I first became aware of the Didcot Garden Town residents’ sounding board whilst researching my blog on the Didcot Gateway project.
The sounding board allows residents to comment on and input into aspects of the Didcot Garden Town plan. Information from the meetings provides the project team with local knowledge and is taken forward for discussion at the Didcot Garden Town Advisory Board.
The most recent meeting was held on Monday 24 May. It was virtual but, unlike the first meeting, didn’t allow residents the chance to speak. Instead interaction was encouraged through online chat (comments generally only visible to the project team) and polls.
This sounding board focused on two specific aspects of the plans, the cycling and walking infrastructure project and environmental project ideas.
Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan project
Ali, the facilitator, showed us plans for the cycling and walking routes which will link up local business areas (Harwell Campus, Milton Park) and towns and villages.
There were a few comments made about the new Wantage Road cycle route. One point of interest was that due to it being the same colour as the road it was sometimes difficult for drivers to distinguish, therefore it would be better if it could be marked differently.
Ali then asked us to use the chat facility to record any further suggestions for new cycling and walking routes. I have left my suggestions at previous Didcot Garden Town consultations and exhibitions. I’ve no idea what black hole these have disappeared into but I gave my suggestions (again) in the hope that someone will pick them up!
Environment project ideas
The next section considered different ideas for environmental projects in the town. These will be taken forward over the next 18 months. Ali talked us through a variety of suggestions and asked us to rate them via the poll function. Options included:
Mini forests – finding land to plant small areas of woodland on.
Jubilee Tree Planting – encouraging residents to plant trees as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations next year.
Forest Schools – potentially providing funding and advice to schools on setting these up.
Community allotments – securing sites and planting new gardens, plus a discussion on a community orchard.
Vertical planting – incorporating a feature wall of planting somewhere in the town centre.
Water tap – whether a publicly accessible water tap feature could encourage a reduction in the use of plastic bottles. There was a rather weird poll on this, where 100% of the attendants voted to say yes, they would like a water tap.
Large scale chess boards and games – for residents to play on.
Talks by experts – would the town welcome these?
These were all valid ideas and very few people disputed them. However, are they ambitious enough or are they just tinkering around the edges?
Ali also asked for additional suggestions and for volunteers and groups to get involved in delivering them. I do have a view….
My suggestion for an environmental project
One of the biggest issues we’re facing is the loss of our local countryside as it gets consumed by new houses. This land was once habitat for our foxes, bats and butterflies; where can they live if their homes have been destroyed?
Didcot is, in name, a Garden Town. Perhaps the focus needs to move away from building new houses and roads and into our back gardens. Most of us have them and they play an increasingly important role in stopping habitat fragmentation. We could create and ask residents to sign up to five simple steps in a ‘Didcot Garden Town for Wildlife’ charter. Associated promotional activities could include an open garden trail and a wildlife gardening festival with talks by experts along with lots of seed planting and wildlife related activities to engage children.
This idea would be easy to implement and promote, low cost and would give almost everyone the opportunity to get involved in greening our town.
To make things easier for the Garden Town team I’ve already come up with a potential Didcot Garden for Wildlife charter:
1. Create a hedgehog hole in your fence or gate.
2. Leave an area of your garden to grow wild.
3. Stop using pesticides and weed killers.
4. Provide a water source (be it pond or bird water bowl).
5. Plant nectar and pollen rich flowers.
I will let the Didcot Garden Team know of my suggestion. If you have any ideas, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.