The expansion of Didcot

Introduction
Didcot, with a population of 25,000, is the largest town in South Oxfordshire. It lies close to expanding employment areas in the Vale of the White Horse and benefits from access to strategic rail and road networks. As a result, it is the focus for major growth as house building in the south east, driven by government objectives, gathers pace. South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) aims to benefit from this growth by transforming Didcot into a lively, thriving town.

Current development
The first phase of building at Great Western Park (GWP), a development of 3,500 homes, started in 2010 to the north, close to the A4130. This development will gradually wrap around the western boundary of Didcot, eventually coming to Park Road on the southern edge of town. An application has recently been made to bring forward building on this most southerly part of GWP, out of the planned sequence and before the necessary infrastructure is in place. The West Hagbourne Parish Council has strongly opposed this since such piecemeal development threatens the coherent delivery of the whole GWP development and its associated infrastructure.

Future development
SODC has recently published its Core Strategy covering the period 2016-2027. A site to the north of Ladygrove has been identified to take most of the additional housing for Didcot (around 1,500 homes), using the northern perimeter road for access. This decision is being strongly resisted by parishes to the north which are trying to persuade SODC that they should be sited to the south and west of Didcot. Our own Parish Council is committed to retaining the important gap between the town and the village, thus maintaining the rural identity of West Hagbourne.

As part of the Core Strategy, SODC must also find a site for a further 450 homes and is exploring whether these should also go to the north east or whether there should be a southern extension to Great Western Park. If this southern option were chosen by SODC, the Vale District Council has said it might develop that part of its district which lies south of the B4493.

Roads and traffic
The issue of increasing traffic on rural routes applies across the whole county. In the case of West Hagbourne, in addition to the expansion of Didcot, other factors are likely to have an impact on the traffic flow through the village. A development of 275 homes at Chilton Field (in the Vale of the White Horse) will generate more vehicle movements across Hagbourne Hill towards an expanded Didcot. Further developments at the nearby Harwell site, including a new hotel and many new jobs, plus the planned improvements to the rail interchange will also attract people to both the Harwell site and Didcot.

To reduce traffic flow through West Hagbourne, a relief road running south from Great Western Park to the Harwell Business Park, providing a new convenient access route to both the Harwell site and the A34 is essential. After many years of lobbying, the inclusion in the current Core Strategy of a relief road to carry traffic heading south from Didcot is welcomed by the Parish Council. Nevertheless, funding for such a significant new road in difficult financial conditions seems uncertain.

A proposal to upgrade/redevelop the existing Hagbourne Hill road was opposed by Chilton Parish Council and ultimately rejected by OCC as unsuitable owing to the steep incline. A viable alternative for the Hagbournes might be a link road from the roundabout near the entrance to the Harwell site, joining the A417 near the Kingswell Hotel where it could cross the A34 bridge and continue to join the spine road through Great Western Park.


What you can do
The Parish Council will continue to lobby both the District and County Councils to protect our village and its heritage as an ancient settlement. It will press hard for a road infrastructure that solves the traffic issues which could damage the fabric of the conservation area and disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of the village by its residents. Parishioners can also play an important part in this process. By engaging with OCC and SODC consultations parishioners can help ensure the outcome will be influenced in our favour. You can also email or write to your Councillors, Parish, District or County, or your MP, and ask for your views to be taken into account.

Please ensure your local District Councillor, Leo Docherty and your County Councillor, Patrick Greene are aware of your views too. Their email addresses are:
Leo.Docherty@southoxon.gov.uk
Patrick.Greene@oxfordshire.gov.uk