How To Contact Us

Twitter: @WeAreOakhurst Facebook: ORA Facebook Page

Chair: Paul Exell (email: phone: 01793 703276)

Membership Secretary: Sarah McDermott

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

ORA Blog moves to a new website

Oakhurst Residents' Association have created a new website!

The old blog will be kept on-line as an archive of our older posts, but all new posts and news can be found at our new web address

So please bookmark this new home of the Oakhurst Residents' Association blog to keep in touch with what is happening.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Redhouse Cafe Culture Sold Out for Housing

The Swindon Advertiser posted a picture for the Tomlinson family album as mother and son posed together in the foreground of a promised land. 

Why they look so proud of their achievement is questionable.  The gang of four are at it again.  Bulldozers and building is all they understand and, though many promises were made to Priory Vale residents about the state of the art Village Centre, residents now find that a back door application has been processed to build 33 extra houses.   

Not one in the gang of four called it into planning committee for consideration thus sealing the fate forever of the cafe culture that residents were promised. 

It appears that the developer, Crest Nicholson, is being blamed for the fact that it was asking for a fair market price for its land holdings.  Surely, Conservative councillors would support free market, striving businesses? 

Therefore Crest Nicholson, as developer, has only done what is expected. Yet, Justin Tomlinson MP tells us that developers would not try to take advantage.  How can an MP say one thing about development in an article one day and then contradict himself the next day in an article in the same newspaper. 

People in Priory Vale have expressed dismay that there is a definite possibility of a maybe that at some point in the future there could well be a community building of sorts.   

What we do know, that is definitely happening, is that there is no doctor’s surgery, nursery provision, retail units or a pub being built on that site.

Now that’s outrageous and it’s scandalous that our local politicians have done it again so soon after Tadpole Farm and Mouldon Hill Country Park.


Friday, 29 March 2013

ORA Office Closed For Easter Break

Please be aware that the ORA office will be closed for the Easter break from Friday, 29th March 2013 until Monday, 8th April 2013.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Puzzle of Redhouse Village Centre

Planning approval has been given for 33 more houses on land at Redhouse Village Centre where there should have been a doctor’s surgery, retail units and other community facilities.  Residents are asking some questions: 
Ø  Why was no planning committee held to make this decision?
Ø  Why did local councillors pay the developer £240k for some land at the Village Centre?
Ø  Why did a local councillor say, at two public meetings, that the land was going to be given to SBC for nothing?
Ø  Why did a local councillor admit to seeing Village Centre plans in 2011 but didn’t obtain a copy of that plan for local people?
Ø  Is this the end of the much heralded cafe culture promised by local politicians to the residents of Oakhurst and Redhouse?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Please Mr Bumble; Can We Have A School Where We Want It?

It is with a sardonic irony that the Adver reports that Tadpole Farm will become the preferred site for a four-form-entry primary school in Priory Vale.  The council has been aware of the demand for school places for several years and funding provision had been made to meet the known demand. However, it carried out the following incomprehensible actions: 
  1. It was clear from the building programme that two-form-entry schools were needed, yet it continued to provide one-form-entry schools.
  2. This was coincidental in so far as Cllr Renard sat on a schools task group which carved up safety valve money for North Swindon schools and set out to build schools in South Swindon when there was already sufficient capacity.  In doing this, schools in the North were starved of building funds and new school places.
  3. Parents of children in Priory Vale have been treated in a cruel manner and now find their children shunted around the Northern part of Swindon for no other reason other than political incompetence and muddled thinking.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Mouldon Hill Country Park Saved From Development

Tonight SBC’s Cabinet made the decision to place two primary schools on Tadpole Farm. One will be built with access from the Oakhurst Way/Tadpole Lane roundabout and open in September 2014; the second site will be built later.

As we are aware, local councillors preferred the Country Park as the site for the new school. Residents in Oakhurst wanted to keep the Country Park and were quite clear, during the consultation, that no building of such kind should take place there.

Residents in Oakhurst also wanted a local site for a local school and asked for the planned Tadpole Farm school to be brought forward. Residents tell us that they are pleased that common sense has won the day and that the school will be built on Tadpole Farm.

ORA would like to thank everyone who worked with us to save the Country Park from development. Local people are pleased that a school will be built that does not involve a long hike over difficult terrain.
The new school at Tadpole Farm will benefit the people of Oakhurst and will be less distance to travel for all of the Oakhurst children when compared to the Mouldon Hill Country Park site.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Redhouse Pub Site: Suitable Falls at Becher's Brook

The report to cabinet on 20th March concerning the suitability of school sites in North Swindon states:

3.18 In addition to the site assessment further investigation with the developer in ownership of the Redhouse Pub Site option has identified;

3.18.1 The site is not under the control of the Council and the developer has indicated that they are working on bringing the site forward for local centre uses in the immediate short term,

3.18.2 The land is not big enough to accommodate a school and playing pitches,

3.18.3 There are complex contractual arrangements between the members of the North Swindon Development Consortium relating to the funding of infrastructure land which could affect the purchase price for the Council.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Local School Places or Product Placement for Class Solutions?

Class Solutions…
SCS (think Direct Labour Department ) is an ‘arms length company’ owned in total by SBC. Mr Pickles has described such arrangements as ‘sock puppets’.
Class Solutions is an SBC/SCS design of wooden pods with huge roofs where a 2FE primary school will require 5 18metre x 18metre pods, 15 pitched roofs and 4 flat connecting roofs.  Also known as a Pop-Up School, in which North Swindon MP J Tomlinson has previously shown an interest.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Redhouse Village Centre site - As Clear As Mud then?

Communication from an SBC planning officer in response to a query from a member of the public. 
In accordance with the Council’s approved Scheme of Delegation 2012, the application was determined under delegated authority by the Service Manager-Development Management. No Borough Councillor or the Parish Council requested the matter to be placed before the Council’s Planning Committee for determination.

The decision was authorised and issued on 6th March 2013. This is recorded on the application file.

Whilst the ‘hard’ file documents are clear that the decision was made under delegated powers, the electronic database, as you have pointed out, recorded otherwise. The database has been amended to reflect this.

This is a guest post

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Is This Another Injustice For Oakhurst People?

People in Oakhurst will be surprised to learn that their wishes and aspirations are recognised by the councillors but it seems they are not being listened to.  This patronising approach by councillors has to stop.  The people of Oakhurst have clearly shown they want a school at Tadpole Farm.  The council has carried out an assessment which also shows that:

3.19 In conclusion, the site assessment scoring brings the Tadpole Farm site out as the best option.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Is this Crunch Time for the Profligate and Inept?

Crunch time is coming when the lead member for schools and North Swindon councillor must lay his cards on the table for the site of the 2014 North Swindon School. At the moment, the public has been invited to consider Redhouse as one of the potential sites.

Would this be the same Redhouse for which the planning system shows PA S/12/0711: application for 33 houses and a charge of £240,000 to SBC for the land for a community centre?

PA S/12/0711 which states it was granted approval on 6/3/2013 by committee but for which no minute of presentation to or approval by the planning committee exist? Are elected members no longer necessary in the decision making process? Or was someone trying to hide this from public view?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Class Solutions or Mammoth Erections?

The Mouldon Hill site (either entrance) comes with the Class Solutions design.

It is fairly obvious that the Croft was set up and the public stitched up to use this as the prototype and brochure for this half baked venture cobbled together in secret.

The Croft school, wonderful though the education may be and I hope is inside, is an eyesore. It looks as though all of the money has been spent on shoring up the ground and assembing MFI like sheds and roofs. All the other stuff necessary for a school.. like playgrounds and fences and entrances etc., look as though they came from the back garage at SCS.  All a bit Blue Peter'ish.

A recent article in the Adver about the Croft featured a head of the White Horse Federation waxing lyrical about the design and their involvement in it and, if I recall, stated that Class Solutions would be the design for all new schools in Swindon.

Now how on earth could a member of the WHF state or even know this? Do elected members know this? Where has this been minuted? And has anyone told St Joseph's?

Friday, 8 March 2013

Redhouse Village Centre Update

ORA have learnt today that planning permission has been granted for 33 houses at Redhouse Village Centre and the permission gives further news on the community centre site.

Residents have been asking us what is happening to the Redhouse school site in light of comments made yesterday in the Adver by Cllr David Renard, who was still driving forward the Mouldon Hill site.

This planning decision signals the end of the cafe culture promised to so many residents who bought their houses in Priory Vale and effectively signals the end of the proposed school site nearby. 

The consultation ends in two days and there will be disappointed residents who were hoping for a site at Redhouse.

It appears that building houses still comes before a doctor's surgery, school places and retail units. 

What's new there?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Gamekeeper or Poacher?

It appears that schools in South Swindon are hawking for children from the North to fill their empty spaces in Old Town.

What sort of council would allow such a thing to happen?

It bodes ill for future school place planning in Swindon.

Here is some information:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

School Place Consultation: Further Injustice to Oakhurst Residents?

March 20th is the crunch day when Cllr Renard, who is currently rumoured to be bidding for leadership of the council, will have to give his preferred school site choice for North Swindon.
What we do know is that March 20th is the date for the cabinet meeting.  However, the agenda and reports are circulated at least a week before.  That would be round about the 12th March.  The closing date for the consultation is 8th March so he has three working days to put a report together for cabinet.  Knowing how these things work, that seems a remarkably short time to produce a comprehensive report.
What we also know is that 90 reception school places have not been delivered in a timely fashion and now we have a sudden rush.  Why is this? These places have been needed for years and, at least five years ago, the numbers would have been known. 
Cllr Renard, as lead member, is responsible for school place planning and is trying to shunt this away from himself.
Blame shunting is not new to politicians on this council.  What the parents of North Swindon children have learnt today is that various facebook forums exist.  No mention has been made of these or how to access them during the consultation process but Cllr Renard places great weight on them in the Adver today.  Why have officers at Swindon Borough Council not told anyone about these facebook forums? What is Cllr Renard up to?
He obviously supports a Mouldon Hill Country Park option over the alternatives.   Why isn’t he honest about this? Or has he been on a facebook forum that nobody can find?  Even in the report there is no mention of how to access these forums.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Who Pays for Poor School Place Planning?

Last year, I joined an exclusive group; I joined the group of families who failed to secure any of their three school place preferences for their reception-age-children.  Instead, the members of this group were allocated a school place miles from their homes.
Unless you are a member of this exclusive group it may be difficult to understand what this means to a family and the impact it has.  I want to tell you what it is like:
1.    I spend a lot of time each day transporting my child to and from school.

2.    There is a financial cost; I was anticipating walking to school but, instead, I am paying for petrol and bus fares which are having an impact on the family purse. 

3.    My child loses the health benefits associated with walking to school.

4.    My child loses the social interaction with the friends he/she may walk with.

5.    My child will not be able to do after school activities or go to tea with friends as the transport logistics make it difficult to fetch my child at any other time than school leaving time.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Out of the Blue - A Developer Came to Call

ORA have received a telephone call today from the developer at Tadpole Farm.  On receiving the call, ORA was hoping to hear that the developer had relented and was bringing Oakhurst residents the good news that they wouldn't have to wait for 564 houses to be built before the school building started.

Sadly, this was not the case.  The only reason the developer rang us up was to see if we were interested in their design codes.  They are the architects, they are the ones that pushed this through onto the community but now they have the temerity to approach us.

We know that some turkeys will vote early for Christmas; as the local councillors did when they said they were against inappropriate development but then proposed and voted for it.

The only thing that ORA would support on behalf of the residents of Oakhurst is if the developer came forward and said when and where would you like the school built on the Tadpole Farm site; thus helping existing residents to find a reception place for their children.

The developer has got its wish, the support of the local councillors and the MP.  We'll leave them to sort this mess out; a mess of their own making.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

News from the Doorstep - School Place Consultation

The Oakhurst residents are showing a level of anger over and above that of Tadpole Farm, when the gang of four said that they were against inappropriate development and then proposed and voted for it.

Second time around and the residents are still in no mood to forgive or forget.

ORA have been offered lots of help, advice and news concerning the school place consultation.  Residents have also offered to fund the leaflets and deliver them; such is the depth of anger over the consultation of obfuscation. 
ORA would like to thank residents for their generous offers but we already have enough people to deliver.  However, we would appreciate it if they could speak to their neighbours as promised.

Other groups are also contacting us about matters in North Swindon. Redhouse are surprised to hear about the 30-odd houses being planned for land adjacent to the village centre; especially as they tell us that there will be no improvements to Redhouse Way.

If there are any spare school places in Blunsdon then they are very likely to disappear because of pressure from the developments at Broadbush, Abbey Stadium and on the land between the A419 and Blunsdon.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Old One Two: Rapid Transit Link planned for the East?

Talk about groundhog day.  Residents in Oakhurst are still stunned from the u-turning punch landed by the gang of four on Tadpole Farm's green and precious land when the next punch has already been landed on the East.  The East has fallen victim to the knockout punch of the Old One Two aka Heenan and Bluh.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall Which School Site is Fairest Of All?

Oh dear.  Why has the fairy tale of a good boast evaporated for local politicians in the North?

Residents in Oakhurst know that some politicians enjoy putting party literature, that comes out of the blue, through their letter boxes.  What motivates them?  Keeping the leaflet business ticking over or actually informing residents what's important in their locality?  Are some politicians determined to follow a leaflet, bald of facts, with a dose of disingenuiness on the doorstep?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Local Councillor Says Build a School on Oakhurst's Clifford Meadow

At a primary school place consultation event at Oakhurst Community Primary School on 21st February one of the local councillors has stated her intention to build a school on the Special Site of Scientific Interest, Clifford Meadow, in Oakhurst.  This field has protected status because of the rare orchids that proliferate in the never-ploughed ridges and furrows left untouched since Medieval times.

The councillor has consulted with the solicitor and she believes that the protected status of the field runs out in about 18 months time.  In the councillor's opinion it would then become an ideal site for a primary school and houses.  The whole field might as well be built on to complete the development.

The same councillor also suggested that a road should be built from another one of her preferred school locations, at Mouldon Hill Country Park, straight to Oakhurst Way.  When questioned by residents about how this road would cross the Swindon and Cricklade Railway Line and bypass existing houses they received no reply. 

Perhaps this mile long link road will cost as much as the long promised Northern Bypass, also a mile long, from Thamesdown Drive to the Great Western Way.  This is currently estimated, by the local councillors' colleagues, to cost about £110 million.

Residents were expressing dismay that the Tadpole Farm site, one that they believe will provide primary school places for Oakhurst children, is not the priority.

The Gang of Four Strike Again - Mouldon Hill Consultation

It was with some bemusement that residents have read the recent leaflet from the local ward councillors and MP about their need for a school at Mouldon Hill.   Residents are puzzled because they are under the impression that they are taking part in a consultation with Swindon Borough Council’s education department.
We now have a situation where four politicians have waded in.  Are they trying to skew the outcome?  Was the Oakhurst consultation an afterthought after residents had raised concerns that Mouldon Hill was the only option being given to them?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chair of ORA writes to Education Department

29th January 2013

Dear Education Department,
Re: North Swindon School Place Consultation
I believe that I witnessed an injustice being perpetrated against Oakhurst families and their children when I attended the Mouldon Hill consultation session at the Tawny Owl on 23 January 2013 and felt I had to write to you to express my concerns about both the proposals and the consultation process. 
First and foremost I have to agree that there is a serious shortfall in the number of primary school reception places in Oakhurst and Redhouse.  We have numerous residents that have reported having their reception age children placed, against their preference/s, as far away as Rodbourne Cheney, Pinehurst and West Swindon for the September 2012 academic year.  In fact, ORA have been told by Oakhurst residents that they are thinking of moving or have been forced to move to secure a local school place for their child. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Injustice at Mouldon Hill School Place Consultation?

This article represents the views of Oakhurst residents who want an Oakhurst school for Oakhurst children

Residents report witnessing an injustice being perpetrated against Oakhurst families and their children at the Mouldon Hill school consultation session at the Tawny Owl on 23 January 2013. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Mouldon Hill School? The Facts According to the Residents of Oakhurst

Some parents in Oakhurst have moved to get a neighbourhood school place or are faced with moving.  The alternative is to send their child to a school that they did not choose and travelling miles to drop their child off.  The current Secretary of State for Education may talk at length about parental choice but for many Oakhurst families there has never been  a choice.  If  they opt for their Oakhurst school then they may end up in Rodbourne Cheney, Pinehurst or a school outside of the Northern Sector altogether. They may also face appeals with no outcome except disappointment.  That is a reality for parents and young children in Oakhurst.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mouldon Hill - Does It All Make Sense?

Here is an article from a guest about the Mouldon Hill school.  It is worth reading as it gives an overview of considerations that don't appear to be headline topics for discussion.  Anyway here's the blog for you to read.

The people of Swindon are faced with huge public debt.  Cuts are being proposed to services and yet more Council Staff are in fear of redundancy.  Cllr Bluh states that money has to be borrowed for education.
It is a matter of record that SBC received £6,374,000 for educational needs in North Swindon and allocated this in total to the Croft in South Swindon, which now has the luxury of additional primary places, not that Children’s Services would tell you that.  They have just been caught out reporting that all Old Town and Town Centre primary schools are ‘full’.  Children’s services are now off to define what ‘full’ means.  Maybe they should ask North Swindon residents?
On 17th January 2013, North Swindon Ward Councillor, Lead Member for Children’s services and Deputy Council Leader Renard was asked the following questions by a member of the public:
Cllr Renard, in your recent written response to public questions regarding the usage of Mouldon Hill Country park you stated, “The Local Authority has recently stated that Mouldon Hill Country Park is underused.  However, the part of the park that is the subject of the consultation appears not to be frequented by members of the public as it is inaccessible due to flood defences and the railway line surrounding it”

Monday, 21 January 2013

A School at Mouldon Hill is not Oakhurst

Councillors please note that Oakhurst is not Taw Hill.  Taw Hill is not Mouldon Hill, especially when it's a Country Park.  Geography does not change on a political whim.  Therefore residents in Oakhurst, who are well aware of the difference, have been telling ORA that they would like a local school in Oakhurst for their children to attend; a school that is not built at the expense of their country park.
Oakhurst needs a school for Oakhurst.  The proposed school at Mouldon Hill Country Park (renamed  Oakhurst or Taw Hill by the politicians) is very difficult for Oakhurst families to get to.  They will have to cross the main road twice and divert, on the footpath, through Taw Hill and then cross the revised railway route to even reach the front gates.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Gone With The Wind

ORA has extended the courtesy to Ill Wind, a group of local residents, to host their article about proposed wind turbine sites in Swindon Borough Council's Local Plan.  This is entirely the work of Ill Wind and its publisher.  Any comments should be directed to them.
Gone With The Wind
Last year saw 5 parish councils and well over 800 Swindon residents taken aback by a Planning Department document that identified areas, including Highworth, Hannington, South Marston, Tadpole Farm and the eastern villages of Wanborough and Liddington as areas appropriate for wind turbines.  In response, the residents and local parish councils asked that the Local Plan should define a minimum separation distance between any proposed wind turbines and residential housing.