Woodstock Town Partnership

A beautiful and safe town set within accessible countryside
A thriving economy based on our strengths as an attractive visitor destination
A place with outstanding facilities for everyday life as well as for special events
A diverse community active in influencing its own future

 

Results of the Residents' Survey

This section of the report provides results from the questionnaires circulated through the town and the neighbouring parishes during the summer of 2011.

In all, some 1600 questionnaires were distributed throughout the town to every household. We received reports that some homes were missed and we apologise for this. However, there did not seem to be any coherence to the missed addresses so we were unable to effectively correct the error. We also posted an online questionnaire with the same questions giving households the opportunity to take part in that way instead of completing the paper survey and returning it. Altogether we received some 225 responses, sufficient to claim statistical significance and a reasonable level of representative data. However there are some caveats to the degree to which the results are representative of the whole population of the town and these caveats will be expressed at various points throughout the report.

A similar number of questionnaires (1650) were circulated throughout the parishes of Hanborough, Combe, Stonesfield, Wootton, Tackley, Begbroke and Yarnton, and, of course, the option of the Internet survey was in place for the villages too. The number of paper questionnaires was well short of the total number of 5329 households in those parishes but was as much as we thought we could manage to distribute and analyse. An attempt was made to ensure that the spread of households was representative of the broader cross-section of income, age and background. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the response rate from the villages was very much lower. We had just 69 responses. This was partly due to the difficulty in establishing questionnaire collection points in some villages and partly due to the understandably reduced level of commitment to Woodstock in the villages compared to the residents of the town itself.

So what are people saying about Woodstock? There is an overwhelming level of satisfaction that shines through almost every page of the responses. Woodstock is a great place to live. Of that, all seem to agree.

What we Like

Top of the list was the simple statement, "It’s a beautiful place". Access to Blenheim was a frequently appreciated sentiment as was the fact of low crime and a safe environment in which to live. People clearly enjoy the town and the fact that it is small and compact and "everywhere is within walking distance". The shops, pubs and restaurants are other factors making for a high quality of life for Woodstock residents.

So, if it’s that good, can we just pat ourselves on the back and go home feeling good about our town? Well, yes and no. Of course we should shout to the rooftops our pride in our town and there is much about Woodstock that residents will want to preserve at all costs. But there are things that aren’t so good and this is what was said:-

What we don’t like and what are our shopping habits?

After complaints about the volume of traffic, the most common complaint from residents was, "not enough utility shops". Many bemoaned the closing of the hardware shop, the shoe shop and, going back some years, the loss of the wet fish shop and the greengrocers. And yet when asked where people did their main shopping, 59% said they shopped at the larger supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose etc.)

Have we lost our local shops because we prefer the convenience of supermarket shopping, or because these small local businesses cannot compete and have simply closed, forcing us all to drive into Kidlington or Witney?

Our dilemma is echoed in every small town across the UK, but it does not bode well for the centres of our towns.

We asked whether residents thought the town’s retailers and businesses were thriving?

Business Prospects

Many people were undecided, but of those who expressed views most thought that businesses were either thriving or coasting. 25% thought they were struggling. Of course, much depends on the type of business, so maybe it was an unfair question. But we asked how business resilience might be improved and the replies we got suggest that some of the solutions rest with the businesses themselves but others depend on us as consumers and us as a community to provide the infrastructure necessary to create a healthy business environment. Further work is needed to gauge the responses of business owners and managers themselves.

Public Areas

Turning to the public areas of the town, we asked whether residents thought these were well maintained. We asked about the towns field paths and bridleways, the children’s play areas, the town watermeadows and other natural habitats, the cemeteries, sports grounds and, lastly, the roads and pavements. Generally speaking residents gave the thumbs up to all these facilities. Top of the list was the watermeadows with an over 60% satisfaction rating. Bottom was the County Council’s roads and pavements. Yet even here, over 70% thought them either good or average.

Housing

Housing is a big issue everywhere and not least of all in Woodstock. The forth-biggest concern of residents is the high cost of housing and nearly 30% of respondents thought that more housing was needed in the town. However, an overwhelming 58% thought that we have enough new homes in Woodstock for the time being. One concern that the partnership has is that, given the recession and the slow recovery, it may be a considerable time before money for the things we might want to do in the town becomes available. In the past, grants have been forthcoming from government and the regional development boards, but these sources are rapidly drying up. It is highly probable that in future, funds will only come through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and in Woodstock this may chiefly be through the acceptance of additional housing development. Given the clear message from residents that we have enough housing in the town for the time being it may mean that funding for what we might want to do will be very difficult to secure. Having said that, the town council has recently succeeded in securing some £86,000 in funding for the Community Centre refurbishment, so we should not suppose that we can do nothing to improve our facilities.

Our focus groups did identify a growing need for so-called "extra care housing". This is housing for elderly people that provides for independent but supported living. In other words, it provides accommodation that is purpose designed for older and possibly infirm people who do not require access to a residential care home. Given the demographics of Woodstock’s increasing population of older people, it is recognised that extra care homes will become an essential requirement for the town in the not too distant future (and possibly even already). Currently there are no extra care homes in West Oxfordshire. According to Oxfordshire County Council Social and Community Care Services, the formula used to calculate the demand for extra care housing (based on the population of over 75s) suggests that Woodstock could support 55 such extra care flats, rising to 100 by 2033.

Woodstock’s age distribution and its effect on the survey results

At the beginning of this section of the report it was said that in respect of the responses from residents there were some caveats as to how closely it represent a fair cross section of Woodstock's population. It seems that the retired folk of the town have more time than others to fill in and return survey forms. 54% of respondents were over 65 years old. This despite figures from the Office of National Statistics suggesting that in Woodstock the proportion of people over 65 is a much lower 27%. Some of the results may therefore be skewed and some of the following data needs to be considered in that particular light - although they may equally reflect the wider interests of residents generally.

Recreation and Leisure

The countryside is clearly important to residents, but perhaps more surprising is that second place as the most popular recreational facility in the town is the Museum. What the questionnaire did not specify was whether respondents should include in their answers visits to the ever-popular museum café as well as to the exhibit areas of the museum and the many special exhibitions and displays put on there. Nevertheless it is an impressive result. The Library too is well supported with over 50 respondents (out of 225) reporting regular visits. Despite severe cuts in the library service across the County (and indeed beyond), the Woodstock Library has been categorised as a "Community Plus" library thus requiring somewhat less in terms of volunteer commitment to many others across the County. The town’s clubs and societies are very important to the community fabric of the town and all the more so because they are volunteer run and a true reflection of the vibrancy of the community. These clubs and societies have been divided into three groups to be more meaningful; sports clubs such as the Bowls and Tennis and Old Woodstock Town Football Clubs; social and educational clubs such as the Natural History Club, Woodstock Society and the popular Probus Clubs; and the support societies such as the Stroke Club and Red Cross. Together these account for nearly half the respondents (though some will be members of more than one).

We asked people whether they had visited the Museum, the Library, any adult education classes or church services during the year. The results are remarkable. Nearly 80% of respondents had visited the museum, 60% the library, over 45% have attended a church service and over 10% adult education classes.

Employment and Travel to Work

People’s occupations, places of work and travel patterns are clearly skewed by the high proportion of retirees responding.

42% of respondents are retired. 18% are engaged in private sector professional/financial/consultancy work, 17% work in the public sector, and 6% each in manufacturing and the retail and hospitality sectors.

54% of respondents are either retired, or working from home, but of the remainder the split between those working locally, nearby or further afield is evenly balanced. (Note: there is some overlap between these figures as several respondents were retired i.e. in receipt of a state and/or occupational pension but also recorded that they were working from home, perhaps as part-time or voluntary employment).

20% of respondents work from home, probably a significantly higher figure than previously. Of those working away from home, the vast majority use a car or van as their means of transport to and from work. A tiny 2% share travel and this must be an area where there is scope for carbon savings. A very creditable 11% either walk or cycle to work. Only 4% use public transport and a similar percentage use the park and ride.

Schools

The town’s schools are a vital part of the Woodstock Community and, in respect of the Marlborough School in particular, the wider community of villages beyond Woodstock’s borders. Woodstock Primary School has a "good" OFSTED rating and the Marlborough Secondary School a "satisfactory" rating. Both are oversubscribed. Both schools have increased their annual intake and the Primary School is expecting to require extra teaching space as a result. Both schools are active participants in the local community and within the schools own partnership of eleven primaries and the Marlborough School. The Marlborough School is likely to convert to academy status in the near future. Consultations are currently on-going.

Taking account of the high proportion of respondents of retirement age it is not surprising that in answer to the questions concerning the schools many felt unable to answer. Nevertheless 57% of respondents agreed that the schools were in good shape, provided a good education for the children and young people and as a result were sought after by parents. Only 6% of respondents did not agree that the schools were highly rated and over-subscribed, the remainder were "Don’t knows". More telling was the open question asking respondents to express their concerns about the schools.

Typically, there were concerns about the "school run" and the traffic and parking outside both schools morning and afternoon. Concerns about anti-social behaviour were the next most common concern, followed closely by concerns that the catchment area for children coming to the schools was now so big that some local children were finding difficulty in obtaining places. A corollary to this was the concern that class sizes may grow too big.

Results from the Neighbouring Parishes

Survey forms were delivered to households in the following villages:-

Bladon 150 households
Hanborough 300 households
Hanborough 300 households
Combe 150 households
Stonesfield 250 households
Wootton 150 households
Tackley 200 households
Begbroke 150 households
Yarnton 300 households

An attempt was made to distribute questionnaires to a reasonable cross-section of income distribution. In addition, all households were able to access the questionnaires online. As stated earlier in this report, the response rate from the villages was poor and cannot be said to provide a reliable picture of attitudes generally. Nevertheless some conclusions can be drawn particularly where they confirm anecdotal evidence or the conclusions of the Woodstock resident’s survey. Most of the responses were from Stonesfield, Hanborough and Wootton. Things that village residents liked about Woodstock were much the same as the things valued by the townspeople. However, several respondents placed the presence of the medical practice as an important factor for them, as well as the convenience of the Coop supermarket and two banks. Asked what puts them off coming to Woodstock, their main concerns were parking, not enough utility shops, and in some cases, that they could get everything they needed in their own village. Village residents said they would visit Woodstock more often if the parking situation was better, if there were more utility type shops and if there was a weekly market, instead of the current monthly one.

Over 40% of respondents visit the towns pubs and/or restaurants at least once a months, compared to 69% for Woodstock residents. Some concerns were expressed by village residents that public transport links to the villages were poor to non-existent late in the evenings and at weekends. Given the discouragement of drink drive laws this is an area that clearly mitigates against the business turnover of the town’s pubs and restaurants.

Village residents understandably use the town’s recreational facilities less than townspeople. Nevertheless, once again the Museum is a popular venue, again followed by the library, which is far more heavily subscribed than the mobile library service.

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