Woodstock Town Council

Incorporated by Royal Charter of Henry VI in 1453

                   

Report of District Councillors for Bladon, Blenheim and Woodstock
to Woodstock Town Council 15th January 2019

Planning: Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre at Blenheim

The modern Rose Theatre proposed for temporary construction at Blenheim this summer was discussed extensively at Uplands Planning sub-committee on Monday January 7th. In association with the theatre will be an enclosed area of changing rooms for actors, public toilets, bars and tables and chairs for eating and drinking by guests. Although approval was sought for four months of temporary structure, we understand that there will be nine weeks of performances and the four months requested for the presence of the theatre may not all be needed as they cover construction and demolition of the theatre and associated set up.

The theatre has been advertised and tickets have been on sale for some time since Blenheim apparently did not realise the need for planning permission for this temporary structure.

Uplands’ members were unanimous in viewing the theatre as something that would bring new visitors and a lot of interest to Blenheim during the summer. It should be of benefit to local children as well as adults to have Shakespeare’s plays presented somewhere easily accessible. However, the members were also in agreement that the theatre would be very obvious to those visiting Blenheim and would certainly cause temporary harm to the setting of the World Heritage Site (WHS) particularly from the direction from which most visitors approach and first see the Palace. ICOMOS-UK, who oversee World Heritage Sites in UK, are clearly of this view whilst acknowledging the theatre should bring useful revenue for the fund to maintain the WHS Palace and Park. ICOMOS-UK made it clear that they could not support the theatre as a regular annual event (although this view is probably based on the assumption that any theatre would be on the same site if future occasions were requested).

The issue of visitors to Blenheim using Woodstock as a car park when the Palace charges for parking at events was raised. There was general sympathy but Blenheim stated there will not be charges for theatregoer car parking. Blenheim does not usually charge for parking and there are no plans to introduce charges for this event. This seemed to offer reassurance over concerns that visitors parking in Woodstock around the theatrical performances could be a major problem, particularly for residents trying to park their cars. ICOMOS-UK did also comment than there was no Traffic Management Plan submitted with the application. Blenheim state that they have up to 2000 car parking spaces and expect something like 250 cars associated with each performance (matinee and evening performances). They feel there should be no problem coping with these extra cars. The peak time for admission to Blenheim is around 10.30 – 11 am whereas it is expected theatregoers would come around lunchtime or later.

WODC Officers felt giving approval to this temporary structure would enable assessment of the presence of the theatre on the WHS and visitor numbers when future applications for further summer theatre, as seem to be Blenheim’s plans, come up for discussion. The site chosen for 2019 would seem overall too harmful to the setting of the Palace to accept as a regular site: ICOMOS-UK is very definite that the theatre should not be an annual occurrence on this site. They suggested if there should be plans for repeating the temporary construction, building the theatre in the area of the old walled gardens where there are many facilities but where the theatre would be much less obvious to those visiting the Palace or even those walking in the grounds would be more acceptable. Approving this construction for this summer could also provide an opportunity to explore the possibility of an Events Strategy for the overall Blenheim Estate to ‘identify visual and other landscape sensitivities as a basis for delineating the optimal placing of temporary structures and the carrying capacity of the Park’ as suggested by ICOMOS-UK. Uplands members seemed reassured and unanimously approved the temporary structures on the understanding that if there were to be future theatre construction, the site chosen would be more sensitive to the overall setting of Palace and Park and that English Heritage, who had not responded to the application, were not in total disapproval of the proposed temporary construction.  

Publica

One year after Publica’s launch, David Neudegg – the Chief Executive – reviewed achievements.  (Publica is the body wholly owned by West Oxfordshire, Forest of Dean and Cotswold District Councils and Cheltenham Borough Council).  The target return for the quarter July to September 2018 was £1,019k and the actual return was £1772k – an added return of £753k. Amongst many key targets achieved, planned change of management style and evidence for the benefit of the transformation of management are listed as not yet achieved.

The four partner councils have been shortlisted for a major national award as finalists in the category of “Best Service Delivery Model” in the LGC Awards, which recognise the best of local government innovation and service delivery. Neudegg comments that ‘it is pleasing to find out that our unique approach is already being acknowledged as best practice by our local government peers, particularly as it’s still early days for our company’.

WODC Cllrs Julian Cooper & Elizabeth Poskitt

 

Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Hudspeth's December 2018 Report

Congratulations to the crew at Woodstock Fire station for raising over £8,000 for Children in Need, collecting more than some of our larger stations across the county.  

WOODSTOCK LIBRARY

We are working hard to find a short term and long-term solution for the Woodstock library, this will probably involve some difficult choices. The building has been deemed unsafe and needs to be totally rebuilt at a time when we do not have the funds for such an exercise.

Mullin Automotive Park

A new planning application has been submitted for Mullin Automotive Park - application No: 18/03319/OUT on part of Enstone airfield. They have employed Norman Foster architects to design the proposal which looks impressive. The application will be dealt with by the planning authority WODC with the possibility of a site visit prior to determination. OCC as the highways authority are consultees in the process and are obliged to work with any applicant to mitigate the transport impact of an application. Whatever the technical response from highways is, the actual planning decision is taken by members of WODC at a committee. I have 2 main concerns; firstly, the impact on local traffic whilst the new application has more funding for transport measures, does it go far enough? Secondly the large sum of money that is allocated to refurbish Great Tew house, I think more of those funds should be allocated to improving the road network. It’s important that you have your say on the application by contacting WODC with the above reference number.

COUNCIL BUDGET

The council’s initial proposals for the 2019/2020 budget will be reviewed by the Performance Scrutiny Committee during December. A key element is the plan to invest up to £120m in roads and schools – a ‘growth dividend’ as more households mean more Council Tax revenue in future years. Tough decisions in the past have created a route to financial stability at a time when other councils face financial threats. There are new ‘Transformation’ plans being developed to completely redesign the council to reduce running costs. Making financial savings will enable OCC to support the growing number of vulnerable children and adults – more vulnerable children are coming into council care, both locally and nationally, creating financial pressures. Protecting children remains OCC’s top priority.

HIGHWAYS DEFECTS UPDATE

The Government have provided additional highways funds of £7.4 million over this and next year which means we will be able to carry out more substantial repairs, all roads across the county are assessed on the condition of the roads along with usage. This funding is in addition to the agreed Infrastructure fund of £120 million that cabinet have committed to over the next 10 years. With nearly 3,000 miles across the county there are many roads competing for the funds. As reported last month, the county council has increased the amount of relatively small-scale work it does to put right local roads that are suffering from potholes, cracks and worn out tarmac. The number of completed defect repairs between January and October this year is over 37,000.

HOUSING AND GROWTH DEAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMME

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has published details of the infrastructure projects to receive funding in Year 1 and Years 2-5 of the Oxfordshire Housing & Growth Deal, signed in April 2018. The total £150 million of Growth Deal funding has been earmarked for specific projects. This forward funding is helping unlock projects that will benefit from developer contributions, delivering schemes valued at over £480 million in total, excluding costs of the major rail projects, which are still to be confirmed.

SALTING, GRITTING AND SNOW CLEARANCE

December 1st marks the start of meteorological winter. Live updates on gritting and snow clearing can be found here: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/roads-and-transport/street-maintenance-z/salting-and-snow-clearance Details about how community groups can request salt bins can be found here: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/roads-and-transport/street-maintenance-z/salt-and-grit-bins

WINTER IN OXFORDSHIRE

OCC provides a useful guide about how to keep safe, how to be healthy and how to be prepared during the winter months. It can be found here: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/node/2782

I would like to thank Town and Parish Councillors for all their hard work over the last year and wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR to everybody.

 

Cllr Ian Hudspeth
07956270 318

Ian.hudspeth@oxfordshire.gov.uk