West Adderbury in the Banbury Guardian

This week’s Banbury Guardian includes an article covering the Community Governance Review and West Adderbury’s efforts to regain its own parish council.

The article includes an explanation from West Adderbury Residents’ Association (WARA) as to why West Adderbury wants to “go it alone”.  WARA is completely free to join and aims to represent the views and needs of West Adderbury village. 

“In our view”, said a WARA spokesperson, “APC is ineffectual and awkward to deal with.  The review will examine our case for separation”.  Further information about the need for a Review can be found on WARA’s Facebook page.

The article includes a response to the calling of a Community Governance Review from the Chair of Adderbury Parish Council, Mrs Diane Bratt.  The Parish Council has also published a similar, but slightly longer statement on its website and Facebook page:

We would like to take the opportunity to review Mrs Bratt’s comments in the Parish Council statement in more detail.  

Firstly, her comment that “it is unfortunate that a minority of West Adderbury residents feel they have been left out in some way from decisions for the village“.

The petition asking for a Community Governance Review contains 200 signatures, some of which were collected virtually as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the UK.  Far more signatures could have been collected had the lockdown not come into force.  However, the number required to trigger a Community Governance Review is 187, and after consultation with its membership, WARA decided to submit the petition without waiting for additional signatures.  The number of residents who actually signed the petition is therefore not reflective of the far larger number who would like to see West Adderbury Parish Council reinstated.

But Mrs Bratt is correct in her use of the word “minority”.  West Adderbury makes up just 23% of the wider Adderbury community.  The views and needs of West Adderbury are therefore always “minority” views and needs, and this is precisely why we need our own Parish Council.

Secondly, Mrs Bratt’s statement that “the west of Adderbury has always been well represented on the Parish Council.  Currently four out of twelve Councillors are from the west of the village and until two councillors chose to step down last year, there were five of twelve.”

Let’s look for a moment at the resignation letters of these two councillors.

The first says that in 2017: “there were five councillors who were independent thinkers and five councillors who always appeared to follow whatever the chair proposed. And often, the chair had to use her casting vote to get her desired outcome. In short, we were a divided and dysfunctional parish council, and this was known to Cherwell District Council who funded the governance review. At the time I was hopeful and encouraged that matters would improve as a result of the review. Sadly, the council is probably more divided now given that two of the independent thinkers have resigned and their places filled by cooption shifting the balance in favour of the chair.”

The letter also says that: “The very long serving Chair of APC has a “vision” for Adderbury (her word) and seems to stop at nothing to prevent diversity of opinion emerging and importantly will do all that is necessary to achieve her vision – the vanity project on Land North of the Milton Road. Anyone who has had any involvement with the Adderbury Neighbourhood Plan(s) has direct experience of the Chair’s maneuvers and controlling behaviour to achieve her desired outcomes. Now that councillor Mitchell is back on APC, the chair seems even more emboldened and many decisions seem to be made prior to parish council meetings with the expectation that they will be “rubber stamped” at the meeting, eg, the appointment to committees and sub-committees … I cannot continue to serve on a Parish Council where tolerance of falsehoods and such low levels of trust exist. Accordingly, I now resign from APC with immediate effect“.

This statement contrasts starkly with Mrs Bratt’s comment that the west of Adderbury has always been well represented by the Parish Council.

The second resignation letter simply states: “I cannot in all  honesty stomach any further involvement with an organisation that does not operate within the Nolan Principles of public Life and behaves like an ostrich in burying its head in the sand on important fiduciary issues  of misconduct“.

Mrs Bratt also states that “creation of separate Parish Councils for what is a single rural settlement, would inevitably add to costs for the whole Parish and create confusion and difficulty for many issues covering the whole village“.

Here, we must take issue with Mrs Bratt; West and East Adderbury have always been two separate settlements, with their own, separate Parish Councils up until the 1970s.  The idea of a single village of Adderbury is a very recent one which only came about following the merger of the Parish Councils as part of sweeping changes to governance and county boundaries implemented by the Local Government Act 1972.

It is also disingenuous to suggest that separate Parish Councils for East and West Adderbury would create confusion and difficulty.  The two settlements operated very successfully under separate Parish Councils for  many years and there is absolutely no reason why they could not do so again.  As to costs, we would like to point out that Mrs Bratt has plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on the Milton Road project.  A West Adderbury Parish Council would use this site to meet the needs of West Adderbury residents.  Since these needs do not include football pitches or a clubhouse with a bar, the reinstatement of a West Adderbury Parish Council would actually dramatically reduce costs, and would allow significant spending on traffic calming and facilities at the Lucy Plackett.

Finally, Mrs Bratt states that the Milton Road development “has been supported in two Parish Polls and the Parish Council is confident the development has the support of a majority of the village“.

We will leave aside for the moment the question of whether the Parish Poll results were influenced by repeated statements by the Parish Council that the Milton Road site can only legally be used for football pitches and large community centre with bar (rather than the far broader “sports and community” uses described in the restrictive covenant on the site and in the Adderbury Neighbourhood Plan).

In her statement that “the development  has the support of a majority of the village“, Mrs Bratt really puts her finger on the key issue here.  A single Parish Council covering East Adderbury, West Adderbury and Twyford simply CANNOT represent the views and needs of West Adderbury.  The Parish Council must be guided by the majority view, which is always going to be that of East Adderbury and Twyford.  They want these facilities on the Milton Road site; West Adderbury residents (who live much closer to the site) do not, but nevertheless have to have the development forced upon them.

It simply cannot be right that residents of one part of the Parish should have to suffer because of the views of parishioners who will not be affected by the increase in traffic, noise and light pollution.  West Adderbury residents have already lost a rural site which was widely used as a safe, green walking area.  We have lost wildlife, some of which should have been protected by law.  The peace and quiet of our village has already been disputed by the sound of heavy machinery working all day long, at a time when many of us are trapped in our homes.

We understand that the residents of Twyford and East Adderbury want these facilities, but we would point out that they will have the same (or better) facilities available to them at the Banbury United site a short distance away in Bodicote (see below).  These facilities are much closer to Twyford than those at the Milton Road, and will not lead to an increase in traffic through the centre of East Adderbury.

Mrs Bratt and the rest of the Parish Council are of course guided by the views of the majority, and this will always be the case.  Unfortunately, this means that the needs of West Adderbury will always come last, and this is why we sincerely hope that the Community Governance Review will recommend the reinstatement of a Parish Council for West Adderbury.

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