I was elected as a district councillor for the Standlake, Aston and Stanton Harcourt ward in May 2022. It was the first time that I had ever stood for election. I stood because I wanted to be useful locally and because I was so dismayed by what the Conservatives have been up to, both nationally and locally. Talking to people on their doorsteps was sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always interesting. I found it to be the best way to hear what people are fed up about and want fixing.
Being a district councillor allows me to try and help in all sorts of local issues which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I like trying to find solutions for the basic stuff, like potholes. The county council has an excellent programme, where local people can volunteer as SuperUsers, which gives them some thorough training, more access to the FixMyStreet website and a can or two of spray paint. Empowered, they can go out into their parish, mark-up potholes which are then fixed within 28 days. When I became district councillor, we had only one SuperUser in the ward, we now have SuperUsers in four out of five parishes and are working on the final one, Hardwick-with-Yelford.
Sewage has been one of the biggest, most complex and most interesting problems over the last year. I’ve worked very closely with fellow councillors, Lidia Arciszewska and Alaric Smith, with WODC officers and with the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution team to hold Thames Water to account for their terrible record of dumping sewage in our rivers. Our aim has been to properly calculate and assess what are the required capacities for each sewage treatment works, to understand what improvements works Thames Water has planned for each works, identify where this is insufficient and to apply the maximum pressure possible on to Thames Water to fix these problems.
We’re also changing the planning rules in two ways: all new development applications must state at the outset whether the relevant treatment works has sufficient capacity, and no new development can be occupied before the treatment works has been upgraded to take account of that development. I’m happy to report that some of these changes have been picked up by other planning authorities and they are now taking the same approach.
I’ve very actively campaigned against development on The Moors in Ducklington. This is a shocking case where In January 2023 the government appointed national inspector has over-ruled WODC, approving 120 homes on the floodplain, all because the Environment Agency wrongly rezoned The Moors from a severe flood risk to negligible flood risk. We did not give up. After a lot of persuading, the EA got on board and is now reconsidering the floodzone limits, potentially putting either all or some of the site back into the floodzone. This will either stop or reduce the housing planned.