Keep Harwell Rural Campaign

Welcome to the archive of the Keep Harwell Rural website

The aim of the Keep Harwell Rural (KHR) Campaign was to give residents of Harwell the opportunity to have a voice in matters that affect the future of the village.

The campaign no longer operates and was wound up in 2017. These pages reflect the state of the campaign and its website in 2016....

Origins

KHR was formed in 1998 when Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) launched a consultation called Which Way Didcot. Didcot had been identified as a growth town and 3500 houses were to be planned for 2011, through The Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011.

The question was where should the extra houses go: to the north to extend the Ladygrove estate, to the west, or a mixture of the two?

One of the problems is that Harwell lies in Vale of White Horse (VWH) District Council but Didcot is part of South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC). Didcot is expanding into both areas. This causes problems when integrating policies and infrastructure.

Approximate boundaries of Harwell Parish and VWH and SODC District Councils

Plans up to 2011

OCC decided to expand Didcot to the north east but received sufficient formal objections to trigger an Examination in Public (EiP), chaired by an independent Inspector.

KHR was officially represented at the EiP into the ‘Alteration to the Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011’ held in 1999, and supported the OCC position that Didcot should expand to the north east not to the west on sustainability grounds (not building on the high quality agricultural land to the west as recommended by the EiP panel report).

In March 2000 the Environment Committee of OCC was persuaded by supporters of the western site, including the developers and their agent, RPS Consulting, to vote to reject the EiP recommendation. Subsequently OCC put the western option rather than the north east option into its 2011 Structure Plan.

Extract from the Alteration to the Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2011, adopted April 2001.

KHR held a meeting in Harwell in the summer of 2000 to see if people wanted to continue fighting the western expansion of Didcot. There was strong support in the village and it is from this meeting that the current KHR Committee was formed.

From 2000 to 2004, KHR was active in the consultations held by VWH and SODC on their Local Plans for 2011. This involved a lot of work and liaison with many people in Didcot, Harwell and West and East Hagbourne who shared the same views. KHR was represented at the three Public Inquiries held on the Local Plans. The Inspector’s report on the Didcot Public Inquiry did not recommend any significant change to the proposals for ‘Didcot West’ (later known as “Great Western Park”) but it did recognise that the expansion of Didcot posed problems to the infrastructure and traffic levels around Didcot.

Great Western Park

Approximate location and boundaries of Great Western Park (light blue). The dark blue triangle is the location of the new Orchard Centre in Didcot.

Outline planning permission for Great Western Park was granted by VWH and SODC in the summer of 2006. KHR has continued to comment on the impacts of the development and the detailed planning proposals. The agreements reached between VWH, SODC and the developers include some funds that could be put towards a future ‘Harwell bypass’, but this will not be built as a consequence of Great Western Park itself.

For more details about the planning applications for Great Western Park, please see the GWP page on the Parish Council website.

Great Western Park is currently in the process of being built.

Plans beyond 2011

Planning beyond 2011 started around 2005. KHR contributed to the debates and the EiP on the Oxfordshire Structure Plan for 2016, which included further expansion of Didcot. This was superseded by the South East Regional Plan (SE Plan) to 2026, which replaced the Oxfordshire Structure Plan.

Growth point status

The SE Plan included more housing at Didcot. To start with about 3,000 houses were proposed but 1,500 were added when SODC applied for and won ‘Growth Point’ status for Didcot. This meant that Didcot was awarded Government money for infrastructure, on condition that even more houses were built. VWH and SODC agreed to share the total of about 4,500 houses equally. These proposals were opposed by KHR through several consultations and at the EiP on the SE Plan held in 2007. The housing plans for Didcot were incorporated in the SE Plan published in May 2009.
The local councils started to prepare their Local Development Framework Core Strategies (the documents that replaced the old Local Plans) in late 2007.  SODC adopted their current Local Plan in 2012.   VWH has been drafting and consulting on its next Local Plan and, in November 2014, issued its "publication" version.

New roads

The draft VWH Plans in 2009/2010 included a Harwell Strategic Link Road from the A417 near the Kingswell Restaurant to the A4130 east of the Milton Interchange with the A34 and a Harwell Field Link Road from the A417 to the entrance of the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus on the A4185. Unfortunately neither of the two draft versions of the VWH Plan (2013 & 2014) include the Harwell Field Link Road.

Oxfordshire County Council is continuing to study potential road improvements in the area. The current absence of the Harwell Field Link Road threatens Harwell with more traffic on the A417 Reading Road. It would appear that the publication version of the Local Plan 2013 is proposing upgrading the existing Hagbourne Hill road instead (see the map taken from Figure 5.6a of the Local Plan on the Home Page).’

Houses to the NE of Didcot

SODC’s latest Local Plan was adopted in 2012.  It includes plans for 2,030 houses to the north east of Didcot, which have yet to be built.

Valley Park

VWH’s draft Local Plan published in 2013 contains proposals for a further 2,150 houses west of Great Western Park by 2029 in an area to be known as “Valley Park”.  This would bring the edge of what is effectively Didcot right up to the A34 and further into Harwell Parish.

An even bigger Valley Park is proposed in the publication version of the Vale Local Plan of November 2014. See the Home page for details of this and other additional housing near Harwell proposed in that document.

Status in 2016

We are particularly concerned about the expansion of Didcot and how this might affect the rural character of Harwell. You can see how the plans for the expansion of Didcot developed, what is proposed for the future and how we are reacting to it.

KHR works closely with Harwell Parish Council, but is independent of any statutory body. If you would like to know more about KHR or would like to join us in shaping the future of Harwell get in touch.

Whilst we do our best to consult within the village, and try to represent the opinions of many people in the village, we are primarily a campaigning group whose main concern is to preserve the integrity of the village and to “Keep Harwell Rural”.

What’s to be done next by KHR?

What’s in the Vale Local Plan which affects Harwell?

The February 2014 update to the Vale Draft Local Plan contained proposals for considerably greater numbers of new houses in the Harwell area than did the 2013 version.  Some of the numbers have been changed in the publication version of November 2014, and the resulting “extra” houses are now:

The map at the end of the page shows where these sites are (except for “Talbot Close”).

The publication version of the Plan now proposes 5,350 houses in the Harwell area compared to 2,150 in the 2013 version.

This is on top of the 3,300 houses being built at Great Western Park and the 2,030 planned for North East Didcot.

The impact of this planned extra housing on Harwell village is likely to be considerable.   Currently about 20% of the parish boundary is adjacent to housing or industrial buildings.  Under the Vale Local Plan proposals, this will increase to nearer 80%.  The village is expanding outwards at the same time as housing in the surrounding area is creeping ever closer.  The result feels like a gradual “strangulation” of Harwell village’s distinct, rural identity.

KHR's Strategy

KHR’s overall strategy is to try to limit the amount of development around Harwell, such that the village retains a distinction from Didcot and a rural character, and that the infrastructure (especially roads) will cope with the increased populations. Our aims in making representations about the Vale Draft Local Plan are to:

Within our concerns about the adequacy of infrastructure we shall try to ensure that facilities such as schools are catered for, and that the village will be shielded from use as a rat run for through traffic, including on the A417 Reading Road.

SVUK proposed housing (Map from Figure 5.6a of Vale Local Plan 2031 Part 1, November 2014)

Other plans affecting Harwell

KHR’s main concern for the future had been the creation of over 2,000 houses at Valley Park between Great Western Park and the eastern edge of Harwell village. Since the publication in February 2014 of the Housing Supply Update to the Vale Draft Local Plan 2031, considerable further housing development in Harwell area is now proposed.

Some of the extra housing has now appeared in outline planning applications and other proposals.

Valley Park: A revised planning application for Valley Park was submitted to VWH in September 2015. It involves 4,254 houses, considerably higher even than the VWH Local Plan 2031 proposal of ‘at least 2,550’. KHR now accepts that there will be development at Valley Park, but is still concerned about the impact of such a large number of new homes on Harwell’s doorstep. KHR’s objections to the plans can be found on the ‘Recent Submissions’ page.

As the plans stand, Valley Park will start immediately east of the A34 and there will be no discernible rural gap between Harwell Village and Didcot. KHR is striving to persuade all the parties involved that there should be a ‘green corridor’ along the B4493 to provide some sense of the natural environment between Harwell and Didcot, and has written to our local councillors to try to get the developers to include this in the plans.

Grove Road North: This is the development called ‘West of Harwell’ in the Local Plan. The third revision of the planning application for over 200 houses north of Grove Road was submitted in January 2016. KHR continues to object to this premature planning application before this site has been considered in the Local Plan Examination in Public. The arrangements for handling pedestrian and road traffic are totally inadequate for this country road and the design of the proposed estate is out of keeping with neighbouring parts of the village. KHR’s objections to the plans can be found on the ‘Recent Submissions’ page.

A threat to the green fields on Didcot Road: In January 2016 Gladman issued a leaflet proposing residential development at land off Didcot Road Harwell. Their proposals and the opportunity to comment are at www.your-views.co.uk/harwell .

The area is currently green fields opposite the houses along Didcot Road and a key part of Harwell’s rural gap. It would be a travesty if this development ever happened.

KHR has objected strongly. Please join us by having your say via www.your-views.co.uk/harwell .

[Note, Dec 2018. The Harwell Link Road has been completed. Plans for Valley Park and Grove Road North have been approved. The Gladman application(s) have been tunred down]

 


 

 

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