The HIF1 road scheme recommended by Planning for approval was rejected (7 – 2) by the Councillors on the Planning & Regulation Committee.

This is a comprehensive rejection for this controversial scheme with the opposition to it led by Appleford Parish Council, supported by the Joint Committee of Neighbouring Parish Councils at Sutton Courtenay, Culham, Burcot & Clifton Hampden and Nuneham Courtenay. The Joint Committee represented all the parishes along the route and it was important to maintain this support which gave our case credibility.

A core team comprising the Chair (Greg O’Broin) with technical support from Chris Hancock (Working Group) and Vicky Shepherd persistently fought to prevent this road. This involved speaking at Council and Cabinet Meetings and attending many other meetings along the way.

The Joint Committee was represented by our planning advisor, Charlie Hopkins and supported by other organisations. There were 27 speakers (7 from Appleford) each with their own unique objection. The objectors included a former Planning Inspector and Head of Planning at Oxfordshire County Council (OCC).

Thank you to those who spoke at the meeting and to all residents who supported the Parish Council at protests, meetings and by emailing Councillors at OCC. It was so important to be able to demonstrate opposition.

Despite the decisive vote to reject the application, the decision was in the balance, with the prospect of a motion to approve the scheme, subject to strict conditions to mitigate the worst aspects at Appleford and elsewhere. Thankfully that didn’t materialise. Remember there were reasons Councillors wanted to approve the scheme – to support the local development plans for housing and employment growth in the Vale and South Oxfordshire.

Appleford wishes to thank Cllr Richard Webber for his part. He said he didn’t believe the expert’s traffic modelling or the claim that building the road would help reduce CO2 emissions and help prevent climate change. His intervention changed the mood from concern about harms to a call for rejection.

The reasons the scheme was rejected were:-
1. It contravened Green Belt and the Officers failed to prove there were valid ‘special’ reasons to justify such a beach.
2. HIF1 contravened the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) and Oxfordshire’s Climate Emergency declaration – The Climate Action Framework. It also infringed elements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It simply ran contrary to Oxfordshire’s own policies.
3. The impact particularly on Appleford (Noise and traffic), but also Sutton Courtenay and Culham (traffic), Clifton Hampden (impact of landscape, loss of trees) and Nuneham Courtenay (traffic) were factors.
4. Councillors were sceptical that Expert report, claiming beneficial outcomes on traffic, noise, air quality and pollution, were true.

An appeal will not be easy as it will involve OCC. appealing against a decision of one of its own committees. We will wait to see what happens next.

We thank Cllr Richard Webber who spoke up for the residents of his ward. We also are grateful to the other Councillors for their integrity in questioning officers to establish the facts. The experience of Appleford proves that democracy does work.

It is not always easy, you just have to work at it!