Save Cassington Allotments

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Blenheim Estate [BE] is planning to demolish our beautiful allotment site which has been tended for over 100 years, and replace it with 45 rental homes. Cassington, our small village of only 320 homes, does not have the infrastructure to support this development and the site on which they plan to build, is home to an array of rare and protected plant and animal species. This allotment site sits in the centre of the village, and in order to gain access, BE have bought a house on Elms Road (backing onto this land) which they now intend to demolish to build an access road.

Our key concerns are:

- The rare and protected species using this natural habitat. The list includes: bats, owls, stoats/weasels, nesting birds, grass-snakes, slow-worms, lizards and invertebrates. There have also been otters spotted very nearby - probably visiting the large pond once dug on our site to help with the flooding issue.

- The increased flood risk to current homes - flood prevention is not mentioned in their proposal for developing this land which is effectively a flood plain. In fact, Dominic Hare (Chief Executive of Blenheim Estate) described this in a recent Oxford Mail article as 'a problem with surface water last year.' The lack of research or acknowledgement of flooding by BE, before attempting this project is terrifying - we have been dealing with major flooding in this village (and particularly this street) for many many years. There is plenty of evidence collated.

- Inadequate, old and failing sewage system which will struggle to cope with any more strain. The sewage from the new homes will go directly into the system already struggling here.

- The lack of consultation (an 11 day virtual consultation period is extremely limited) and refusing to attend a Parish Council meeting scheduled for within this period. Many of our elderly residents are not online and several residents did not even receive the brochure.

- The Allotment Association (the current tenants) were not informed, advised or consulted before this publication went out. As an association we have just put through next year's seed order which came to over £1000. Our allotments are thriving and fully occupied with a waiting list. Many of us fed our families and community from our plots during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

- Lack of support and investment over the years in our allotment site. We have begged for a water source and fencing for years and always been ignored. BE now use this against us in their proposal, citing the need for improvements. We have landscaped our plots with our bare hands, which is why we love them so much.

- The village has already been extended twice in recent years by BE. We do not have the infrastructure to support any more developments (we have no post office, shop, or bus service within the village) and traffic is becoming dangerous in the main high street which is a rat run for commuters. The architect believes that this won't be a problem as most people "have electric bicycles". (Remember, this is being sold as a development for those with low incomes; electric bicycles are a luxury for the privileged)

- All homes are intended to be rental only. Even if we wanted new housing here, (which we don't) this is not helping the young people of Cassington get onto the property ladder. This does not help us to build our rural community. The other rental properties in the village have a high turnover of people, all have cars.

- The primary school is already oversubscribed and over-stretched. Other schools are a drive away.

- The nearest amenities (Including GP, shops and post office) are located at Eynsham, a village that is facing substantial and unprecedented growth itself. The Eynsham-Woodstock sub-area is in the process of having 5596 houses built over the next ten years. In the other direction, Yarnton and Begbroke, 4400 houses are planned. This entire area already suffers horrendously with traffic and services for its burgeoning population. 

- Elms Road; where the new access road is to be built, is not able to cope with any increase in traffic. It is already difficult to turn in and out of this junction with the main road, and is frequently blocked when emergency services, refuse trucks and deliveries attend homes here. The overwhelming majority of residents are either vulnerable elderly people or very young families. We are standing up for the people of Elms Road who stand to be hugely affected by this, not only during construction, but in future years.

- The proposals talk about a car-free, safe play-zone for the new homes (which we already have in its current natural form) but what about the children and elderly residents in Elms Road, which is currently very quiet and safe for its vulnerable residents? It will become the thoroughfare for 75+ cars, as BE have allocated around 1.5 cars per new house. We can also add deliveries, refuse trucks and visitors to those numbers, so in reality it will be 100 or more vehicles using this tiny close for access. All of this traffic will be adding to the already grid-locked A40 into Oxford. All will be heading through the heart of our village, right past the school.

- The proposal points to the school needing access to small allotment plots, yet BE have made no contact with the school to make this assertion. In fact, we have it in writing from the school that they do not require any plots at the site. Incorrect information such as this should not be being used as leverage for their application - it is very misleading.

We are currently doing our own survey of the village (in person and on paper so that this can be properly verified) and so far the responses point to overwhelming fear and dismay at these plans. I will update this petition with the results of this village survey in the coming days.

We have formed a committee of residents, allotment holders and friends of the village, who are busy working hard to STOP these development plans going any further. However, Blenheim Estate are a powerhouse - particularly in this area, and have massive expertise in getting around the many rules in place to protect small but thriving communities like our own. They have already warned us that they "don't have to give the village any money" (bribery) and that other developers would be "much worse".  They have told us that this site is their next priority and they are moving forward with the plans - will you help us to tell them to leave us alone? 

This development is not wanted or needed by the people of Cassington; which represents a gross over-development of our village and a misuse of green and social directives to gain favour. At a time of huge climate crises worldwide, we should be protecting these green sites and their wildlife - not bulldozing them. This is about property and profit for Blenheim and we are saying NO.

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