Local news bites and information will be published below in date order they are received
10 October 2017 – Council’s will return to Crowmarsh
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have announced they intend to move to a new building on their former site at Crowmarsh Gifford.
The two councils have been in temporary accommodation since the fire that destroyed their offices in an arson attack in January 2015. They moved into a vacant building on Milton Park six months after the fire, where they have been ever since.
During that time the councils have investigated a wide range of options for their permanent home, and have now concluded that the most cost-effective solution is to move back to the site that is owned by South Oxfordshire District Council.
The councils will now work to prepare the site to build a new, smaller headquarters, which is more suited to their needs. The building will include a new council chamber for South Oxfordshire’s committee meetings, while the Vale’s committees will continue to take place in The Beacon in Wantage.
Cllr John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Crowmarsh has been the home of our council more or less since its inception, and it’s great news to be going back home. It’s the right choice for the council, it’s the right choice for our residents. We’ll lead the way for councils up and down the country by building an excellent and efficient headquarters that we can be proud of.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We have explored a range of options available for our permanent home, and there’s no doubt now that Crowmarsh represents the best value for our residents, as it was before the fire.”
21 August 2017 – Your chance to find out about plans for a new leisure centre for the Grove and Wantage area
Residents in the Vale of White Horse are to get the chance to view plans for a new leisure centre for the Grove and Wantage area.
To help meet the growing need for leisure facilities in the Grove and Wantage area, Vale of White Horse District Council is planning to build a new leisure centre at Mably Way. The aim is for the new centre to open in 2020.
To give people the chance to find out more about this project and allow them to view the plans the council is holding two public drop-in sessions:
• Thursday 7 September at Wantage Leisure Centre, OX12 9BY – 8am to 8pm
• Thursday 21 September at Old Mill Hall, Grove, OX12 7LB – 3pm to 8pm
Members of the project team will be on hand at both events to answer any questions and people will have the opportunity to complete a survey to let the council know what they think.
Anyone not able to attend either session will be able to view the plans and complete the survey online from 7 September by visiting www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/leisureforwantageandgrove
Cllr Charlotte Dickson, Cabinet Member for Leisure at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “With many new homes due to be built in the Grove and Wantage area, and with the current centre already at full capacity, there is a growing need for new leisure facilities. Our aim is to meet this demand as soon as possible by investing in this new centre which we expect to open in 2020, well before many of the new homes have been built.
“The consultation we’re running from 7 September will be a great chance for people to find out about the plans and to let us know what they think.”
14 August 2017 – £1.3million Abbey Meadow pool refurbishment work to start soon
Work to refurbish the much-loved outdoor pool in Abingdon’s Abbey Meadow is set to start later this month.
The £1.3million project will see the small pool combined with the larger pool to create a beach-style walk in area, allowing easy access to the water for young children or those with disabilities, and a deep-water area for more experienced swimmers.
A rubber crumbed surface will be installed to create a safe area around the pool and in front of the changing rooms. The changing rooms will also be refurbished.
The equipment used to run the swimming pool will be replaced with new energy efficient system which will help to cut maintenance and operation costs.
The work is expected to take around 28 weeks to complete with the pool due to open, weather permitting, in time for the 2018 summer season. It will be carried out by Vincent Stokes who specialise in building and refurbishing swimming pools and other leisure facilities and have worked with a number of high profile national leisure providers.
The work to refurbish the outdoor pool will mark the culmination of a major project to improve Abbey Meadow to attract more visitors to the area. The new play park opened earlier this year to an overwhelmingly positive reception, while new public toilets, changing facilities and an accessible path will be installed over the coming months.
Cllr Charlotte Dickson, Cabinet Member for Leisure at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The outdoor pool in Abingdon really is a much-loved local facility. The current pool area has seen better days. This refurbishment work will ensure that the pool can remain in operation for future generations and that it provides a much better environment for residents and visitors to the area.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I’m sure people will be very pleased to see work start at the pool later this month. This investment, along with the other improvements to the wider Abbey Meadow area, will help make this a must-visit venue.”
31 July 2017 – New pay and display machines for district council car parks
Motorists using district council car parks in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse will soon benefit from the use of new pay and display machines.
Following a successful trial, the new machines will be installed throughout August, starting in South Oxfordshire. They will allow you to pay by credit and debit card and also accept coins, including the new £1. Old £1 coins will continue to be accepted until they cease circulation on 15 October.
Motorists will also still be able to pay by mobile phone via the Connect Cashless system.
When using the new machines you will need to insert your vehicle registration on the key pad when paying to park.
The new machines will be much cheaper and easier to maintain than the current stock which is a number of years old. The system will be powered by solar panels making it much cheaper and greener to run and, where possible, will be installed into the existing machine holders to save waste.
Cllr David Nimmo-Smith, Cabinet Member for the 5 Councils Partnership and Corporate Services Contracts at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The new machines introduce debit/credit card payments to our car parks for the first time which will be a great help for those who don’t like to carry change around. Using solar panels means we’re making another small contribution to reducing the environmental impact of the council.”
Cllr Eric Batts, Cabinet Member for Technical Services at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The new machines are being installed as part of our shared services contract with VINCI, meaning we haven’t had to pay any extra money to accommodate the new £1 coin. They will also provide more payment options which will benefit motorists.”
31 July 2017 – People receiving single person council tax discount urged to confirm any changes
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are urging anyone who is currently claiming a 25 per cent single person discount on their council tax to get in touch if they now have others living with them.
The councils are carrying out checks to ensure that only those entitled to the discount are receiving it, and to help in their efforts to prevent and detect fraud and protect the public purse.
The review will see the councils working with credit reference agencies to check people’s eligibility for the discount and ensure that all records are up to date. This may also involve writing out to taxpayers for further clarification.
Anyone who thinks they may no longer be entitled, or anyone who thinks they are eligible but not currently claiming their discount, should get in touch:
Cllr Jane Murphy, Deputy Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Single person discount is available to people over the age of 18 who are living on their own. When someone falsely claims this discount, or fails to inform us when their circumstances change, it costs the public purse significant amounts; money which could be spent on supporting vital services.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “If you are currently claiming the discount but have someone else living with you, now is the time to get in touch so your account can be amended.”
10 July 2017 – New waste and recycling trucks on their way
£6.5 million pounds has been invested in a brand new fleet of waste and recycling trucks, providing new and improved collections to households across southern Oxfordshire.
The trucks – due to hit the roads in the autumn – will replace the old vehicles which are becoming unreliable as they reach the end of their life.
The new vehicles, managed by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils’ contractor Biffa, will carry out the waste, recycling and food recycling collection services for all 115,000 households across the districts.
Cllr Tony Harbour, South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Waste, said: “The current trucks are now over seven years old and have always been due to be replaced in 2017. As they are reaching the end of their life, they have started to become unreliable with some unfortunately breaking down en-route. In recent weeks, this has started to cause some disruption to household collection services and we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to residents.”
The councils and Biffa are working hard to resolve the problem, including drafting in extra vehicles and calling on the crews to work extra hours. In the event of non-collection of waste or recycling, residents are advised to leave their bins out and the crew will be back to collect them the next day.
Cllr Charlotte Dickson, Vale of White Horse District Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Waste, said: “We appreciate how important waste and recycling services are to local residents and we are very grateful for the efforts people make to recycle their waste. We hope they will be pleased that the new vehicles are on their way.
“In the meantime, I would like to reassure residents that we are working closely with Biffa to ensure that collections run as smoothly as possible.”
Residents can stay informed about waste and recycling collections via the councils’ websites, including arranging bulky waste collections and reporting missed bins.
A Biffa spokesperson added: “I’d like to assure residents that we are doing all we can to make collections as scheduled, and apologise to any residents who have been affected by the problems with our vehicles. The new fleet will make a real difference, and will help us to deliver the service that residents in South Oxfordshire and Vale expect and deserve.”
• Missed collections can be reported online via the South Oxfordshire District Council website or via the Vale of White Horse District Council website.
• The new vehicle fleet is being funded by Biffa.
• With the introduction of the new fleet, the Council is also advising residents of a change to the way their waste, recycling and rubbish is collected. At present, food waste and recycling are collected in separate compartments within the same truck. From the autumn, when the new fleet is introduced, these collections will be carried out by two separate vehicles – one for food waste, another for recycling or rubbish.
• The change is being made to improve the service and ensure collections are carried out as efficiently as possible.
23 June 2017 – Council’s recover £1.6 million in unpaid council tax charges
Councils recover over £1.6million unpaid council tax
Over £1.6million in council tax arrears was recovered last year thanks to enforcement action taken by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils.
In 2016/17 the councils issued over 5,300 court summonses to people who had failed to pay their council tax. Magistrates then granted liability orders against 3,600 of those individuals – this meant enforcement action, including the use of bailiffs, could be taken to retrieve the money.
Almost all of those in arrears then paid the money they owed, however the councils were forced to take further action against 96 people to ensure they paid their fair share towards the cost of providing public services.
This resulted in 53 people receiving charging orders – which allows the councils to enforce the sale of a persons’ property to retrieve the money. One person who deliberately failed to pay was sent to prison, while seven were given suspended sentences.
The councils also recovered and saved a further £167,000 after 62 people were caught claiming discounts on their council tax they weren’t entitled to. This resulted in nine being prosecuted in court and 47 fined.
Cllr Jane Murphy, Deputy Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council said: “It’s vital that everyone pays their fair share for the services we provide, such as waste and recycling collections. Anyone who doesn’t do so puts added pressure on the public purse and effectively cheats all those who do contribute.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Help is always available for anyone who is genuinely struggling to pay, however if someone deliberately refuses to pay we won’t hesitate to take tough enforcement action – this could result in a court appearance, a prison sentence or even someone losing their home.”
9 May 2017 – Man fined for bath tub fly-tip
A man from Swindon has been fined £2,000 after admitting dumping rubbish, including a bath tub, toilet and sink, in Longcot.
Ian Baker, 36, of Ramsbury Avenue, Swindon, appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 2 May when he pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the Environmental Protection Act after fly-tipping rubbish on Old Wharf Road on Saturday 15 October 2016.
Magistrates’ heard how environment enforcement officers from Vale of White Horse District Council found evidence at the scene linking the rubbish back to an address in Swindon. The occupant confirmed the rubbish had been removed from her property by Ian Baker who was trading as Forebak Removals.
Baker had agreed to remove the rubbish after accepting the booking via Facebook for £30. Despite being a registered waste carrier he chose to dump the rubbish rather than take it to an authorised waste and recycling centre.
Magistrates fined Ian Baker £2,000 and ordered him to pay £632 costs and a victim surcharge of £150.
Paul Holland, Environmental Protection Manager at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Fly-tipping can be a real blight on the landscape and shows a total disregard for the community in that area.
“A waste removal booking for a number of items like this will typically cost over £100, so if the price seems too good to be true I would urge people to seek an alternative quote.”
4 May 2017 – Man fined for Fly-tip following Facebook waste booking
A man who accepted waste removal bookings on Facebook has been fined £500 after rubbish was found fly-tipped in Harwell.
Adrian Tarft, 37, of Wash Common, Newbury, pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 25 April to four charges in relation to breaching his duty of care under the Environmental Protection Act and one charge of transporting waste without being a registered waste carrier.
Magistrates heard how, on 21 March 2016, Environmental Health Officers from Vale of White Horse District Council received a call from a local farmer who had found rubbish, including a television, tyres and carpet, fly-tipped at the entrance to a field he owned along the A417 London Road in Harwell.
Officers were able to trace the waste to an address in Reading where a resident confirmed that she had made the booking with Tarft who was trading as Ebony Landscapes. The resident had made the booking via Facebook after seeing an advert Tarft had placed on the social media site.
In an interview under caution Tarft admitted accepting the booking for £100 and removing the waste without being licensed to do so, but denied dumping the rubbish. He claimed that an associate had his van at the time the fly-tip took place but declined to identify the person allegedly responsible.
In court Magistrates fined Tarft £500 and ordered him to pay the council’s £1,886 prosecution costs.
Paul Holland, Environmental Protection Manager at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “By law anyone being paid to transport waste must be registered to do so and have a record of what the rubbish is and where they’ve taken it.
“If you book a waste collection you also have a legal responsibility for checking that it’s taking place legally, so please double check any references, and ask to see documentation, before you hand any money over.”
If you see a fly-tip on public land in the Vale of White Horse please report it by calling 03000 610 610 or email [email protected]