The stand-out result from our recent questionnaire concerns Garsington’s status as a village. In response to the question: “How important to you is it that Garsington remains ‘separate’ from Oxford, and does not become part of some bigger urban development?”, 92% of 800 respondents said that it was important. 79% of them classed it as very important. That’s a pretty powerful expression of opinion!
This information will provide useful ammunition to our elected representatives when they are making the case for preserving the Green Belt and holding back urban development. We in the Steering Group also believe that it makes a strong case for embarking on a Neighbourhood Plan for the village. Garsington needs to tell the world what kinds of development it thinks are appropriate. (Neighbourhood planning allows communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work. This is a different exercise from the one we are engaged in at present because it carries some legal weight.)
As we expected the questions around transport and traffic produced some very interesting data. Some of it was as expected, some less so. It wasn’t surprising to learn that we Garsington residents are very dependent on our cars, or that people have serious reservations about the bus service. Our previous discussions had prepared us for the fact that 85% of respondents agree that there is a problem with speeding in the village. We were less prepared for the fact that only a bare majority (53%) is in favour of more traffic calming measures. Similarly, just over half of respondents thought a 20 mph speed limit worth introducing. There was, however, much more support for better pavements: 83% thought that Garsington needs safer ways for pedestrians to get around the village. We also received lots of comment on the need to provide safer pathways for pedestrians and cyclists down to the edge of Oxford city.
We think that the problems identified fall into three categories: those areas where we can organize ourselves to respond (e.g. Speed Watch); those where the Parish Council might act if it raised the precept (e.g. resurfacing pavements); and those where, preferably following external advice, we seek to put pressure on the District or County Councils (e.g. improving the quality of the road surfaces).
Another important outcome from the Survey is the large number of people who wanted either to know more about existing associations or activities or to volunteer their services. We hope that, by now, the majority of those people will have heard from the organisation in which they were interested or have been put in touch with other people in their area of interest.
There are, however, a number of people who still will not have heard anything further. (But please also remember my comment in the last newsletter that some respondents didn’t give their contact details.)This is either because the voluntary group they wish to join does not yet exist, or because a previously existing group no longer has the leadership to carry it forward. Our solution to these issues will be to arrange two sessions at the Village Hall – preliminary dates are 6th and 20th September, but please watch for confirmation – to bring these groups of people together so that they can agree their way forward. To take an example: 5 people expressed an interest in running a Swapshop in Garsington. They will be invited to meet together and work out the resources they require so that a calendar of events can be put together.
In the next Newsletter, we shall try to cover the remaining issues from the Survey, which space and time prevent us from addressing in this edition. It remains our firm intention to publish the Garsington Plan before the end of this year. In the meantime, the Steering Group would be very interested to hear from any Garsington resident who has professional expertise in the planning & development, transport or traffic fields. We would greatly appreciate your input and advice during this crucial phase of our work.