The Infrastructure Group is responsible for assessing the impact of additional housing on services and utilities such as the roads, footpaths, parking, drainage / sewage, health centre, schools, transport and utilities in the defined area which includes the Parish of Wheatley and the Brookes University site.
Our first task is to establish the current situation described as the “As Is” position and once this has been determined we will be able to calculate the effect new development will have in specific areas as well as the village overall. We are sensitive to the many infrastructure issues and the effect of developments outside our immediate boundary such as the major housing estate at Barton.
The Neighbourhood Plan has to be supported by evidence including the concerns of residents, especially those relating to safety and traffic, which have previously been documented. To determine these we will be taking part in village meetings, sending out questionnaires and generally ensuring the impact on existing infrastructure is understood.
The Housing and Community Groups will be working closely with us to determine the criteria by which site selections will be judged.
Water Supply: Thames Water has an obligation to provide water to every household and as such it is a consideration for the developer in assessing a potential site and is not one that needs consideration by the Infrastructure Group.
Green Field Run Off: Present regulations require developers to install infiltration systems to ensure any run off is kept to pre-development levels. The clay soil around Wheatley may mean larger infiltration storage units are required but this is a cost consideration for developers.
Sewage: Thames Water is required to manage the sewage from any new development within the regulations monitored by the Environmental Agency. This again removes it as an issue for the Infrastructure team.
An environmental issue is the level of nitrates in the River Thame which are shown to be highest downstream of sewage treatment plants. Wheatley also has the problem of an open ditch from the treatment plant to the river which on occasion, following heavy rainfall, releases untreated sewage to flow past dwellings and a food outlet before discharging into the river. This unsatisfactory situation should not be allowed to become worse through new development.
A solution which is beyond the immediate remit of a Neighbourhood Plan is to create a wetlands area in the waste ground between the treatment works and the river. This would require a filtration layer of gravel through which the treated effluent would trickle allowing bacteria to clean the water. Little Milton have such a wetlands system. This would turn a derelict area into a nature reserve attracting birds and wildlife. It would also have footpaths allowing it to become a local amenity.
Footpaths and Rights of Way: The team reviewing Footpaths and Rights of Way has been concentrating on mapping the existing registered routes and marking the unregistered paths as is shown on the map for both Wheatley and Holton. The next stages are to monitor ‘footfall’ in specific key areas and to prepare a questionnaire to ask users about where they consider danger points are located. It is hoped that an East – West ‘Green Route’ can be established. A North –South route needs to be deferred until the proposed building sites had been identified. Landowners will need to be asked for access.