Annual Governance Review – Save Our Parish
The White Horse District Council is in the process of carrying out a review of the current boundaries of the civil parishes in its area. The Boars Hill Association has requested that the Vale consider transferring the part of Boars Hill in Wootton Parish to Sunningwell Parish, primarily on the grounds that some residents feel that their interests are not properly represented by the Wootton Parish Council.
Wootton Parish Council has informed the Vale that it does not want the current boundaries to be altered and has strongly rebutted the Boars Hill Association’s claim that it disregards the concerns of its Boars Hill constituents. The Council understands that many Boars Hill residents have a strong local identity, fostered over the years by the Boars Hill Association, and have proposed to the Vale that the Council be in future renamed the Wootton and Boars Hill Parish Council. The Vale has now put the proposed boundary change out to consultation and wishes to hear the views of the residents of Wootton Parish Council on whether the parish boundary should be changed and whether the name of the present parish should be changed to include Boars Hill.
Wootton Parish Council’s objections to changing the current boundary are fourfold.
The civil parish of Wootton has existed for more than a century and today is an evolving, dynamic community with a genuine identity.
Until the late nineteenth century, the hamlets of Wootton and Old Boars Hill were outlying parts of Cumnor parish. Since then they have formed a separate parish with the same boundaries as today and over the years have developed into a single large village of some 3,000 inhabitants, centred around the Besselsleigh Rd shops, the Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre and the Bystander Public House. Although different parts of the village, such as Old Wootton, Boars Hill, and the B4017 corridor, have their distinctive social and architectural characters, the village is a well-integrated community, as is evidenced in the replies to the questionnaire sent out in preparing our Joint Neighbourhood Plan with St Helen Without (made December 2019). This showed a strong feeling of belonging to a neighbourhood and strong satisfaction with the area as a place to live. Wootton is an economically and socially diverse community with an evolving ethnic mix which reflects the present character of Britain in the twenty-first century.
Wootton Parish Council is in the fortunate position of having made a Neighbourhood Plan that gives the Council and its constituents a legally binding say in the future development of the existing parish.
Wootton Parish Council (and St Helen Without Parish Council, as it was a joint plan) have had a fully made Neighbourhood Plan in place since 2019. Neighbourhood Plans that have already been finalised and adopted cannot be revoked even if parish boundaries are changed. Thus, our Plans’ policies will remain in place and be enforced for the area of land that they cover, even if that land becomes part of a different parish. Moreover, any amendments made to our Neighbourhood Plan in the future would still apply to Boars Hill, and Sunningwell Parish Council would have to apply those new Neighbourhood Plan policies. In addition, as Neighbourhood Plans’ areas cannot overlap, Sunningwell Parish Council cannot create a Neighbourhood Plan that includes the area of ours. Moving Boars Hill into Sunningwell Parish, therefore, opens up a can of worms.
The boundary change would have a detrimental effect on the finances of Wootton Parish Council and its ability to meet its current obligations and aims.
In 2010, Wootton Parish Council took out a government loan of £60,000 to support the redevelopment of the Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre, a vital parish amenity. The loan was for fifty years at a fixed interest rate of 4.6 per cent. Each year the Council makes repayments of £3,076.60, and the current outstanding loan in £55,003.91. The total cost of repayment over 50 years is £153, 830. In consequence, Wootton Parish Council is committed to putting aside £3,000 p.a. to pay off the loan until 2060. At present, Wootton Parish Council receives a precept of c. £60,000. This is a large enough sum to allow the Council to put aside £3,000 per annum to pay off the loan without undue difficulty. Were Boars Hill to be detached from Wootton, the precept would be considerably reduced, as the precept is determined by the size of the population, and the percentage of the budget dedicated each year to paying off the loan increased. This would mean that the Council would no longer have the same amount of money each year to enhance traffic-controlling measures, which is a present priority, and the broader quality of life in the parish to which it is committed in accordance with its made Neighbourhood Plan. With a lower precept, for instance, it would not have been possible to create the recently established Children’s Community Park opposite the church, which each year is being improved.
The residents of Boars Hill have always made full use of the Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre and belong to many of the societies that enjoy its facilities.
As Sunningwell Parish has no equivalent Community Centre, the Boars Hill residents will continue to do use WADSCC, just as they will continue to use the other amenities in the village, such as the cricket club and field (already called The Wootton and Boars Hill Cricket Club), primary school, St Peter’s church and the community park. All these community facilities are supported financially by Wootton Parish Council either directly or indirectly (through a grant to the Wootton Primary School PTA to provide laptops for home learning during lockdown, for instance). It seems very unjust that the residents of a new, smaller Wootton Parish should pay a higher proportion per head towards repaying the Community Centre loan and maintaining other existing amenities in the village, while residents of Boars Hill, who use these facilities, contribute nothing at all. It is all the more unfair that as the overall precept will be smaller, the amount available to spend on these local amenities will be reduced.
Wootton Parish Council URGE residents to visit the Vale of the Horse’s website and register their opposition to any boundary change. Please register your support and “Strongly Agree” with our and the District Council’s recommendation not to make any changes to the boundary by following the link to complete the survey here: http://tinyurl.com/WPCVWHDC
Wootton Parish Council will host a stall at WADSSTOCK on 3 July where councillors will be available to answer questions and residents can sign a petition to keep the current parish boundary.
In the meantime, if parishioners have any questions, they should raise them with councillors directly or with Wendy Quigley, Clerk to Wootton Parish Council: