Our place and our community is under attack from outsiders.
Not literally, maybe. But soon, Bicester will be run by people from far away. Not those embedded in our community.
We all know that there is a lot of building going on in and around Bicester. We all have mixed feelings about it. But each and every single development approved in and around our town was made by local people in the form of your local councillors.
Every councillor makes a decision on a planning application on the basis of the evidence in front of them and aware that they, as a local resident, face the consequences of if it goes wrong.
Sometimes, this can come back to mean they lose office at election time.
So when councillors make these decisions, they take what you as a local resident think about it very seriously. Even if they make a decision that you disagree with, your feedback and comments give each and every councillor reason to pause, and reflect.
This may soon be a thing of the past. We are heading to a very different system. Last week, the government announced changes to the planning system which effectively cut the role of councillors out of decision making when it comes to planning.
Instead, designated zones will be created. Once created, in most of these zones, an application has to be accepted regardless of what the local people or councillors think. Further, there will be even less of a requirement for developers to provide funding for infrastructure, services and affordable housing than there is presently.
If you think it is bad now, you have not seen anything yet. And there is more.
The government, fed up of councillors like me telling them to honour promises made to provide funding for stepping in during the pandemic, has decided to scrap many councils altogether. In September, proposals are expected that will do away with districts and leave all decisions made on a countywide basis.
This may sound great, but what it means is that any councillor you have will represent more and more people. Making them more remote and less local. And they’ll have even more to do taking them off your doorstep and off your street into an office miles away.
Decisions about Bicester won’t be made in Bicester or even in Bodicote. They’ll be made in County Hall, if we’re lucky.
Your local democracy is under attack. Developers will call the shots on planning even more than they do now. There will be less money for schools, roads and the police. And any remaining councillors will be too remote or too busy to respond to your needs.
Unless we do something about it.