Emily Smith

Leader's blog

Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, Cllr Emily Smith

Train station for Grove

(February 2020)

At a recent Oxfordshire Growth Board meeting I heard a presentation from Network Rail, Oxfordshire County Council and the Department for Transport on the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Strategy, which set out priorities for rail investment over the coming years to support housing and employment growth across Oxfordshire.

I was really pleased to hear that this included plans for the new Grove station. However I was concerned to hear that this isn’t expected until 2024, given that one of the most common complaints I and my fellow councillors receive is about transport infrastructure not keeping pace with house building.

I firmly believe that a new station will help traffic congestion, particularly around Didcot as people commuting by train, drive to use the station car park. Less congestion would improve our air quality and would help tackle the climate emergency, a subject I care deeply about.

Given the potential for additional housing and developer contributions from housing already coming in Grove, which could contribute to the £20 million needed for the station, I would really like to see this happen sooner.  I am very keen to work with local and national partners, including local businesses, to identify funding and bring the Grove station forward as soon as possible.

Climate Emergency

(January 2020)

The new year is a great opportunity to make plans for the future – and this is the year I really hope we can take some meaningful actions in tackling the significant challenges presented by climate change

I’m really pleased that the Vale declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, and even more so that we then went on to set up the Climate Emergency Advisory Committee. In December we agreed new Carbon reduction targets; for the Council itself to become carbon neutral by 2030 and for the district as a whole to be carbon neutral by 2045.

Last year, many young people from the Vale took part in campaigns like the Youth Climate Strikes in Oxfords. Thanks to them and millions of others, the climate crisis really rose up the political agenda.

The increased awareness of our impact on the climate was evident to me over the Christmas period. I, and so many people around me, were talking about buying fewer gifts, using wrapping paper that can be recycled, and reducing the amount of meat consumed.

Then came the talk of New Year’s resolutions… my resolutions rarely last until the end of January, but when it comes to the climate, we cannot let that happen.

National planning policy currently prevents us from insisting on carbon neutral buildings and other standards we would like to have in our local plan and Neighbourhood plans. We need the government to allow us the freedom to insist on ‘greener’ building standards. To that end, we have responded to the government’s ‘Future Homes’ consultation making the case for tougher building regulations and for local councils to have more powers to insist on higher environmental standards than national legislation allows.

We ‘the council’ can take action to make our buildings more energy efficient, we can review our planning policies and we can take account of the environmental impact of all the decisions we take. But we cannot reach our goal to be a carbon neutral district alone.

There is a huge amount of will across our communities and amongst elected councillors to tackle the climate . The next step for the Vale is to work out how to have the greatest impact and communicate about initiatives that everyone living and working in the Vale can help with.

2019 was the year of awareness raising, 2020 needs to be the year we all take action.

Last reviewed: 26 - 02 - 2020

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