Didcot’s future is going in the right direction with the garden town project set to step up a gear next month.
Didcot Garden Town board members will meet on March 19 to discuss how to elect a chair, the structure of the board and governance aimed at future community involvement.
Tony Harbour, the new garden town representative, believes progress is already being made and that the appointment of a board will give the project ‘more direction’ after claims it was being delayed.
He said: “Next month’s meeting will allow the garden town project to be moved forward to ensure we give the people of Didcot a town to be proud of.
“It is essential that all parties work together for the good of the town to progress this scheme without complications and undue delays.”
The second phase of the Orchard Centre is expected to be completed in May and work on the Gateway Project, a major scheme transforming the station forecourt, will begin later this year.
Both are considered as two key facets of the garden town plan, which will accommodate 16,000 more homes and 20,000 new jobs over the next two decades.
Mr Harbour refuted the idea that the scheme was being delayed when quizzed at a council meeting last week.
Chalgrove ward member David Turner wanted updates on funding availability and progress made since November, when a bid of £250million was submitted to the government for infrastructure funding.
The Liberal Democrat also wanted clarification on whether the project was being delayed and, if so, if the council’s reputation was being harmed.
In response, Cllr Harbour said South and Vale councils, the authorities behind the project, have “done everything possible to secure sufficient funding” and that “a considerable amount of progress has been made”.
The Conservative added: “I can also categorically confirm the expansion of Didcot is not being delayed. It is a long-term agenda and the funding and partnerships needed to achieve it will need to grow and sustain over many years.
“The short termism and lack of appreciation of these facts, amply illustrated by the question, remains the most serious risk to the garden town project.”
As well as the £250m infrastructure bid, a £6.2m government grant was awarded for the North Perimeter Road last summer.
Cllr Harbour said that, since there is no delay, the council’s reputation has been “greatly enhanced”, putting the authority in a “much better position to secure more infrastructure funding – not just for Didcot, but for the district as a whole”.