired, the kitchen upgraded, possibly with a new boiler, and the floor replaced. The car park will be resurfaced and the hall will have wifi internet access and hopefully new stage curtains. It’s hoped that this will increase income from lettings.

Meanwhile, the pavement outside the Ferryboat in High Street could be raised to improve pedestrian safety at a cost of £10,000 while the pavements and footpaths in Hardwick Road and Manor Road could be renovated at a total cost of £33,100.

The plan also sets aside £22,620 for measures to improve congestion in High Street.

This is a long-standing problem during the morning and evening rush hours and is exacerbated by cars being parked along the street so there is no room for drivers to pass one another.

There are also concerns that drivers exceed the 30mph speed limit when the road is clear.

The plan calls for defined parking spaces and refuge bays in High Street with double yellow lines at the pinch points where queues build up at the moment.

A 20mph speed limit and a residents’ permit parking scheme could be introduced later, although this would require public consultation on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

The speed limit could also be reduced in Eastfield Lane to address concerns about safety when parents drop off their children at the primary school.

There are also plans to maintain the garden at the former Polish church off Manor Road as a quiet space for reflection and a wildlife haven and to improve the nearby children’s play area.

This and other projects will be overseen by the village’s “green team”, which is run by villager Alexa Duckworth-Briggs.

Finally, the plan calls for an assessment of the village conservation area to protect it from unwanted development and the provision of a drama group, canoe club and a regular community meal.

The document was written by volunteers following a series of surveys which found strong support for the proposals.

Council chairman Jim Donahue said: “We’re pleased it has finally been published as a lot of work has gone into putting it together.

“It makes a good set of recommendations and, although some will be challenging, they are achievable and supported by the community.

“We’ve been working on some of the recommendations for the past couple of years and are talking with the county council on some of the highways issues so we should be able to finish them in good time.”

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