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

 

Appendix "B"

The Consolidated SWOT Analysis from the Focus Groups

What’s Good about Woodstock

Traffic and Transport


Hanborough Station is popular with Woodstock commuters for quick and easy access to Oxford and London (Paddington).  However there is a serious lack of parking at the station that is currently being addressed by OCC/WODC and the train operators


  • Woodstock gains from being close to the important regional centre of Oxford
  • There is good access to London (Heathrow) and Birmingham airports
  • There is good access to the motorway network (M40 and M4)
  • There are good premium bus services from Woodstock to Oxford (the predominant destination) and the rail station. Frequency of service likely to improve to 15 minutes.
  • Oxford’s park and Ride service is one of the most successful P&R services nationally and is well supported, including by Woodstock people.
  • Park and ride is used by all social groups. However, older people and young people more likely to use buses for their entire journey
  • London commuters are able to use trains from Hanborough, Charlbury or Oxford (and to a lesser extent Bicester North) and travel to those stations by car.
  • From 2014, commuters will be able to use the new Water Eaton Parkway rail station for trains into Oxford, Bicester, High Wycombe and London Marylebone.
  • Public transport services generally meet local needs
  • School bus services are generally good and service bus timetables allow for a reasonable to good service for those travelling to employment destinations in the town, with the exception of Tackley and perhaps Combe.
  • Public transport is accessible to the less able-bodied. There is no take up for dial a ride or volunteer link transport.
  • Cycle paths are OK on the whole

Economy

Employment and Resilience

  • There are no long term unemployment trends
  • The spread of employment types is reasonable
  • Business resilience is generally good and there is reasonable confidence in businesses given the current recession.
  • The business group "Wake Up To Woodstock" is a dynamic and entrepreneurial presence in the town encouraging retail and business confidence.
  • Employment and business expansion is currently stable considering the national economic outlook.
  • Business health is believed to be slightly better than average. However, at the start of 2010 there were 5 empty shops in the town. Currently there are none.

Training, Skills and Education

Woodstock CoE Primary School children enjoy classes at one of Oxfordshire's best schools






  • There are good business conference facilities in the town.
  • There is currently surplus capacity at pre-school services in the town (though not by much).
  • High performing primary school



The new state of the art sceince block at The Marlborough C of E Secondary School, built as part of the government's Schools for the Future programme



  • The Marlborough School, a business and enterprise specialist school, prides itself on being an inclusive school and offers all students a wide curriculum. The percentage of grades A*-C may not be as high as the catchment would suggest but the percentage achieving A*-E grades is high.
  • Morale and behaviour in both schools are very high and exclusions are below average.
  • Employers report that skills levels are satisfactory. There are no identified skills shortages. Sector skills included customer care, basic computer skills, numeracy and literacy. One major employer stated that most young recruits from the area had a "good sense of place" (meaning a good sense of the value of their community). Employers report general satisfaction with the level of skills amongst their workforces.
  • There are plenty of training opportunities but these frequently require travelling up to ten to fifteen miles. Course fees are often high.
  • The only known specific training organisations in the town is the Marlborough School who run adult education courses. However there are extensive opportunities available in Oxford and Witney. Venues are available for specific courses should numbers be sufficient to run them locally.
  • Debate on skills and training is conducted by local employers and educationalists, often working together at the monthly Business Breakfasts meetings hosted by the Marlborough School.

Pupils and staff from the Marlborough School at The Oxfordshire Business Alliance "Investors in Education" awards 2010 at which local stores "The Box of Delights" and "The Real Wood Furniture Co" received awards



Communications

  • A high proportion of people have internet access
  • A Wi-Fi facility is being installed on the town hall to cover the entire town centre.

Retail

  • All shopping in Woodstock is in the town centre except for one convenience store.
  • Woodstock is a local hub for basic shopping for Combe, Stonesfield and Wootton (the latter two have one small convenience store each). Hanborough looks to Witney (and has its own Coop supermarket and other local shops). Tackley, Yarnton and Begbroke (each of which has its own convenience store – Yarnton more than one) tend to use Kidlington for shopping.
  • Woodstock’s town centre is an attractive location for retail businesses. The evidence for this is that vacant retail premises quickly get taken up.
  • Wake Up to Woodstock employ active PR consultants to market the town in a variety of national and regional journals
  • Popular Farmers’ Market adds footfall to the town and enhances ambience

Left:  Woodstock's popular Framers Market, run by Thames Valley Farmers Markets Cooperative and operating opn the first Saturday of each month.
Right:  The internationally famous "Bear Hotel", an old coaching inn.

Tourism

  • Tourism is the catalyst for many of the successful businesses in the town (though not all). Tourism is based on two stable attractions (Blenheim and the Cotswolds)
  • Tourism is critical and essential to the Woodstock economy. There seems little likelihood in the near future of a decline in tourism.
  • Woodstock’s economy does not appear to be vulnerable to seasonal variations in tourism compared to many tourist destinations. This is because the retail element of the town’s tourist attraction are not wholly dependant on Blenheim Palace. In the tourist "off-season", Woodstock remains an attractive visitor destination in its own right. Off season Christmas events are particularly strong in Woodstock.
  • Visitor activity is centred mainly in the town and in Blenheim Palace. There is a tension between Blenheim and the town both of whom seek to "capture" the available clientele. In fact, each depends on the other and there is mutual benefit.
  • There are good transport links for visitors between London, Oxford and the Midlands by car and bus, but less good by rail
  • There is a visitor information point in the premises of the Oxfordshire Museum.
  • The Oxfordshire Museum, based in Woodstock, is itself a tourist draw. A major extension to the museum, to be named "Soldiers of Oxfordshire", and featuring the County’s military heritage, will further add to the visitor offer.
  • There are map boards in the town’s main car park and adequate direction signage throughout.

Social Community Values

Health and welfare

  • The proportion of healthy retired people in Woodstock provides a valuable resource for community involvement and voluntary sector services.
  • The condition of the housing stock in the town, both private and social rented is generally very high.
  • High standards of medical care from the local NHS practice and emergency services generally.
  • Exceptionally low crime levels and quite low levels of "perceived crime" and a good level of voluntary services. Recent increases in police visibility and Police Community Support Officers numbers in the town have benefited the community and brought confidence to schools, the elderly and residents generally.
  • High quality of Special Educational Needs provision at the Malborough School

Local Governance

  • Access to local government is straightforward and many District and County Councillors and the MP hold regular surgeries.
  • West Oxfordshire and the County have a good reputation on local consultation. However, the new Localism Bill can be expected to reinforce this.
  • Woodstock has an active citizenry when issues of significance arise.

Culture Media and Sport

  • Woodstock is blessed with good sports, leisure and open space facilities of a high standard and mostly at an affordable price. Many minority sports/leisure activities can be enjoyed within a five mile radius.
  • Woodstock has excellent cultural and heritage connections and these are exploited and enjoyed to the full by the residents (as well as by visitors to the town).
  • The annual "Independent Woodstock Literary Festival", "Art in Woodstock" and "Woodstock Live" festivals are now well established and attracting support both locally and nationally.
  • Woodstock’s proximity to Oxford enables residents to take advantage of cultural opportunities in the city
  • Many locally based clubs and societies
  • The Town Square venue is an ideal focus for cultural and community events
  • Good community involvement by the schools
  • Good range of adult education classes at the Marlborough School and Museum

Environmental Condition


Woodstock's wild and natural watermeadows, gifted to the town in 1453












  • Grade 2* listed historic town hall and many other interesting listed buildings of architectural value
  • Quality of the town’s watermeadows as a natural resource and recreational area for residents
  • Proximity to Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the historic university city of Oxford.

What’s Not So Good about Woodstock

Traffic and Transport

Bus Travel

  • Car dependency for Woodstock’s neighbouring villages is partly a car culture issue, but also because bus services are less frequent/convenient to and from the villages. This is particularly true for Combe and Tackley. The need to contain bus subsidy levels by OCC may hinder the development of bus services between Woodstock and the villages.
  • There is a suppressed bus travel demand at evening and weekends due to the paucity of services at those times. Poor bus services in the evenings hamper the Youth Club, pubs and restaurants, and other social and community activities. Access to services for those living in Tackley and most other villages can be problematic at some specific times (evenings and weekends)
  • There is demand from bus travellers for bus shelters at the town centre bus stops but there is also significant opposition on aesthetic grounds

Rail

  • Hanborough Stn has long required additional parking. Many cars are parked indiscriminately along the highway verges to the detriment of residents and adding an additional hazard to the busy A4095 principle road. A new car park has been granted planning consent and work is expected to start in the Autumn of 2012. Although Hanborough Stn is close to bus stops the bus/train times are not well coordinated sometimes resulting in long waiting times.
  • Charlbury Stn. is not well located for bus connections
  • Oxford Station is in desperate need of expansion and improvement.
  • Oxford Bus Station is badly located in respect of the railway station although the main S3 service to/from Woodstock does pass the bus station and terminate at the railway station.

Traffic

  • The County Council has no plans to deal with traffic problems in Woodstock.
  • A44a has striven hard to reduce HGV traffic on the main road. It has met considerable inertia from the authorities and its success has been mixed. OCC should be pressed to improve the A40/A44 and A40/A4165 junctions to encourage more long distance HGVs from the Evesham distribution centre to use A429/A40 instead of A44. At present, the volume of HGVs on the A44 remains unacceptably high. Coupled with the narrow pavements this results in vulnerability for pedestrians and cyclists thus reducing the opportunity for sustainable travel within the town. The main problem is the lack of safe routes from Old Woodstock to the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists. By no stretch of the imagination can the A44 be described as a Safe Route to School.
  • Access to the town can sometimes be impaired when major events are staged at Blenheim Palace.
  • OCC criteria for the introduction of speed reactive signs may hinder aspirations for improved speed management on the A44
  • Although the junction of A44 with Hensington Road and High street is NOT an accident blackspot it is the location of most accidents in the town. Improvements to Hensington Road itself (between A44 and Union St) and improved pedestrian facilities at the junction (including an additional pedestrian crossing outside Caroline Court) is recommended
  • Some extra safety provision at the town square would be beneficial, particularly at times of Farmers Markets and other civic and public events
  • Some dropped crossing points should be improved.
  • The addition of a shared pedestrian cycle track on the A44 north to B4437 would benefit cyclists to and from Wootton, Stonesfield and Combe.
  • A better link between A40 and A34 would reduce congestion on A40 and encourage HGVs to use A40 advisory route instead of A44 through Woodstock (improvements to Cutteslowe Roundabout also required)

Disability Discrimination

  • There is an urgent need for improved disabled access at the town hall which presently gives access only to ground floor rooms and even then, with some difficulty.

Parking

  • Parking in Woodstock continues to be a problem., Retailers and businesses complain of insufficient space and many residents in old cottages in the town have no off-street parking provision.

Economy

Employment

  • Woodstock is a substantially commuting town for Oxford and West Oxon and is thus a car dependant economy. (66% of residents of West Oxon work in West Oxon but 10% work in Oxford and 10% out of County 62% drive to work 12% work from home 9% walk to work 6% are passengers driven to work by others 5% get to work by bus 5% cycle to work). However, this is not seen as a threat given the opportunity to use public transport.

Business Services and Commercial Property

  • Business advice services are readily available online and by phone though few have a presence in the town. Anecdotal evidence suggests that take up of advice from these agencies is low. This is especially true of micro-businesses of one or two people.
  • Compared to its neighbours, Woodstock suffers from a lack of commercial property for rent. Woodstock has two small business estates (The Tannery and The Quadrangle). By contrast Hanborough has two far larger business estates and a third small one, and Tackley – a much smaller village - has two). There are vacant business premises in the town and notably at the nearby, larger Hanborough Business Park.
  • There is barely sufficient commercial rentable space in Woodstock but in the present climate it is not seen as a major issue
  • Woodstock is not well represented on the West Oxfordshire Strategic Partnership, which is the main vehicle for the development of themes such as the needs of older people, access to services, the environment etc.
  • There is extensive use of Broadband internet throughout Woodstock. However, there is some concern that Woodstock may miss out on the next generation of high speed broadband roll-out. Problems with Broadband are not technical but political in that Woodstock already enjoys reasonable broadband speeds so may lose out on the new generation of ultra-fast broadband.

Education, Training and Childcare

  • Despite surplus places for nursery age children from 2 to 5 yrs., there is no provision in the town for the care of very small children (birth to age two).
  • There is currently a "squeeze" on places at the primary school. This is due to popularity (its performance has been rising steadily and an increasingly population from local development and a small birth "bulge".
  • Paucity of education through apprenticeships

Retail and tourism

  • There is a gradually falling number of "utility" shops in Woodstock. The town lacks a greengrocer, a hardware/ironmonger, a fresh fish shop, a shoe shop and a general market. It seems unlikely that Woodstock will ever challenge Kidlington or Witney as the main shopping venues.
  • The farmers’ market is small and may not have sufficient critical mass to be sustainable in the longer term. There is not much scope for physical expansion but there is believed to be support for potential expansion if it can be configured. The monthly farmers’ market is therefore a weakness in its current format and remains threatened (but also a potential source for opportunity, which the Partnership may wish to take up).
  • Fuel price escalation and recession could affect the spending potential of visitors and thus weaken the longer term prosperity of the town.
  • Despite good transport links for tourists/visitors to the town from London, Oxford and the Midlands, access to the Cotswold AONB is less easy.
  • The Visitor Information Centre at the town’s museum has recently been downgraded to a Visitor Information Point, which lacks the personal support of expert advisers in tourism matters generally

Parking

  • Parking is difficult in Woodstock. There are insufficient parking places for residents and for visitors. The lack of parking threatens the town’s economic performance.

Social and Community

Demographics

  • The demographic profile of Woodstock means that more elderly people are living alone. This creates pressure on health and social services, and increases the need for good public transport and accessible (Disability Discrimination Act) services.
  • For the same reason, there are fewer young families. However, recent housing developments in Shipton Road, Banbury Road and at Yarnton suggest that this trend is changing. For example, both schools are currently over subscribed.

Housing and Social Care

  • There is a lack of affordable homes and/or social rented homes for young families and key workers. Waiting lists are growing longer each year - more points needed than ever.
  • Current market prices for mortgage purchase or rental are too high for most household incomes.
  • There is high demand for housing of all types, 1 and 2 bedroom, family sized, social rented, and market.
  • There is also an unsatisfied demand for extra care housing for older people and/or homes for disabled people in independent living with peripatetic support.
  • Sheltered accommodation is not working due to working hours regulations restricting the effectiveness of wardens. However sheltered housing has not been sufficiently replaced by extra care units (in Woodstock)
  • For more intensive nursing care, the newly opened Spencer Court, operated by the Order of St John offers first class care but the demand for places exceeds availability and the costs are high

Medical Services

  • There is no NHS dentist in the town (and just one private dentist offering NHS services to children only)
  • The NHS medical practise in Woodstock has outgrown the site. It is cramped and is in urgent need of relocation to a central accessible location

Culture Media and Sport

  • The football club aspires to be part of a league that demands floodlighting and other grounds infrastructure improvement. Due to public concerns, particularly over floodlighting these improvements have not progressed and is inhibiting the growth of the club.
  • The swimming pool would benefit from being enclosed (a roof) so that all year round swimming could be offered.
  • The Youth Club needs updating

Environmental Condition

  • One or two of the town’s social housing estates require some upgrade to the public areas and highways
  • There is a concentration of mono-agriculture which may not be sustainable in the longer term.
  • The watermeadows have areas of infestation with Himalayan Balsam and some small areas of Japanese Knotweed.

So What Can We Do for Woodstock?

Opportunities in Traffic and Transport

We foresee that Increasing energy prices may encourage a move towards public transport. We should anticipate that and use it as an opportunity for the following measures:-

We should encourage the County Council and transport service providers (bus and rail) to:-

  • provide more parking at Hanborough Stn
  • expand and improve Oxford Station
  • Expand Thornhill Park and Ride
  • Complete long term plans to provide bus lanes between Pear Tree and Yarnton to improve bus journey times during peak hours and pave the way for improved bus frequencies under the premium route concept.
  • encourage more bus use from Woodstock for entire journey by all social groups.
  • increase bus services at weekends and in the evenings in order to increase visitors from the villages to Woodstock’s social and community life and to its pubs and restaurants. This may help the Youth Club to bolster membership from the villages.
  • extend the Woodstock to Kidlington bus service to Watereaton adding considerably to the attractiveness of this route into Oxford and the Headington Hospital sites.
  • Provide more timetables needed on notice boards further out from Town Centre
  • Provide an extra bus stop to serve the new Shipton Road development.
  • Doubling of the Cotswold Line has recently been partially completed. The completion of the remainder would permit a more intensified service.
  • The development of the East West rail link between Swindon/Bristol and Milton Keynes (incl. electrification) is recommended.
  • Electrification of the London (Paddington) to Oxford route is recommended
  • Electrification of the Oxford, Banbury, Leamington route is also recommended

On the roads we should encourage Oxfordshire County Council, the Highway Authority, to:-

  • Provide a better link between A40 and A34 to reduce congestion on A40 and encourage HGVs to use A40 advisory route instead of A44 through Woodstock (improvements to Cutteslowe Rbout also required)
  • Provide a shared pedestrian cycle track on the A44 from the town, north to B4437 to benefit cyclists to and from Wootton, Stonesfield and Combe.
  • Improve the junction of A44 with Hensington Road and High Street and pedestrian facilities in Hensington Road itself (between A44 and Union St)
  • improve pedestrian facilities (including an additional pedestrian crossing) outside Caroline Court)
  • Improve some dropped crossing points in and around the town.

There is a need for the Town Council to improve disabled access at the town hall which presently gives access only to ground floor rooms and even then, with some difficulty.

The Town Council should also consider some crowd control safety provisions at the Town Square at times of civic and other community events.

Opportunities in the Town’s Economy

  • The Oxford Sub-Region is a rich source of employment opportunities.
  • Given the extent of the catering and food retail businesses in Woodstock it may be that the Berks, Bucks and Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire Food Group http://www.local-food.net/ could be of assistance to these businesses.
  • More general advise might come from business websites. In particular the partnership needs to better identify the many "sole-trader" businesses who at present are all but invisible in the local economy.
  • The partnership and business community should encourage greater awareness of the support available. This is especially true of micro-businesses of one or two people
  • Encourage and support the campaign to bring the next generation of superfast broadband to Woodstock and West Oxfordshire. (There is extensive use of Broadband internet throughout Woodstock. However, there is some concern that Woodstock may miss out on the next generation of high speed broadband roll-out).
  • There is an opportunity to expand vocational training but a threat to employment and business if this opportunity fails to materialise. Some vocational training requires significant travelling to Witney (which is not well served from Woodstock by public transport)
  • Business specialism at The Marlborough School enhances local employment opportunities.
  • The general awareness of govt. schemes/funding for training/ appenticeships grants and the like could be better promoted.
  • It is possible that the partnership could, through the Business Breakfast meetings, broker specific courses more locally is there is demand.
  • One particular difficulty in Woodstock is the perceived lack of sufficient car parking. A change to the WODC policy of free parking might secure a better turn around of parking spaces.
  • The partnership might in future support any campaign to retain certain shops thought to have social value.
  • Opportunities to improve the layout and presentation of the market and to add a "continental" dimension are considered to be viable options for the future.
  • The town’s tourism economy should consider the tourism "quality assurance" model. WODC, as the tourist authority only promotes accommodation businesses that are members of the national quality assurance scheme. There is the potential for reputational damage to the town’s tourist economy from non-quality assured providers.
  • It is suggested that more could be made of the "Churchill" connection.
  • Likewise, more might be made of the fact that Woodstock lies on the direct route between Oxford and Stratford.
  • Market the Town Hall Wallhangings (through the Museum?)
  • Enhance scope for cross-support between Blenheim and the town. Greater synergy between WUTW’s PR Consultant and Blenheim Palace.
  • The partnership recognises the importance of tourism to Woodstock and should to continue to work with Blenheim to mutual advantage.

Opportunities to Enhance Social and Community Values

  • Development of funding for students through educational charities
  • Some opportunities exist to improve the layout and landscaping of some of the towns older social housing estates. Generally the properties themselves are good and all that is required is some attention to the public realm in these areas. (Cockpit Close and Churchill Close are possible examples for consideration)
  • There is scope for further affordable homes through the "exception site" planning process and this might also permit the use of a Community Land Trust venture.
  • The new Localism Bill offers opportunities for greater consultation and public involvement in public administration.
  • The present Police Station site is under utlised. Consideration should be given to the development of the site for community or social purposes.
  • The provision of allotments should be seriously considered. Some work on this is currently underway by the town council.
  • There are considered to be opportunities to develop the cultural theme of Woodstock as the town associated with Winston Churchill.

Opportunities for the Environment

  • A management plan for the watermeadows would raise the profile of the resource and encourage more volunteers for support.
  • The new Community Woodland offers similar opportunities
  • Encourage conservation by local landowners/farmers and interaction with school groups to promote biodiversity with such measures as protection of field margins etc.
  • Installation of nesting boxes for "urban" bird species, particularly swifts and house sparrows.
  • Engage community in greater efforts towards reuse, reduced consumption and recycling, renewable energy and energy conservation (promote government incentives for feed in tariffs and renewable heat projects).
  • Promotion of cycle facilities including a shared pedestrian/cycle path north of Woodstock to B4437 and cycle storage racks in the town and at the towns watermeadows.
  • Waymarked walks around the town to be co-ordinated with walks leaflets and blue plaques on buildings
  • Possible multi-user bridleways connecting town to countryside.
  • Possible future extension of Community Woodland project

Threats to Our Town

Traffic and Transport

  • Public expenditure cuts may seriously affect bus on subsidised routes. This will include many of the village routes outside the main S3 Oxford- Woodstock – Chipping Norton service
  • WODC policy of free parking in all its off street car parks mitigates against good demand management of parking space in Woodstock

Economy

  • Although not thought to be likely at present, a serious escalation of the recession could affect tourism on which the town depends
  • Fluctuation of exchange rates

Social and Community Values

  • Although there is a general will to provide social and affordable homes, residents feel threatened by the requirement for so many large market priced homes being the apparent only delivery mechanism for the supply of a modest number of affordable units.
  • Introduction of tuition fees can undermine educational and career aspiration

Environmental Condition

  • Threat of long term pressures for additional development and expansion of the town envelope. At present these pressures are being resisted by the townspeople and by the planning authority at WODC.
  • Threat of mono-culture farming

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