Council

CDC and Bloxham School Lighting – 25th Oct 2018

Bloxham School represents a significant, though not dominant, element of the Bloxham economy. At least from this perspective, the village has a vested interest in ensuring it is able to remain viable in the competitive business of private education.
Recent reviews describe Bloxham School as a school with “a reputation for all-rounder education”  and as “punching well above its weight sports-wise.” It is therefore unsurprising that they seek to maximise the availability of the sports facilities they do have by installing lighting to make use possible through the dark winter evenings.

The school has attempted to gain planning permission for lights on 3 previous occasions (1993, 1994 and 2006) without success.  This attempt claims reduced impact as a consequence of  lower height, modern low-leakage lighting and also offers 21 hours/week for community use.

  • Local residents who have responded object – largely on the basis of light-spill, noise and traffic.
  • The Parish Council objected – although the vote was far from unanimous – after trying to balance the benefits  with the disbenefits.
  • Cherwell D.C. planning officers have recommended refusal stating “the proposal would have a visually intrusive impact, harmful to the intrinsic character of the surrounding area. Therefore, and in the absence of sufficient mitigation of the visual harm, the proposed development would be contrary to ” planning policies.
  • CDC Sports and leisure, CDC Landscape, CDC Ecology had no objections and OCC Highways said the traffic volumes and parking arranegements would be acceptable.

The Planning Officers note this is a finely balanced decision: a decision which will, of course, be taken by councillors – not officers – at their meeting on 25th.

The Neighbourhood Plan does seek to avoid “non-rural levels of light”  although N.P  committees also certainly noted the group most badly served by the village recreational provision were local teenagers:  21 hours of extra community sports provision could clearly be a major help in ameliorating that.
Then there’s the understandable concern about extra noise, traffic and environmental impact. Many will sympathise with resident objections. Others  might take the view that  in the 21C choosing to live adjacent to any successful ‘secondary’ school yet not expecting it’s evolving activities to impinge upon one is simply unrealistic!   Certainly many Bloxham residents have seen and continue to see their amenity affected by recent and ongoing developments. Planning is almost never black and white but always a question of the weight accorded to conflicting demands and interests.

This is certainly a very different case to that of the garage lighting. They were totally flouting planning laws and – far from offering anything to the village – treated resident complaints  with total disdain until forced to do otherwise.

We await with interest the CDC decision on Thursday but, if refused, would be surprised if the school doesn’t return to the issue at some future point having further considered ways of reducing or mitigating the impact.

 

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