Agenda item

Public participation

To receive any questions or statements from members of the public that have registered to speak. 


John Salmons asked the following question of Councillor Andrea Powell, Cabinet member for corporate services, policy and programmes.


Regarding the Council’s proposal (P22/V2705/FUL) to develop land within Great Western Park, Didcot (GWP) from its approved use as a wildflower meadow into a council maintenance depot, considering the Council’s stated aim to “celebrate, protect and enhance our natural assets”, that the Council has previously acknowledged there is a deficit of public open space in Didcot, that residents purchased their homes on the basis of the approved plans for the wildflower meadow, that those same residents who paid a premium to overlook the wildflower meadow have since endured eight years of the site being used apparently without planning permission as a construction compound by the developers, that despite the Council’s stated aims regarding openness and transparency it submitted its planning application without appearing to consult or notify any residents of its decision to pursue this scheme, that despite the Council’s attempts to present the scheme as being somehow required in connection with maintaining open spaces within GWP itself the proposal was in fact for a central depot from which grounds maintenance would be performed across the South and Vale districts (an area of which GWP makes up only 0.1%), that the application submitted on behalf of the Council contained numerous false or misleading representations regarding material planning considerations, that even without proper engagement the proposal has been unanimously rejected by the community with over 80 formal objections, 390 petition signatures, objections from Harwell Parish Council, Didcot Town Council, and Oxfordshire County Council, and that the Council’s response to resident’s concerns thus far appear to have included attempts to dismiss their concerns as “misinformation”, to pit GWP residents against each other, and suggestions that residents simply haven’t understood the “very clear and positive rationale” for having their long awaited wildflower meadow replaced with a maintenance depot, what steps does the Councillor propose the Council take to regain the trust of the GWP community, which has been so badly damaged by this proposal, and does the Councillor agree a commitment to protect the community’s wildflower meadow, in line with the Council’s stated aims, would be a good place to start?


Councillor Powell responded as follows:


Thank you for your question.


My understanding is that this site forms part of the Didcot Garden Town masterplan, and that the application was submitted with a focus on the technical requirements for a new grounds maintenance facility to service the substantial amount of new public open green space being provided as part of this project.


The actual intention is to remove the existing builders depot, which is certainly a blot on the landscape, to create a much smaller depot for the Councils’ grounds maintenance service and to landscape the rest of the site, including the planting of a wildflower meadow.


As part of the planning application, all of the standard consultees were informed and, as has been pointed out, many comments and objections were received.   The application has been withdrawn to take on board the feedback received.


It is clear that the communication in this instance was not as good as it should have been, particularly taking into account the high-profile nature of this site and its importance to the local community.  While technically accurate, the application did not give a true sense of what is being proposed, and better engagement with the public would have helped to alleviate their perfectly reasonable concerns.   I am confident that we can do better and will ensure the points raised are addressed fully when the revised application is ready for submission.