Motion on Air Quality Action Plans

 (Updated on 1st Jan 2018 to include the Oxford Mail article and Cllr Ware’s update about Air Quality Action Plan items in blue italics,.)

(Long post, sorry)

In 2015 Council published their Air Quality Action Plan, which contained 11 actions Vale committed to doing (most of them by 2017).

It looked to us Liberal Democrats like none of the action items had been completed, so we asked a question of the Cabinet member for Environmental Protection at last week’s full council meeting. You can see the question here.

We expected to get status updates for all of the outstanding actions. In anticipation of the Tories demonstrating that they hadn;t done what they said they would, Liberal Democrat Cllrs Catherine Webber and Debby Hallett tabled a motion requesting Cabinet to put funding in place for all our unmet commitments contained in the Air Quality Action Plan of 2015. 

Here’s the motion:

Proposed by Cllr Catherine Webber, seconded by Cllr Debby Hallett

This Council has statutory obligations to measure and monitor Air Quality in the District, to declare Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) where pollution is high, and to produce Air Quality Action Plans (AQAPs).

This Council also has an obligation to facilitate and implement the actions recommended in AQAPs, wherever possible.

This Council recognises the importance of taking action to reduce air pollution. To that end, Council requests Cabinet to do two things:

  • Include in their 2018/19 budget funding for all projects recommended in our 2015 AQAP that are not yet completed, and
  • Ensure this Council has a Low Emissions Strategy similar to that of South Oxfordshire District Council, which will focus Council’s efforts to reduce air pollution, particularly in Vale’s AQMAs.

The quality of the debate was dissappointing, to say the least. Here are some of the notable Tory contributions:

Cllr Eric Batts, Cabinet member, had some thoughts about my mention of Government’s estimate that 50 people die per year in Vale per year due to air pollution (I quoted Government’s report and its statistical modelling, which actually said 52 people die prematurely in Vale from exposure to air pollution). He said, “I used to live in North Hinksey and I never felt any ill effects from pollution. And the 50 people maybe include people who have come here from India or Pakistan.” (I hope he was thinking about their polluted large cities and not blaming high air pollution deaths in Vale on immigrants.)

A few days later, Cllr Batts expanded on his opinion for a reporter from the Oxford Times:

Cllr Elaine Ware, Cabinet member, said the failure to progress the action items from the 2015 Air Quality Action Plan was due to having a ‘very very hard time recruiting to fill the vacancies on the team’. (Could that have anything to do with the low staff morale caused by all the outsourcing they’ve done, and the Tories’ risky decisions to let too many of senior managers and officers leave the council?) (See her answers about Air Quailty Action Plan commitments here:

Cllr Mike Badcock contributed the interesting idea that the cause of the pollution out the Marcham Road was the successful implementation several years back (10 or more?) of the Abits one way street system in central Abingdon, which worked to reduce air pollution from standing vehicles in Abingdon. He said that scheme worked by pushing the pollution out the A415 towards Marcham. That may be, I don’t know. But it was irrelevant to the debate.

Cllr Roger Cox, Cabinet member, added to the irrelevant comments by telling us in a shaking voice that the “previous administration” (which ended when they took control 6 years ago) only had a part time (.25fte) air quality officer, but they (the Tories) have hired a new PhD level officer. (Cllr Webber reminded him that the new officer is also part time and works 18 hrs per week.) He can get rattled when faced with logical arguments.

Cllr Ed Blagrove, Cabinet member, said that we should not spend money until we know what the new officer thinks. (Of course it WAS the officers who suggested Vale should have a Low Emission Zone Strategy, one similar to that which SODC recently adopted for their people. And the Low Emission Zone Strategy was one of the ll action items from the 2-15 Air Quality Action Plan.)

I don’t recall that the Leader Cllr Matthew Barber spoke to this motion.

So the debaters missed the point. (All but Cllr Ware, and I think I’d like to hear more about how failure to recruit staff is causing council to be unable to do the work it commits to do.)

The motion was to call for Cabinet to properly fund the work council committed to doing back in 2015, and has not done.

The motion was voted down: 8 For (all the Liberal Democrats), 20 Against (all were Tory) and 3 Abstentions (all were Tory). The abstainers couldn’t find it in themselves to vote against the motion, but it looks like they were whipped to not vote for it. We called for a named vote, so you’ll be able to see the three abstainers when the minutes are published.

Question in Council on Air Quality Action Plans

(Updated 1 Jan 18 to  include Cabinet member’s reply  – in green italics)

At the full Vale council meeting on 13 Dec 2017, the Liberal Democrat Cllr Emily Smith asked a question of the Cabinet member for Environmental Protection Elaine Ware. Despite the fact that the question was submitted on time, 10 days before the council meeting, the Cabinet member said she was unable to supply an answer on the night, promising a written response in a few days. We had the reply on 21st Dec 2017. 

Here is the question:

Question from Cllr Emily Smith to Cabinet Member for Environmental Protection, Cllr Elaine Ware:

In the 2015 Air Quality Management Plan the 11 district wide actions were:

1. Creation of a ‘low emission strategy’ and ‘low emission zone’ feasibility study (target date 2017) – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report. This work is dependent on external funding. We are currently compiling a bid for a Defra air quality grant with Ricardo to undertake this work

2. Installation of electric vehicle recharging points – Planning conditions requiring electric charging points are placed on applicable planning applications

3. Parking permit & pricing incentives for green vehicles (target date 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target will
be rescheduled.

4. Feasibility study for freight transport consolidation centre (FCC) / freight quality partnership (target date 2016) – Initial discussions with OCC and other Local Authorities have concluded that this is a long-term action and will be raised when the new Oxfordshire infrastructure proposals are discussed.

5. Taxi licensing incentives for green vehicles (target date 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target with be rescheduled.

6. Improved use and enforcement of traffic regulation orders (target date 2016) – This action will be included in the proposed Low Emission Strategy study

7. Review of the council and contractors fleet – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report and is underway. New waste vehicles with improved emission standards are now operated by Biffa the waste contractor.

8. Eco driver training (trial to be complete by 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target will be rescheduled.

9. Air quality planning guidance (target date 2015) – This is referenced in the LPP2 proposals and consultation is taking place with various officers in planning to complete the document (target January 2018)

10. Community involvement projects – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report. The Vale is involved with Sustrans and local Abingdon groups to investigate a simple project connecting cycle routes in Abingdon and produce a dedicated map promoting cycling in the town. Botley schools – potential project supporting air quality as part of curriculum. Plan to apply for Defra funding for a public outreach project as a joint application with other Oxfordshire Councils in 2018. This would connect with schools, GP and local groups.

11. Introduce south facing slip roads to Lodge Hill interchange – This action has been approved nationally and is being executed by Oxfordshire County Council.

Please can the cabinet member confirm which of these actions are complete and provide an update of those which are not? What evidence do we have that each of these measures has been successful or otherwise?



Bin collections this week

Here’s the latest word from officers about our waste collections.

“As you can imagine Biffa are behind this week because of the conditions. They have been out each day and have remarkably managed to make collections from the majority of places. They estimate to be about 2 to 3 hours behind on this week’s work. They are reducing this time each day as conditions improve but it may mean they will have to do some properties from Thursdays collection on Friday. If they haven’t managed to catch up by the close of play on Friday they will complete on Saturday. If you are contacted by any residents please ask them to leave their bins out.”

District Councillors on Tour

District Councillor Surgeries

Cllrs Emily Smith and Debby Hallett are touring Botley and Sunningwell Ward from January to March 2018.

Please come along to one of these drop-in events to raise any district related issues or just to meet your District Councillors in person over coffee:

Friday 12th January, 12pm – 2pm, Wyevale Garden Centre Cafe, Southern-By-Pass OX1 5AR

Saturday 20th January, 11am – 1pm, The Flowing Well, Sunningwell, OX13 6RB

Wednesday 7th Feb, 12pm – 2pm, The Fishes, North Hinksey Village, OX2 0NA

Thursday 15th Feb, 10am -12am, Wyevale Garden Centre Cafe, Southern-By-Pass OX1 5AR

Wednesday 14th March, 10am – 12pm, The Seacourt Bridge, West Way, Botley, OX2 9JU

Saturday 24th March, 2pm – 4pm, The White Hart, Wytham, OX2 8QA

Cllr Debby Hallett   07545 241013

Cllr Emily Smith   07986 877933


Local Plan Part 2 – Lib Dem Group’s consultation response

The Liberal Democrat Group of Vale of White Horse DC have submitted our response to the inspector’s consultation.

The whole doc can be accessed via this link to Dropbox:  Liberal Democrat Group response

Here’s a summary of our points raised:

In Summary, we request the following modifications to Local Plan Part 2:

  1. a) The housing need targets for Oxfordshire’s unmet need should be reviewed before this plan is adopted considering the Government’s housing white paper ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’
    b) The Vale plan should be paused until the Oxford City Local Plan is adopted and we are clear what their unmet housing need figure is.
  2. The safeguarded land for bus and cycle routes in Sunningwell should be removed from the plan (Core Policy 12, appendix B, page 32)
  3. References to Dalton Barracks being serviced by a Park and Ride at Lodge Hill should be removed from the plan ((Policy 2, paragraphs 2.81 and 2.82, page 40 of the Plan and page 15 of the appendices)
  4. Green Belt status to be retained for the parts of Dalton Barracks that will be used as a country park and for the existing village of Shippon
  5. The 90 Homes at Marcham will have a negative impact on congestion and the AQMA therefore should be removed from the plan
  6. References to ‘Dalton Barracks’ should be changed to ‘Dalton Barracks and Airfield’ through the plan
  7. An Electric Vehicle Charging Point policy for the Vale should be included
  8. a) The housing sites identified in Part 2 to help meet Oxford unmet need should provide 50% affordable homes (as per the Oxford City policy)
  9. b) A new affordable housing policy should be included, to increase the proportion of affordable homes delivered across the Vale

West Way gets permission 

Tonight the Vale planning committee gave permission for the temporary change of use for the northeast corner of the West Way site. But with a lot of conditions. As soon as the decision notice comes out I’ll post it (or a link to it) so you can see. 

Thanks to Emily Hamerton who helped us iron out all the clarifications and conditions. Thanks to residents who came out tonight: Mary Gill and Simon Banks who spoke, and John Gill, Gordon Stokes and John Blackie, who gave support. 

And thanks to my colleagues on the committee, Catherine Webber, Jenny Hannaby and Anthony Hayward who raised good points and helped make things better.

Take points away for the chairman who spouted a bunch of incorrect information, and then kept my countdown timer running while I corrected that info. 

But there we are. Now on to the real work of development. 

Extra garden waste collections

Residents in Vale who are signed up for brown bin collections can put out twice as much garden waste during one week this month.

Vale of White Horse district council is giving those who are part of the paid-for service the opportunity to put out the equivalent of one extra bin’s worth of garden waste (around three large bin bags) during the week commencing 16 October 

Residents should leave their extra garden waste out in bin liners or sacks beside their brown bins on their usual collection day during these weeks. Trade waste bags cannot be accepted.

Cllr Charlotte Dickson, cabinet member for waste at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “With the autumn leaves falling, it’s a good time to give residents this extra service and we hope they find it helpful. It’s a perfect opportunity to get their gardens ready for winter.”

Mace / West Way meeting 24 Aug 17

On the 24th of Aug I had a meeting with Mace and their representatives, the Vale of White Horse DC planning officer Stuart Walker, and our County Councillor Judy Roberts.

Here’s my update (numbered for ease of reference; no particular order):

  1. There is a holding objection on the planning application P17/1507/FUL (this is the temporary change of use application). County do not want to see a full access created (by the former Andrews Dry Cleaners); they claim it would impede traffic on West Way. This is the issue now holding up progress.
  2. Amendments to the application are expected by 4th Sept, which will satisfy the County’s holding objection, and also some of the safety concerns expressed by cyclists.
  3. Once the amendments are received by Vale planners, a two week consultation will begin, anticipated to be from the 4th of Sept. There will be no extension to this consultation, so please put it in your diaries and plan for it now.
  4. It’s anticipated the application will come to Planning Committee in October.
  5. During the demolition of the southern end of the Grant Thorton building and Seacourt Hall, Chapel Way will remain open. Mace are committed to keeping the Co-op trading. That means we’ll be able to access the Co-op parking and Elms Parade in the usual way.
  6. Here’s an overview of the order of demolition and re-fit of the buildings for temporary change of use:
    1. Demolition will begin with ensuring the two building are separate. Seacourt Hall and Grant Thornton (GT).
    2. The southern end of GT will be knocked down. At the same time, re-fit of Elms Court building will commence.
    3. The remaining GT building will be re-purposed for the temporary occupiers.
    4. Community users will be relocated to new premises in GT.
    5. Seacourt Hall will be knocked down.
  7. It will take 2-3 months to get the temporary shops ready for occupancy, so it’s expected this will be just after the Christmas holidays.

That’s all to report really. If you have a specific question, please do feel free to get in touch with me.

In the meantime, we can all help ease the pain by shopping as often as possible in the Elms Parade shops. We want them all to flourish.






North Of Abingdon: a Planning Committee Event

Last night (26 July 2017) at Vale planning committee meeting, those of us speaking up for residents came away mostly empty handed. Note please that it was the Lib Dem councillors and the Lib Dem MP who spoke up for residents’ concerns.

I think it was a bad decision not to insist on mitigation for the harm caused by this development.

– 950 homes plus 80 bed care home, when the Local Plan thought 800 would be appropriate.

– No requirement that the Lodge Hill slip roads be completed before houses are built or occupied (we wanted the former but would have settled for the latter)

– No 2 form school to save the money when inevitably the school must be expanded from 1.5 form.

– No CIL on this development, so parishes won’t get their 15% of CIL charges.

– Officers had nothing to say at all about the effect of a few more thousand cars on the already over-capacity A34. OCC basically said, ‘That’s not our job, and Highways England has not objected.’ If they haven’t objected, then WHO is responsible for fixing the appalling over-capacity problem in Vale on A34? We’ve heard for years that this is the main obstacle to employment challenges (companies won’t come here and recruiting is difficult with gridlock on the A34).

The mics didn’t work so we couldn’t hear a lot of what was being said. One resident went into a shouty meltdown and had to be evicted from the meeting. That’s always upsetting for everyone. One committee member was confused about the rules and stood down from the committee even though he didn’t speak for or against the application. One Tory councillor took his speaking opportunity to praise the previous MP. It would have been funny if it hadn’t affected a serious planning decision.

Small gains: a requirement for a well designed cycle link to Radley station; Radley Lakes may get a contribution – there was agreement to go back to the negotiating table for this; there’s a condition to monitor air quality at the most congested junctions (presumably those not already inside the AQMA).

Everyone, EVERYONE who spoke and voted FOR, had drunk the kool-ade and believed that this time, this THIRD time, the promise of funding for the south slips is true. OCC even committed to forward funding it. (I thought County had no money, so not so sure how that works.)

I’m disappointed that the officers promoted something against advice of our Env Protection team, and also contrary to our Local Plan.

So, we lost. Now on to the next thing: tonight’s Scrutiny meeting will look at Vale’s Corporate Plan, a Joint Housing Strategy, and a Temporary Accommodation Strategy (it’s the accommodation that’s temporary, not the strategy.)

I have a holiday coming in 31 days (according to the handy countdown timer on my iphone).

Wishing everyone well. Debby

Poor service from Biffa

Here is my letter today to the officer managing the waste and recycling, and to the Cabinet Member responsible for the service, Cllr Charlotte Dickson. 

Dear (officer),

Sadly this waste and recycling service from Biffa has become reliable. Reliably bad. 
Many roads were missed today in Elms Rise Botley. My road is Sycamore Road OX2 9EJ. Residents from Cedar Road OX2 9E have contacted me to complain as well 

Consider this another complaint. 
Something like 4 of the last 5 weeks we’ve had a missed service. There has never, in my experience, been a textiles pick up at all.
Please can you tell me the financial penalties to the contractor for such poor service week after week? 

We are annoyed. It’s an expensive contract.