Parish councils have been the bedrock of our democracy since the Local Government Act in 1894. Two subsequent Acts of Parliament in 1972 and 2011 have handed them greater powers and re-affirmed their role in local democracy, serving approximately 16 million people across England. In Cherwell alone we have 79 parish councils, town councils and parish meetings. Parish councillors are some of the most hard working people in their local community. From bus shelters to allotments, housing needs to planning applications they are a strong voice for residents.
A few weeks ago, I met members of Lower Heyford and Caulcott Parish Council to talk about the increase in traffic on the historic Grade II-listed Rousham Bridge. They believe that a weight limit should be imposed to preserve the integrity of the structure. They also raised concerns over the need for traffic calming measures to help manage the roads through the villages. While the parish council have received assurances from Oxfordshire County Council that a weight limit would be introduced, this is yet to happen so I have written to the Chief Executive for an update on progress.
Last month, I also joined a virtual meeting of Somerton residents who wanted to discuss their personal experiences and learning from the pandemic. We have come a long way in recent months; the new Health Secretary has made it clear that we need to balance the harms caused by COVID with the wider impact of ongoing restrictions. Personal responsibility will be key as we move forward, alongside the ongoing success of vaccination rollout, with a booster programme now under active consideration.
I have also been in touch with all the local Parish Councils following news of a possible Strategic Rail Freight Interchange between Ardley and Heyford. The site proposed by Oxfordshire Railfreight Ltd would be on the side of the Chiltern Mainline, on land to the east of Heyford Park and west of the B430 (opposite the Viridor ERF facility). I have significant concerns about the location of the development but will wait to see what mitigation measures are proposed. Preliminary meetings with some Parish Councils as well as the District and County Council about the plans have proven useful. I am always keen to hear constituents’ thoughts and look forward to meeting others soon to discuss the proposals. It is important that consideration is given to the SRFI’s impact on the local villages. I am determined to make sure my constituents’ voices are heard throughout.