Tackley Newsletter
June & July 2023

Contents

Parish Council

Liz Marshall, Chair
liz.marshall@tackleyvillage.co.uk

Making a village or community a special place to live requires the people who live there to be involved: to step up and run clubs and activities for the people and causes they care about. Tackley is one of those places: we have so many inspiring, caring and interesting people who do just that. So as ever, in this year’s annual report, there are many people to thank — in no particular order.

Mary McIntyre runs the Tackley Notices email list along with the freecycle and for-sale pages. This is such a useful service for sending out timely information about what’s going on. If you don’t already receive Tackley Notices, please subscribe by visiting tackleyvillage.co.uk.

Martin Edwards edits this newsletter every two months. Anyone can submit an article, and Martin is always looking for interesting things to include, so if you have something to say please get in touch by visiting tackleynewsletter.co.uk. And of course, there are the delivery volunteers who get the newsletter out to every house in the village.

The shop, led by Debbie Norton and her team, continues to be a valuable service. Many volunteers help man the tills, stack the shelves and assist customers; and there is a committee working in the background too.

The village hall is the main meeting space in Tackley, and is well used. Thank you to Katie Hofman and the committee who run it. They are always looking for new members to help out, so please get in touch if you’re interested — many hands make light work!

We are lucky to have so much open space to explore in and around the village. Sadly, some people have no respect for this, with dog poo and bins forever on the parish council agenda and with litter being a problem that seems to be getting worse. Many thanks to Sue and Alan Lygo and the many volunteers who clean our streets and verges of the litter left by the few.

The Jubilee Garden is looking wonderful, and I’m sure there will be more to come there. Thanks to the JG group who keep on top of the weeding and making sure it looks beautiful for all.

We have our fantastic heath and woods, which is such a special place to visit with a wide range of plants, animals and birds to see. Thanks to Rachel Strachan, John Reynolds and Katherine Woodrow for all the work going on behind the scenes; and to the volunteers for maintaining access for humans as well as improving the site for biodiversity and all our wild kin who live there. Thanks also to the Cub Scouts who are continuing to remove bracken in the test area — the bluebells are looking lovely, and other new plants are starting to grow. If anyone is interested in joining the committee or volunteer team, please get in touch with me.

This year’s Breakfast on the Heath was a success as always, with many attending. Thanks to Jane Walker and the team for organising, setting up and clearing away so well. This tradition has been going since the early 90s.

Interest in having an allotment continues to grow. Thank you to Jan Read for being our allotment rep, sorting out problems and keeping on top of the waiting list. Thank you to everyone who is waiting patiently for an allotment to become available. We are aware that more space is required.

There are many clubs and activities in the village, providing companionship, entertainment and education to all ages from Silver Threads to Toddler Group. Tackley has bell-ringers, a book club, craft club, cycling group (Wheelers), gardening club, local history group, Scout group, walking group and WI. We also have a very successful car scheme, regular fundraisers for Macmillan Cancer Support and an annual horse show. Thank you to everyone who volunteers with these groups and events — you are amazing, and part of what makes Tackley such a special place to live. If there are any clubs I have missed, please let me know as I’d love to hear about what you do — and I’d like to add you to the new Tackley information booklet which will be coming out later this year.

New Roles

This summer we welcome a new rector, Rev Harriet Orridge, to St Nicholas’ Church. We hope she enjoys her time in the area – and serving in such a beautiful old church – and we look forward to getting to know her as she takes on this important role.

We also welcome a new headteacher, Mrs Karen Ward. Tackley Primary School is a great place for our young children, and we hope Karen soon settles in and is very happy here.

Nathalie Chapple stood down as our district councillor this month, and I wish to thank her for her help over the last four years. Following the May elections, our new district councillor is Tim Sumner. He has a been to a few of our parish council meetings in recent months.

Flooding

There is always a lot for the parish council to discuss at meetings. Some problems are easy to fix, while others are more longstanding issues that we continue to work hard on.

We have had flooding in the village for many years, but this seems to be becoming more frequent with long dry periods followed by very heavy rain. Tackley is now under a Section 19 investigation with a catchment study commissioned. We have already met with the relevant people after sustained rain to show them the main problem areas.

Solar Farm

The proposed Botley West Solar Farm is a large development with the potential to provide up to 840 MW of power, enough for 330,000 homes, to the National Grid within two to three years.

There is a wide range of views on the plans in the wider community, from those firmly for to those firmly against, including a large and vocal campaign against.

A public meeting was held in the village hall on 20 February, which 87 members of the public attended. After Angus Paxton spoke in favour of the proposals and Anne Gwinnett and Tim Sumner spoke against, a discussion and open floor was provided. A show of hands for, undecided and against indicated that approximately 80% of those present were against the proposal. The information provided by Councillor Paxton and Ms Gwinnett is available on the parish council section of the Tackley village website.

Because the proposed power station would generate more than 300 MW it is considered to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, meaning permission is required at national level under a Development Consent Order. As part of this process, West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) is currently conducting a Local Impact Report (LIR). More information about this can be found on the WODC website.

The LIR, which must be produced by WODC regardless of their own position on the development, will be provided directly to the Secretary of State and must be considered by them in assessing the project. It is therefore an important process. WODC has stated that they will be consulting parish councils as part of the LIR process, but we have yet to hear from them.

Tackley Parish Council met in May to discuss whether we should produce a statement setting out the village’s position. As the information I have just provided, about our public meeting, has already been published via Tackley Notices we have decided to not publish anything further at this stage and will instead engage with WODC on the LIR.

Roads

Tackley’s roads are a constant source of complaint, especially the main roads out of the village. After a recent near collision on the road to Sturdy’s Castle, we now seem to be getting action. Thankfully the long stretch of potholes and uneven road is being fixed at the beginning of June, and with the road being closed for a few days it will hopefully be a good repair. Thanks to Andy Graham, our county councillor, and Matthew Parkinson, one of our district councillors for highlighting this issue to the highways team.

Implementation of a 20 mph speed limit through the village is underway. Vehicle-activated signs to inform drivers of their speed will be installed soon on the three main roads into the village. We have been informed that we should be in the next round of changes in the county. In the meantime, now is a good time to practise going slower for the safety of our community.

Pub

Martin and Jackie Perrin have given notice of their intention to close the Gardiner Arms in June, and stated that they would like the village to take over running of the pub. A group has formed with the intention of putting forward a bid from the community.

Section 106 Money

Under the Town and Country Planning Act, house-builders can be asked to make financial contributions towards community and social infrastructure. Following the two large developments in Tackley, we asked villagers what they’d like this ‘Section 106’ money to be spent on.

A few ideas were put forward, but a pump track/skate park/trim trail were at the top of the list. We are awaiting quotes, but really need some more volunteers to take action and get this up and running. Please get in touch with me directly if you would like to help get this in place for our children and teenagers.

The bike track will not use all of the money, so we are still considering other options that were suggested. These include hardstanding at the heath, additional land for the graveyard, and electric vehicle charging at the village hall car park.

Acknowledgements

Finally, I’d like to thank Tackley’s councillors for all the time they put into meetings and the work they do in between. Big thanks also to Cherie, our clerk, who does a huge amount for us – especially recently – and patiently explains rules and regulations in words we can understand!

June Collier has now resigned after more than twenty years on Tackley Parish Council, many as chair. Her presence, local knowledge and no-nonsense attitude will be missed. June has agreed to stay on as railway representative and will continue to aid with the flooding issues, which is greatly appreciated. I’m sure she will remain just as significant in Tackley life as ever, and I hope that she and George are finally able to enjoy their retirement together.

The Gardiner Arms: Nil Desperandum

Jeremy Posnansky on behalf of the Gardiner Arms Community Interest Group
gacommunityinterest@gmail.com

Look up when you pass and you will see that the coat of arms of the village pub has the Latin motto nil desperandum — do not despair. There have been times in the last few weeks when the faint-hearted might indeed have despaired, such have been the frustrations of our dealings with the current owners, Martin and Jackie Perrin. But the group of residents seeking to find a solution to the challenge of buying the pub for the village are made of sterner stuff. Let me outline recent events, because we want everyone to know what has – and has not – been happening.

On 13 March, about 100 residents filled the village hall to hear Martin and Jackie tell us their plans, followed by a discussion. Martin began by explaining in a lengthy tale of woe that he had decided to retire and planned to lease the pub to the village, while he and Jackie continued to live upstairs. It quickly became apparent that the plan was neither viable nor likely to be acceptable to the village. A sale with vacant possession was necessary. Martin and Jackie accepted this. A show of hands made clear that there was overwhelming support in principle for the village to buy the pub.

Progress since then has been limited for a number of reasons. Put shortly, these are:

A committee was formed and has corresponded with Martin and Jackie in recent weeks. At an early stage we made clear that our offer, when it was made, would be for the whole site: pub, car park and function room. We told them:

“Prior to the steps you took some years ago, the pub, the function room and the car park were a single title and plot (‘the whole’). You split the title and plot for reasons of your own. You now wish to sell the pub. It is inconceivable that any interested party would be prepared to purchase it other than as the whole. That is certainly our position. The pub without the function room and car park are of no practical use or value. The function room and the car park are of no practical use or value without the pub. Nor do they have any development value or even ‘hope’ value. The recent history makes that clear. It follows that if we are to proceed it must be on the basis that any purchase will be of the whole. It will be for you, your father-in-law, and your family company to take such steps as are necessary to enable such a purchase.”

The reply was as disappointing as it was, in our view, unrealistic. Picking the key elements, it said: “…we are only in a position to sell what we own. There seems little point in progressing with the [Gardiner Arms Community Interest Group] as they do not appear interested in considering buying the property on offer … the whole site is not for sale.” Not an auspicious beginning.

This is not the time or place to expand on the history of how or why the site was split into separate ownerships in 2018, but there are many who believe it was done to exploit what Martin and his father-in-law believed to be the site’s value for residential development. Martin, however, told the meeting in March that it was because of his financial plight at the time. Be that as it may, the pub and the other parts of the site are now in separate ownership, albeit via companies owned or controlled by Martin, Jackie, and Jackie’s family.

There are issues about whether the separation of the site and disposal of the car park and function room were proper and in compliance with statutory rules about an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Martin and Jackie maintain that they were. Indeed, in support of that position their family companies have told West Oxfordshire District Council that the function room has not been used for many years. That seems a strange claim, and many in the village will have a very different recollection — a recollection confirmed by several photos on the pub’s website and social media. We shall be obtaining professional legal advice on the issues.

As for the development aspirations, it is widely known that since Martin and Jackie acquired the pub a number of applications were made by their family company for planning permission for residential development. The applications have been refused each time, and in September 2022 the Planning Inspectorate dismissed an appeal against the most recent decision. Although development for housing now seems out of the question, the site remains divided.

As for the price, Martin can be praised for his apparent resolution. He has repeatedly told us that he seeks £600,000 — and that is just for the pub, without the car park and function room: “Our offer price is £600,000 and this is not negotiable”.

We have told him that we are obtaining a professional valuation from a valuer who specialises in licensed premises in order to have objective advice about the fair market value. On no fewer than four occasions we have asked him to confirm that he will allow access to our valuer/surveyor for an inspection — a perfectly normal step, of course. He has not agreed. We regard that as extraordinary. As we have told him, his refusal leads to the inference that he is worried about what the valuation figure will be and has no faith in his posited figure of £600,000.

Indeed, in an email a few weeks ago Martin said that his “requirement of a minimum price of £600k is not based on ‘valuations’ or ‘condition of the property’ or ‘accounts’. It is merely based on the fact that if the GACIG want us out of our home, then our minimum price we will consider (not necessarily accept) is £600k. We will not leave our home for less, under any circumstances.”

It is not easy to deal with somebody who has such a subjective and, it might be said, idiosyncratic approach to what should be a commercial decision. But for our part we believe that we should only offer and be prepared to pay fair market value, objectively determined. Incidentally, the price Martin paid in June 2016 was £350,000, and that was for the whole site: pub, car park and function room. He now wants close to double that for a fraction of the site and in a poor market for pubs.

We hope to have the surveyor’s report and valuation in late May. We have told Martin that we will provide him with a copy. We do not want to hide it from him. We have asked Martin to provide us with a copy of the valuation that he has indicated he has. He did not agree. Instead, he launched an unfortunate and unwarranted personal criticism of Simon, who has led our group admirably and with great courtesy. Martin even suggested that Simon should step down. This approach of ‘if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger’ is unwise and futile, but it’s also an indication of Martin’s thinking.

In a subsequent missive, Martin went so far as to say that he “would have allowed [the group] valuations, if [it] had agreed that [it was] buying our property only and for a minimum of £600k”. We regard this as bizarre, to say no more. It is obvious to anyone with even minimal experience of property or business transactions that the reason we need a valuation is to have expert advice on the value of the property before we make a bid, not afterwards. He went on to accuse the group of time-wasting, notwithstanding that he had taken a month to thwart our request for our valuer to inspect the premises. He concluded by saying, petulantly you may think:

“We are now informing you that any potential bid from this group will now be rejected … We will no longer respond to any further emails from [the group] … It is our sincere hope that from the 1,300 people in the village, an alternative interest group will form that is serious and does have the funds to complete the purchase without the need for grants.”

Despite the refusal to allow our appointed surveyor/valuer to inspect the premises, we are proceeding with the valuation, albeit without the full internal inspection that would be usual. We continue to act in good faith and with the aim of acquiring the pub for the benefit of the community. We explained our position to Martin and Jackie in our reply on 17 May:

Dear Martin and Jackie,

Thank you for Martin’s email of 14 May.

We cannot, of course, force you to open our emails, to read our correspondence, to allow access to our surveyor/valuer, or to accept the offer we hope to make. However, we would be failing in our duty to the residents of Tackley and would not be making all proper efforts towards achieving a deal with you if we did not reply and make these points.

  1. Despite what you accuse us of, we have always been polite and constructive in all our dealings with you. That will continue to be our approach.
  2. Although we believe that your aspiration to receive £600,000 for the pub is both unrealistic and unattainable, we have made clear throughout that we wish to have a professional valuation. The purpose of that, of course, is to inform us about the fair market value of the pub, etc, and to guide us in making our offer. If, contrary to our belief, the valuation was to confirm that your figure is reasonable, we would be likely to make such an offer. It is therefore potentially in your interest, as well as ours, to facilitate the valuation by agreeing to an inspection by Mr Hughes.
  3. We suggest that no prospective purchaser would make a proper and worthwhile offer without such an inspection and report. Life just isn’t like that.
  4. Of course, we could have fallen in with your demands and made an offer of £600,000 (as could any time-waster) on the basis that any offer would manifestly be made “subject to contract and subject to survey”. We would then have been able to reduce the figure when we received the valuation. But that would be neither straightforward nor constructive.
  5. In seeking to persuade us to make an offer, whether of £600,000 or any other sum, before we have received our valuation and survey report, you are seeking to put the proverbial cart before the horse. That is neither sensible nor constructive.
  6. You refer to the possibility that an alternative interest group will emerge from the village. One can never say “never”, but we are sure that that is extremely unlikely, to the point of being completely unrealistic.
  7. The moratorium period under Part 5 of the Localism Act 2011 is in place until 10 October 2023. A sale to any non-community bidder cannot therefore take place until after that date. And of course you and your family/family companies will be aware that the ACV protection applies to the entire site: pub, function room, and car park.
  8. We do not understand your apparent objection to the fact that we are likely to seek funding for our offer. It should not matter to you, as long as you receive the agreed price in due course. Also, it is probable that any other prospective purchaser will seek funding of one type or another.
  9. We hardly need to tell you that the market for pubs, both throughout the country and in Oxfordshire, is moribund and has been so for a long time. To put it bluntly, it’s a buyer’s market and certainly not one in which a seller can demand an unrealistic price.
  10. When we have received Mr Hughes’ report, probably in late May, we are likely to make an offer. It will be a fair and reasonable one. As we have said before, we shall provide you with a copy of Mr Hughes’ report at the same time. It will, of course, be for you to decide how to respond to the offer.

Yours sincerely

Any reply will come too late for this article. Based on the history, I don’t foresee a transformation in his attitude, but one never knows. Sometimes reality dawns after a long night.

Although a professional survey and valuation of the premises is essential, the annual accounts of the pub might also help us in putting forward an offer. We therefore asked Martin and Jackie a few weeks ago to provide us with copies for the last three years — a commonplace request when a business is being sold. This request was also turned down. Indeed, Martin said that our request was “a real laughing matter” and he took the opportunity to tell us (again) “be aware that our minimum price will remain at £600k and is not negotiable”.

We remain determined to conduct proper and sensible negotiations with Martin and Jackie with a view to buying the pub – all of it – for the village. We hope that a fair and proper deal can be done. The timescale is obviously uncertain, but we want to avoid delay. One date that is known is 25 June: that’s the date on which Martin has told us that he intends to close the pub. The closure will be unfortunate, except as a prelude to a new and better beginning.

As for how the purchase will be made, we are relying on professional advice from lawyers, from the Plunkett Foundation – which advises community businesses, like village shops and pubs – and from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It seems likely that a single purpose company will be used and that the necessary funds will be raised by residents of the village subscribing for shares. So you too can own a pub — or part of one! More about that in due course. Meanwhile, nil desperandum. We shall succeed.

We would welcome your views. Do you support our attempt to buy the pub for the village? Do you have any suggestions or comments? Please let us know by email to gacommunityinterest@gmail.com.

Settling In

Rev Harriet Orridge
harriet.sntchurch@gmail.com

As I write this, we have been here a month. My, how time flies! What with my licensing service and the coronation, it only seems five minutes since we moved into the Rectory.

Thank you for your lovely warm welcome. The one question I am repeatedly asked is: are you settled in yet? My usual answer focuses around the physical aspects of the move: boxes are unpacked, and we do now have broadband. Hooray!

However, settling in is much bigger than getting unpacked. When we go to a new school, go to university or start a new job, when we ask ‘have you settled in?’ we don’t mean have you unpacked your school bag or found your desk.

Every evening I take time to reflect on the day as part of my bedtime routine. Often I use the Christian meditation app Soultime to listen to a reflection, at the start of which the narrator invites me, the listener, to “get comfortable and take a couple of deep breaths”. I enjoy taking a moment to settle: snuggling down into my bed; getting the pillows just right so that I’m comfortable.

The broader perspective of getting settled is this idea of becoming ‘comfortable’, which will involve getting to know you and making friends. In terms of settling into a new school or job, we really mean making friends — finding where you ‘fit in’. This takes time to do anywhere, and it will take time for me to properly get to know you — both as individuals and as the wider community of Tackley, and how everything is interconnected.

The other side of getting settled is finding our new routine. Changes in one area affect other aspects of life. Moving here has significantly reduced my husband’s commute, which is fantastic, meaning he can leave much later in the morning and gets home earlier in the evening. One of the ripples of this affects my own morning prayer – where and when I have quiet time with God – which means I need to tweak my daily habits.

Last summer I read Christopher Chapman’s book Send My Roots Rain which talks about the importance of spiritual practices, especially for priests. I resolved that in my new post I would be sure to create space to maintain a rhythm of life that included rest. Within ministry (life) there are a billion things to do, and it is easy to feel the need to keep going; to keep on chopping wood. But just as God rested on the seventh day, it is important that we rest too, taking time to step off the treadmill of life, and pause. Settling into a moment; living in that space momentarily.

Taking time to rest is one of the things we should have learnt from the Covid pandemic. Studies have shown you are most at risk of developing long Covid if you rush back. As a world we have neglected and lost the practice of convalescing. Whilst rest and recuperation after being ill are important, so is ‘pacing’ in our everyday life.

In the parable of two woodcutters, who had a competition to see who could cut the most wood in a day, one worked all day chopping wood while the other stopped for five minutes every hour. At the end of the day, it was the second woodcutter who had chopped the most wood, because while resting he had also sharpened his axe.

The real answer to the question ‘have I settled in?’ is that we are getting there — or should that be here? Settling in is a process that takes time: time to get to know you, make friends, and find a rhythm of life and ministry that fits being here and is life-giving both to me and to this community. But I’m looking forward to every step of the journey with you.

Portrait of five people standing in a group inside a church.
Harriet (centre) and her family, from left to right: Georgina (‘G’), Geoffrey, John (husband) and Rachel. Photo: Nigel Francis

Breakfast on the Heath

Jane Walker, Breakfast on the Heath Organising Party

Thank you all so much for coming to Breakfast on the Heath and giving so generously. It was a great turnout, and I’m sure a good time was had by all.

After taking out money for next year’s coal etc. and any repairs that are needed, we have decided to give a donation to dementia support. We feel this is an important focus for many people in and from Tackley at this present time.

Many thanks, and we hope to see you there again next year.

People Against Litter (PALs)

Sue & Alan Lygo
07429 184839

We held a litter pick on Thursday, 4 May immediately after school. Thankfully, the weather was kind. We had eight adults but only five children, which was a little disappointing. A big thank-you to those who came and helped — it is very much appreciated.

Clearing litter left or thrown by others is, unfortunately, still needed. We think that Saturday mornings are the best time to litter pick, as we get more volunteers helping. However, we will now wait until the grass verges are cut on the main roads into and out of the village.

Walking Group

Linda Birch
lindabirch20@hotmail.com

Our leisurely walks offer everyone a friendly way to get to know the Oxfordshire countryside better. We meet at Tackley Village Hall at the times given to arrange transport to the start of each walk. There’s no obligation to car share, but there isn’t always enough parking for every person to drive individually. Walking is at participants’ own risk.

WI

Rosie Hawes & Janet Maybank
tackleywi@oxfordshirewi.co.uk

Tackley WI enjoyed two craft evenings in the spring, learning different printing techniques for making cards and pictures with Mary-Lou, Emma and Eve.

In June and July we have two talks with a history focus. On Tuesday, 6 June Jane Dickinson, a Green Badge tour guide, will give her talk Highlights of Influential Women of Oxford From Both Town and Gown.

On Tuesday, 4 July Shaun Todd will present Afternoon Tea: What You May Not Know, about the history and etiquette of afternoon tea, with a show-and-tell of vintage items.

On Tuesday, 1 August we will have an informal craft evening — details to follow.

We welcome visitors and new members to our friendly meetings, which are held in the village hall at 7:45 for 8 pm. Visitors pay £5 which includes refreshments.

Solar Power: Another View

Peter Read
plread@btinternet.com

I was interested to read Anne Gwinnett’s article in the April–May issue on the controversial proposals for the Botley West Solar Farm. It raised a number of issues that we should all think about and engage with during the consultations. Anne’s conclusion was to reject the proposal and to join and represent the Stop Botley West (SBW) campaign. While I respect Anne’s personal decision on this issue, I would express concern and disappointment about the SBW campaign’s approach, which seems to me – as a semi-retired academic in atmospheric physics – unduly negative about solar power in general and based on some debatable, if not actually misleading or even incorrect, arguments. Its aims seem to be exclusively to prevent the Botley West proposal going ahead in any form, even if it were to be able to address questions such as how to promote local biodiversity or the dual use of the land for agriculture alongside solar power. Is that really the only answer? What are the alternatives, and how should we constructively campaign for them instead?

Not for the UK?

One point mentioned in SBW’s literature, and repeated in Anne’s article, is that “solar is not an efficient or reliable source of energy in the UK”. This is simply not correct. Although countries at latitudes closer to the equator experience more intense peak levels of sunlight, the intensity of sunshine at our latitudes in summer is still around 60% of what it is close to the equator. In addition, we experience more hours of daylight during summer than in the tropics — though the converse is of course true during our winter. While cloud reduces the efficiency, solar power still generates electricity without direct sunlight. The output of any solar farm depends on the weather and season, but then so does wind power generation (whether on or offshore, which SBW seems to prefer). However, solar power is more likely to be effective on calm summer days when wind power can’t generate much energy, so the two methods can complement each other.

A Mixed Economy

Most experts agree that, in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere – which is essential if we are to limit manmade changes to the climate – we will need a mixture of different methods of power generation to replace the burning of fossil carbon (mainly natural gas and coal). The problem is that every alternative method that doesn’t use carbon as a fuel has some disadvantage, either because of limited reliability or because it needs energy and ‘non-green’ resources to manufacture and install. This applies to wind, tidal, biomass and nuclear power as well as solar. The only totally green way to avoid burning carbon is to use less energy in the first place, but there are limits to this approach! In each case, the key criterion is that, in the long run, less carbon should be emitted into the atmosphere than would have been the case if we had carried on burning gas or coal. This is why it is called net zero (!) and the criterion is almost certainly satisfied for any solar or wind power system, regardless of where it is manufactured. If anyone is interested in more details, I can recommend the publication Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David Mackay, which is available free at withouthotair.com.

Why So Big?

Supporters of SBW also raise concerns about the size and scale of the Botley West site, which does indeed look either impressive or shocking and scary depending upon your point of view. But this has to be seen against the scale of what is needed for the UK to achieve net zero by the 2030s. Although Botley West does indeed seem very large, according to figures from David Mackay’s analysis it would still only provide around 3–4% of what the UK needs just for solar power, quite apart from other energy sources. So one could argue that we actually need more than twenty sites equivalent to Botley West to be built during the next decade!

Roofs Not Fields?

SBW’s literature also asks – somewhat inconsistently with their statement that solar power is inefficient and unreliable – why we can’t use roofs of buildings up and down the country for solar panels instead of open countryside. In an ideal world, this would indeed be desirable — and many people, including my family, have already taken steps to install solar panels on their houses to make a contribution — and save on bills! But the basic problem here is that most of these roofs are owned by millions of individual households and businesses, each of whom has to be persuaded or compelled to install solar power systems. This is therefore largely a political and financial problem, either to provide financial help and incentives or to pass laws to require people to install these systems. So far the present government has seemed very reluctant to do either on the scale required, and has even reduced some of the incentives offered previously. So unless this or future governments (which we elect!) can be persuaded to change their policies, we may have to accept the use of some greenfield land for solar power generation. While this may not be good news for those arguing for more agriculture and better food security, the sacrifice of a few thousand acres of agricultural land may eventually be seen as a small price to pay compared with what could happen to food security if we don’t limit changes in the climate.

In summary, there may well be valid reasons to oppose the Botley West proposal in particular, but we cannot ignore the urgent need to significantly extend our capacity to harness solar energy.

Eye on Blenheim

Martin Edwards, Editor

Supporters of the Stop Botley West campaign gathered outside both Bladon exits from Blenheim on the afternoon of Saturday, 27 May for a peaceful protest addressing visitors leaving the food festival held in the palace grounds.

Among the group’s new publicity material were placards reading ‘Say No to Russian Money’, a reference to the recent claim in Private Eye magazine that the solar farm “will be run by a company backed by some seriously dubious Russian money” (‘Marlborough light’, issue 1597).

Blenheim Estates and Merton College Oxford are two significant landowners set to benefit from the use of agricultural land as a solar farm. Given the notable coverage of Botley West in the Tackley Newsletter to date, I wanted to offer them a chance to respond to the Private Eye article. I made multiple phone, email and in-person enquiries as I sought their comments — in vain.

John Gloag, College Land Agent & Estates Bursar at Merton, eventually told me: “The College will not be responding to the article in Private Eye entitled ‘Marlborough light’.”

Blenheim’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Samantha Vaughan, said only that “project specific enquiries and media relations for Botley West” were being handled by Counter Context, a Sheffield-based PR firm, and directed me to the main email address found on the Botley West website.

Counter Context seemed like the only remaining route. They passed my request to Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), the German company behind Botley West, who quickly provided a pre-prepared statement that opens: “PVDP does not see any truth in the insinuations in the article, which is an exercise in smear by association.” The rest of the statement talks about the company’s other projects and funding, but does not otherwise address the concerns in question.

Thank You

Gill Laurence

Jerrams Brothers Funeral Directors have confirmed donations received in memory of Geoffrey. Collection from the service was £257.60, kind donations from Tackley Gardening Club £30, and from Tackley Silver Threads £20. With a further anonymous donation of £60, the total given to Dementia UK was £367.60. On behalf of Dementia UK and myself, thank you everyone for your kind donations.

Geoffrey Laurence

Gill always called him Geoffrey and we all knew him as Geoff,
Now he’s gone and left us all we feel very bereft.

He was never the life and soul of the party, but liked a damn good joke,
And all of you that have joined us here will really miss this bloke.

He was happy driving coaches and doing the car share scheme,
And when at home with his lovely wife he was living the dream.

They’d lived in many homes and places and finally settled here,
And no doubt when we share his memories we’re bound to shed a tear.

Their love for dogs was outstanding and they both decided to breed,
And just like things they’d done together they managed to succeed.

They also adored being out in their garden whenever they got the chance,
With Gill looking after the plants and pots and Geoffrey mowing the grass.

It’s a sad farewell from all of us and hope your journey’s safe,
That you can now relax and rest with a smile upon your face.

I know most of the time you were Mister Grumpy, or was you deep in thought?
Geoff you’ll never be forgotten coz you were one of a sort.

N. J. H.