Matthew Barber Leader VOWH Council

Christmas Wishes To All In The Vale With just over a week to go until the big day I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Find out about Christmas waste collections online at www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/bankholidays.


Vale Local Plan (Part One) Adopted By Council The Vale of White Horse District Council has tonight adopted the Local Plan: 2031 (Part 1), ensuring communities are better protected from speculative development. Following this evening's Council meeting where the Local Plan was formally agreed the final version of the plan can now be published.

The Vale is now considered to have a five year housing land supply and major developments should now proceed in accordance with the Local Plan.

The council will now use the Local Plan (Part 1) to determine planning applications throughout the district. This means the Vale Council will have much greater control over what developments are allowed to be built.

I am delighted that we’ve been given the go-ahead to adopt Part 1 of the Vale Local Plan: 2031. After a process that has taken several years and has seen communities across the Vale contributing to the Local Plan we are now in a position to have much greater control over all development in the Vale.

Adopting the Local Plan not only gives the Council more control over where housing is delivered, but also makes it easier to secure the much needed infrastructure funding that should go with it. This will be enhanced further when we adopt the Community Infrastructure Levy as well.

The Council has also agreed the Blewbury and Faringdon Neighbourhood Plans which were both supported by an overwhelming majority of residents at recent referenda.

In spring 2017 Vale of White Horse District Council will consult on the preferred options for the Local Plan: 2031 (Part 2) – this will cover allocating strategic sites to meet Oxford City’s unmet housing need, and other sites to ensure that the Vale’s own housing needs are met in full.

 

New Play Equipment Gives Faringdon Youngsters Early Christmas Present Vale of White Horse District Council has given children in Faringdon an early Christmas present - £80,000 worth of new play equipment in Pye Street Park play area.

The new equipment includes swings, a roundabout, a multi-play area, rockers and a zip wire.

The play area has also been upgraded with a new rubber surface, making it even safer for children using the site.

 

New Changing Facilities and Toilets For Abbey Meadow People visiting Abingdon’s Abbey Meadow will benefit from a further improvements, including new public toilets, changing facilities and an accessible path leading to the popular splash park.

The improvements are in addition to the new play area, announced by Vale of White Horse District Council last month, and are part of a project to revamp the riverside area and make it more attractive for people to visit throughout the year.

 

Support For The Homeless Nearly £110,000 is being invested by the Vale of White Horse District Council to support those who are rough sleepers or are at risk of becoming homeless.

The funding will provide 13 supported beds for the district's most vulnerable residents for the next three years and will include ongoing support to help them get back to a stable life.

The council has stepped in to contribute towards filling the funding gap, following Oxfordshire County Council cutting its housing related support funding by£1.5 million.

At the same time the Vale's housing and homelessness support service has been recognised by the National Practitioner Support Service (NPSS) as one of the country’s top performers. The review by the NPSS ranked the council in the top eight nationally!

Changes to how you can pay for parking in the Vale
Users of district council car parks are now able to pay by mobile using the new Connect Cashless system – this replaces the RingGo service, which has been available since 2014.  People can still also pay by cash.

 

Car park users can quickly and easily register a Connect account with a call to provide payment details – one text later and they’re all set up. Every time they visit the car park from then on, they will only need to make a phone call or send a single text to pay for their parking.  There’s more information at whitehorsedc.gov.uk/connectcashless

 

Park for free and buy local this Christmas – free parking days increased in Vale towns for 2016
Vale of White Horse District Council is giving people an extra incentive to shop locally for their presents this year by offering even more free parking days in the run up to Christmas. Traditionally the district council has offered a single day’s free parking in district council car parks in Abingdon, Faringdon and Wantage.  However in the run up to Christmas, for the first time, motorists can park for free on a number of select days up until 24 December.

 

You can park for free in district council car parks all day on the following days (you don’t have to display a ticket during these times):
• Abingdon: Saturdays - from 26 November to 24 December
• Faringdon: 3, 6, 9 and 17 December
• Wantage: Fridays -  2, 9, 16 and 23 December

 

MoD announces Dalton Barracks to be closed
Dalton Barracks has been at the heart of the Abingdon community for a generation and it will be sadly missed by many residents in the Vale of White Horse.
We are currently awaiting clarification on exactly when the sale is expected to happen, and how much and which parts of the site will be sold, before we can assess how the land could help the local need for housing in the future. In the meantime, we’re expecting to adopt our new Local Plan 2031 next month.

 

Plans unveiled for new play area in Abingdon’s Abbey Meadow
The revamp is part of a major project to improve Abbey Meadow - attracting more visitors throughout the year.  
The work will also see new toilets, new fencing around the splash park and dedicated changing facilities for children.  There will also be a circular dog walk, and a new sloping path to provide people with disabilities easy access to the splash area and riverside.  In a separate project the Vale is also refurbishing the outdoor pool and changing rooms. 
You can find out more about the plans at www.matthewbarber.co.uk/news/plans-unveiled-new-play-area-abingdons-abbey-meadow

 

New slip roads open on the A34 at Chilton
Following an £11m investment and 13 months of construction the new north facing slip roads at Chilton have opened providing better connection to the A34.

With the forecast increase in homes and jobs in Science Vale the new slip roads will play a vital role in ensuring that the local road infrastructure meets future demands. Harwell Campus, which is set to see a significant increase in jobs on site, will benefit from an improved access to its site from the A34.

Vale of White Horse District Council Leader, Cllr Matthew Barber commented: "Providing the new access to and from the A34 will make a huge difference to the local road network, relieving pressure at Milton Interchange and Rowstock. It is a significant investment in our infrastructure and will support the growth in our local economy. There remain major safety concerns on the A34 and I support the work being done by our local MPs Nicola Blackwood and Ed Vaizey to tackle this issue with the Department of Transport."

 

Supporting the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway
Today (16 November) the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published its interim report on the Oxford-Cambridge Corridor. Like the southern cousin of George Osborne's "Northern Powerhouse" the idea is to capitalise on the amazing knowledge based economy that already exists between these two great cities. 

The report highlights many of the challenges that we recognise all too well in Oxfordshire around coping with the delivery of housing growth. The key recommendation is improved governance including possibly Combined Authorities and Unitary Authorities. Now that Oxfordshire County Council have finally agreed to reconsider their approach to combined authorities this could be a golden opportunity to improve cooperation and therefore the delivery of much needed infrastructure.

Also recommended in the report are the extension to East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway. The latter would be a huge boost for Oxfordshire and the Vale in particular. Not just as a faster link between the knowledge hubs of Science Vale and Cambridge, but also importantly to relieve pressure on the A34, particularly around Oxford.

This is only the Interim Report with much work still to be done by the NIC and by local authorities, but it marks an important first step on a long journey.

Changes to your recycling services from November
From November, we will only empty green wheelie bins if the recycling in them is loose or in clear sacks.
Despite a recent campaign to raise awareness of the issue, food waste, dirty nappies, and other items we cannot recycle are still contaminating whole truckloads of recycling. When these are put into recycling bins in black or coloured sacks they are not spotted until it is too late.
From November if there is a sack in a recycling bin and the waste crews cannot see what is in it, they will not empty it to protect everybody’s recycling from getting contaminated. You will need to remove any sacks or contamination before your next scheduled recycling collection.
The best option is to put your recycling in loose (give it a quick rinse beforehand to keep your green bin smelling fresh).  If you would prefer to use clear sacks, you can buy them from most major supermarkets and hardware stores.
Throughout October we will leave a note on any bins with the wrong colour sack in it to explain the problem and we will empty the bin on that occasion. From November we will start leaving them unemptied to help us protect everybody’s recycling from getting contaminated. You will need to remove any sacks or contamination before your next scheduled recycling collection.
If you have any questions, please contact Biffa on 03000 610 610 or admin.vale@biffa.co.uk.

 

Troops march in Abingdon
Earlier in October the Vale of White Horse District Council paid tribute to our armed forces as 3 & 4 Regiments Royal Logistic Corp, based at Abingdon, exercised their Freedom of the Vale, granted by the Council earlier this year.  The morning was attended by large crowds despite the unpleasant weather. A similar parade is planned for The Rifles to take place in Faringdon.

 

News on Oxford's unmet housing need
All districts neighbouring Oxford City are being required to find additional housing that the City cannot deliver. This unwelcome additional pressure has been known for some time, but it has now been quantified. 
The outcome for the Vale is much better than once feared. The allocation for our district is 2,200 - the lowest level of any district outside the city - and much lower than the 4,000 we had feared.
No decisions have been made about the allocation of this housing which will be consulted on in the Vale's Local Plan Part 2. The figures for Oxford's unmet need have been significantly reduced after strong challenges from the Vale and others demanding that Oxford does more to deliver its own housing. These efforts will continue.
Part 1 of the Vale's Local Plan is still on track to be formally adopted by Council in December.

 

Sign up for the Vale's new email newsletter
The Vale has launched a new email newsletter to keep you informed about council services and other important local news. You can sign up online at www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/news-and-events/keep-me-informed/vale-news

Bodies finally recovered from Didcot Power Station
Since February of this year a c!oud has hung over us all following the tragic collapse of the boiler huuse at Didcot Power Station that killed four men.
After many months and much anguish the !ast body has now finally been recovered. Michael Collings, 53, Ken Cresswell, 57, John Shaw, 61,and Chris Huxtable, 34, all lost their lives during the accident whilst the­ building was being prepared for a controlled demolition.The discovery of their bodies will hopefully be of some small comfort to the families who have waited so long to have their loved ones returned. I am also extremeiy grateful for the work of Oxfordshire's emergency services and the recovery teams who have worked for months on the gruesome task of picking through the rubble for the victims .

 

Swimming pool reopens
I am delighted- that the swimming pooi at the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre has reopened on time following a £400,000 revamp. There are new showers and disabled toilets as well as improvements to signage and retiling of the pool. The major work however is unseen by the public and involved repairs to the concrete supports under the pool. The work should give at least 20 years more life to the pool. During the closure many people were able to take advantage of the Abbey Meadow outdoor pool. The weather has been kind and with the swimming lessons being moved to the outdoor pool more than 35,000 visits were made to the facility which is due for a major overhaul itself before it reopens for the next season.

Have your say on Oxfordshire's health
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGi aiong with our local NHS trusts (representing hospitals and ambuiance services) are asking Oxfordshire's residents their views on health and care in the County. There are major challenges ahead with an ageing population and increasing demand on NHS services so the planning for future services will affect us all. You can find out more and have your say at www.oxonhealthcaretransformation.nhs.uk.

A new number to call when the lights go out
A new national phone line has been launched to make it easLer to report power cuts in your area and get help and advice. The free-to-dial 105 number was developed by the energy industry to help clear up confusion about who to contact.
People can call 105 from most landlines and mobile phones, no matter who they choose to buy electricity from.

First refugee family arrives in the Vale
The first of six families of Syrian refugees have arrived in the Vale of White Horse from UN refugee camps. The District Council has been working closely with the British Red Cross to ensure that they settle in to their new home as they seek to make a new life for themselves after fleeing the terrible suffering in Syria .
A special thank you must go to the many churches, voluntary groups and generous individuals who have been working so hard to help provide support for those arriving in our community.

Welcoming Revd Alec Gill
Earlier this month I was delighted to represent the Vale at a special service to license Revd Alec Gill as Assistant Vicar for the Vale Benefice. The packed service, conducted by the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher OBE, was attended by representatives from many communities and many organisations. As with all those who dedicate their time to the service of others in the Vale I wish him all the very best for the future.

Boundary Park Pavilion opens to the public
The doors have opened on a brand new £4million sports facility at Great Western Park. Funding for the building and pitches has been secured by the local district councils and the new centre is home to Didcot Cricket Club, Didcot Rugby Club and Harwell and Hendred Youth Football Club.
The launch event at the start of September was fantastically well attended and the new centre will be a great asset for Great Western Park and the wider community.


Help for Landlords and Tenants
The District Council's White Horse Lettings scheme offers services to both tenants and landlords to help those on low income find good quality, secure rental accommodation in the local area. For eligible tenants the Council offers a deposit guarantee scheme and also offers a referral reward of £250 for referring a landlord who goes on to let properties through White Horse Lettings. 
There are no fees for the letting service which provided carefully vetted tenants and deals with all of the paperwork. If you need help accessing rental properties in the Vale or are a landlord interesting in letting your property through us then please contact the Vale's housing team on 01235 422422 or visit the website www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/housing.

 

Business Workshops
As part of their ongoing work to support the local economy Vale4Business has organised another round of FREE business workshops. 
In the past we have held events on everything from HR to social media, marketing, and apprenticeships, as Vale4Business is committed to providing Vale businesses with the tools to grow and succeed.
The upcoming free workshops include –
Access to Finance (OCC) – 07 September, 6.00pm-8.00pm with Oxfordshire County Council
Google Digital Garage – 13 September, 9.00am-11.00am with Google and Milton Park
Business Continuity – 19 October, 9.00am-1.00pm with Basinger Consultants
For more information and to sign up for a workshop, contact the team at info@vale4business.com.
Throughout the year Vale4Business will also been running a range of evening networking tours of Vale businesses as a way of encouraging useful networking for our members and as an alternative to other breakfast networking groups. The autumn/winter programme will be announced shortly and includes businesses such as Miele, UTC Oxfordshire, Diamond.

 

Broadband investment pays off
Last month I reported on a new scheme by Virgin Media bringing more competition in broadband to the Vale. Earlier this month I was pleased to launch BTs superfast broadband service for the village of Ashbury. This is the first scheme that has been funded by investment from the Vale of White Horse District Council. Currently coverage in the Vale is at 93% with the additional resources from the District Council set to increase this to 97%. 
For many people the roll out of superfast broadband has taken far too long, and of course there are still some areas that are having to wait, but progress is being made and more communities are seeing the benefits of faster internet connections all the time. For the latest information on the superfast broadband programme in Oxfordshire visit www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk.

 

Abingdon is host to one of the best parks in the UK
Managed by the Vale of White Horse District Council the Abbey Gardens in Abingdon is among a record-breaking 1,686 parks and green spaces that have received a prestigious Green Flag Award – the mark of a quality park or green space.
The award, now celebrating its 20th year, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag award is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities.

 

Stamping our fraud
In the last financial year the Vale of White Horse District Council's fraud prevention work has resulted in a number of convictions and fines. In total nearly £100,000 will be recovered on behalf of taxpayers in the Vale and working together with neighbouring South Oxfordshire District Council we have prevented more than £410,000 from be fraudulently claimed in the future.

Discounts on council tax are there for those entitled to them or who genuinely need it, and not because you fancy paying less than your fair share. So it’s only right that these people have been brought to book and are now paying the price.


Vale unveils ambitious new plans for Abingdon’s outdoor pool and Abbey Meadow

Vale of White Horse District Council has confirmed that it will immediately begin working towards securing the long-term future of Abingdon’s Abbey Meadow outdoor pool, alongside plans to improve the wider riverside area.
 
Earlier this year the district council unveiled a new vision for the popular Abbey Meadow area which is located on the banks of the River Thames in Abingdon. The plans set out how more than £600,000 would provide new play areas, changing facilities, picnic benches and a multi-use games area for use throughout the year.

The plans for the wider Abbey Meadow area are an exciting opportunity to make this area more attractive to visitors all year round. Many people in the Vale are very passionate about the outdoor pool and I have always promised that when the existing pool came to the end of its life we would find a long term solution. Good to our word, we have now reached that stage and will immediately begin working up plans to replace the existing pool.

 

Maintenance of pools at White Horse Leisure & Tennis Centre
The temporary closure of the swimming pools at the White Horse Leisure & Tennis Centre has begun smoothly with swimming lessons being transferred to the Abbey Meadow outdoor pool. 
There are lots of options for anybody wanting to carry on swimming over the summer – they can use their membership to swim at any of the following ‘Better’ leisure centres in the Vale of the White Horse and South Oxfordshire, at no additional cost:
Abbey Meadow outdoor pool
Abbey Sports Centre, Berinsfield
Didcot Wave
Faringdon Leisure Centre
Henley Leisure Centre
Thame Leisure Centre
Riverside Outdoor Pool, Wallingford
Wantage Leisure Centre

Competition in superfast broadband

Communities in the Vale are amongst 30 across the UK to benefit from a new broadband scheme by Virgin Media. Whilst the BT rollout run by Oxfordshire County Council continues, the initiative by Virgin will increase competition and consumer choice in the District.
Marcham, Shrivenham, Sutton Courtenay and Watchfield will benefit with the new service due to be available from spring 2017.

 

New businesses in the Vale
There were 733 new companies formed in Vale of White Horse in 2015. Across the county there was an increase of 5.1% in the total number of companies registered, bringing the total number of companies based in Oxfordshire to 37,207.

I recently had the pleasure of joining a number of existing local businesses at Shrivenham's "Business Biryani" event. It was great to share ideas about some of the challenges facing local business and how local government could make changes to help. One of the liveliest topics of discussion was parking.

 

Planning committee changes
The Vale is about to embark on a number of changes to improve procedures at Planning Committee meetings. These will ensure that the most significant planning applications get more time to be considered carefully by the committee and there will be more interaction between the committee and those speaking for or against an application. There will also be changes to the way planning proposals are dealt with before they reach the committee.

Devolution presentation

 

I recently met with parish and town councils from across the Vale to explain the latest proposals for devolution and new local unitary councils for Oxfordshire. If agreed by the Government I believe these changes can see a dramatic improvement in public services across the county.


Great news for the Vale's Local Plan The Vale of White Horse District Council has overcome a major hurdle in delivering its new Local Plan. The Inspector looking into the Vale’s Local Plan has said that, subject to some modifications, he is likely to find that the plan is sound and can be adopted.
The Inspector also concluded that the plan shows the Vale has enough land for seven years’ worth of housing based on the district’s current needs, more than the minimum of five years’ worth needed for local policies to apply when making decisions on planning applications. This is an important cushion to ensure we maintain a five year supply even where there are delays by developers in bringing sites forward.
There are four areas where the Inspector has asked the Council to bring forward modifications:
1. The Inspector has agreed that there are exceptional circumstances to amend the Green Belt for the allocation of 1,510 new homes north of Abingdon and in Kennington but he has asked that for the time being the Council maintain the remainder of the Green Belt where housing isn't currently allocated.
2. The Inspector has asked the Council to remove the proposed housing sites in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but he has explained that there is no need to replace these sites at this stage.
3. The Inspector has asked the Council to remove the proposed site in East Hanney as being undeliverable.
4. He has also asked some questions about a policy relating to the Botley Central Area, which the Council will clarify in its letter back to the inspector.
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of the Council, concluded “This is great news for communities across the Vale who have suffered due to the absence of a Local Plan and the lack of a 5-year housing land supply. These are only the Inspector’s interim findings so we must be clear that the Local Plan is still not adopted yet, and there will be a further round of consultation later this year on the proposed changes to the Plan. There is however light at the end of the tunnel and today’s news is a huge step forward.”
The Inspector’s letter is available to read on the council’s website.

 

West Way gains planning permission At a recent Vale Planning Committee permission was granted for the West Way shopping centre redevelopment. After the original plans were rejected by the Council the developers, Mace, have been through a detailed engagement process to try to address the concerns raised by the community.
The final plans were approved providing new shops, cafes and restaurants; new homes and student accommodation, car parking and new community facilities.

Grant funding now available The Vale is keen to support local communities, and is now accepting applications for the latest round of funding for community facilities or services. The funding can go towards all kinds of projects, like new outdoor play equipment, sports hall showers, as well as start-up funding for new community services.
The current round closes for applications at 4pm on 29 July. For more information, visit www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/grants or contact the team at grants@southandvale.gov.uk or on 01235 422405.

 

Spotlight on places to eat and drink in Wantage and Grove The range of great places to eat and drink in Wantage and Grove are showcased in a new series of short films that give residents and visitors an insight into the choices available locally.
There are seven short films in the new series – two on eating out, focusing on restaurants, three on pubs and bars, and two on cafés. The new films series follows an earlier “Shop Local” set that focused on Wantage’s independent town centre shops. The videos were created by Wantage resident Eloise Rees who has her own films venture, Oxford Digital Films. You can view the films on YouTube.

 

Why Local Unitary Councils would be better for Oxfordshire A new video has been launched explaining why Oxfordshire would be better off with Local Unitary Councils. You can view the video on YouTube or on our dedicated devolution website www.oxfordshire.vision.
Oxfordshire’s district councils are working together on proposals that include £1.4bn of infrastructure funding from Government, which would be used to unlock £6bn of investment in the County.

The County covers 1,000 square miles and has nearly 700,000 residents across diverse communities, from rural areas and market towns like Chipping Norton and Henley to urban Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill.
The vision is to create locally-elected unitary councils to administer all services for the area – without the need for Oxfordshire County Council – and be able to gear those services to the local needs and requirements.

When strategic decisions are needed – such as tackling the congestion on the County’s main roads or working with hospitals and GPs to join up health and social care services – the locally-elected leaders of the District Unitaries will work together through a combined authority. This builds on the existing joint working of Oxfordshire’s Growth Board.

With responsibility for all services in their local area, the new councils would be able to build on the strong record of the district councils to better tackle the big challenges facing Oxfordshire: improving education and skills to help people get jobs, improving our roads, building more homes, ensuring children and vulnerable people are protected, and improving the health and well-being of residents.

Later this summer, the districts will be seeking the views of members of the public through forums and online surveys.


Freedom of the Vale granted to three local regiments

At a recent Vale of White Horse District Council meeting the Council granted Freedom of the District to three local regiments. Representatives of 3 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, 4 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps and The Rifles attended the meeting to receive the honour on behalf of their regiments. The Freedoms were granted in honour of The Queen's 90th birthday to mark the significant contribution that these local regiments have made to the life of our local community and to the nation. As soon as operationally viable the regiments will exercise their Freedom with the RLC regiments parading in Abingdon and The Rifles parading in Faringdon.

£1.7m investment in the White Horse Leisure & Tennis Centre

Visitors to the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre in Abingdon are set to benefit from a major programme of investment, which will see the current gym substantially extended, new state-of-the-art fitness equipment installed and a new crèche area created.

Good news for gardeners
Keen gardeners in the Vale of White Horse can take advantage of some of the district councils’ upcoming offers and discounts.
If residents sign up to the garden waste service in June or July, they’ll get ten per cent off their annual fee.  During this time existing customers can get the discount off their annual fee for an extra bin.
Visit www.morerecycling.co.uk to find out more about the councils’ waste and recycling services.

Helping you celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday
On the weekend of 10 to 12 June 2016 many people across the country will join together and have street parties to celebrate the Queen’s official 90th birthday. The Vale is already helping towns and villages across the district with grants ranging from £100 to £7,500, ensuring that everyone in the district can join in the fun. If you want to join in the celebrations and will be holding a street party, the Council has also put together some helpful advice to help make sure your party goes with a swing. You can view the advice online at  HM The Queen 90th Birthday.

Local Plan progress

The Vale has now provided all additional information requested by the Planning Inspector to support the Local Plan including suggested modifications following the Examination in Public. We must now wait for the Inspector to publish his interim findings. This is hoped to be towards the end of May/early June. At that stage he is likely to indicate whether or not the Plan is capable of being found sounds and any modifications that he will require.

Devolution update

The machinations of the district council’s devolution proposals are probably not the most exciting news to report blow by blow. In the interests of openness, it is however worth noting that PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been appointed to carry out the study on behalf of the councils. A full public consultation is being planned for the summer once the final report has been published.


Town Centre Vitality 
As part of the Vale's work to continue to increase visitors to our market towns the District Council is currently putting in place a new town centre co-ordinator for Faringdon and re-tendering for the existing roles in Vantage. At the same time the Abingdon Business Improvement District (BID) has just come into force following the successful referendum of local businesses. All together this marks a significant investment in our market towns to attract more visitors, improve the retail experience and make the most of our historic town centres.

Abbey Meadows Project 
Thanks to a £615,000 investment from the Vale, Abingdon's Abbey Meadow is set for a major overhaul. Following a significant public consultation last year, the Council has announced a refurbished pool building with a new changing area; an extended children's splash area; two new exciting adventure playgrounds; new picnic seating; new public toilets open all year round and a new multi-use games area. The majority of work will begin after this year's summer season.

Reservoir Update from GARD
GARD (Group Against Reservoir Development) are keen to keep local residents informed on the latest news about a potential reservoir between Steventon and East Hanney. The GARD AGM will be held at Stocks Lane Farm Steventon on Monday 25th April 2016 at 7pm. All who are interested in the present situation regarding Thames Water's plans for a reservoir are welcome to attend to hear an update and ask questions. www.abingdonreservoir.org.uk

Clean for the Queen 
Thank you to the many local people who have pulled on their high-vis vests and rubber gloves and helped to Clean for the Queen. Many tonnes of rubbish filling several hundred bin bags have been collected. The District Council has also announced the trial of a deep clean program to invest even more in street cleaning. If you would like to get involved in helping to keep your town or village tidy please contact the Vale of White Horse District Council at waste.team@southandvale.gov.uk.

A Month's Unlimited Swimming for just £5 
People throughout the Vale of White Horse wanting to get more active can take advantage of a month's unlimited swimming at district council 'Better' leisure centres for just £5. People can take advantage of the offer at Abbey Sports Centre in Berinsfield, Didcot Wave, Faringdon Leisure Centre, Henley Leisure Centre, Thame Leisure Centre, Wantage Leisure Centre and at the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre in Abingdon. How to claim a month's unlimited swimming for £5 Visit getoxfordshireactive.org/5swims2016 to register for this fantastic offer or contact Hendriette Knouwds on 07717836750 or email swimming@whitehorsedc.gov.uk

Police & Crime Commissioner Election
On Thursday 5th May you will have the chance to choose the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner. Obviously I would urge you all to vote for the incumbent, Anthony Stansfeld who has done a fantastic job since the post was first introduced in 2012 - you can find out more about Anthony at www.anthonystansfeld.org.uk. However, regardless of who you want to vote for you won't be able to unless you're registered. Applications to vote must be received by the Vale District Council by Monday 18th April at the latest. For more information on how to vote and how to register for a postal or proxy vote visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.

Devolution Update 
You will be aware of the ambitious and positive plans put forward by myself and fellow District Council leaders for a new devolution deal for Oxfordshire. Seven councils have now come together to commission work on the detail of our proposal and how it compares with other options for unitary councils. We expect this work to be completed in time for an extensive public consultation this summer before final proposals are submitted to the government while will make the final decision.