TOWNS in southern Oxfordshire have warned that population increases across the region could are set to put unbearable strain on public services and facilities.

The Mayor of Wallingford has raised concerns that his town’s population could increase by half in the coming years and leaders in Wantage and Didcot have echoed the worries.

Wallingford’s Lee Upcraft believes people coming to live in new housing developments will worsen problems with transport, parking, health and school places.

He said: "There is limited space to expand Wallingford… (but) It’s not just Wallingford, it’s the surrounding villages – Crowmarsh, Benson, Cholsey."

Mr Upcraft has calculated that various housing developments will see the town’s population increase by 40 to 50 per cent in around five years.

He continued: “I am looking forward to welcoming new residents but they are going to struggle to get a GP appointment and they are not going to get their kids into school.”

Julie Mabberley, campaign manager for the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group, added: “It’s exactly the same in Wantage and Grove, it’s all infrastructure and particularly parking in the town centre: the town centre will die.

“Our population is going up by at least 50 per cent in the next 12 years.

“It’s the same story pretty much everywhere, particularly the market towns. Coping with the 21st century problems of population growth, transport, education, health etc. is very, very difficult, and what is anybody doing to resolve the problems?

“There needs to be an absolutely huge investment in infrastructure across the county, if we are ever going to not be a dormitory county for London."

Wantage’s Mayor, Chris McCarthy, said he was particularly concerned about GP services, education and roads, but laid out a number of local initiatives that he hoped could ease residents’ fears.

He said: “The town council has given its full support to the proposed extension of the health centre at Mably Way (and) supported proposals to re-open the railway station at Grove. It also supports the construction of the eastern and western link roads (in Wantage and Grove respectively) and improvements to the cycling route between Wantage and Harwell.

“Increases in population will put pressure on schools until new schools are constructed. Hopefully, with the new developments proceeding these will be available fairly soon.”

Meanwhile, in Didcot, town council leader Steve Connell ‘bluntly’ warned that investment in infrastructure and facilities ‘needs to happen as soon as possible’.

He said: “Didcot’s 30,000 residents currently make up about 20 per cent of the entire population of South Oxfordshire. The Didcot Garden Town Delivery Plan believes that by 2031 the number of people living in or around our town will double.

“Most of the people I speak with don’t believe the main problem we are facing is population growth: the real issue is that our roads, parking, healthcare, police and many, many other key requirements have not seen even close to the necessary increase in investment needed to cope with our growing population.

“Our residents know this is true every time they can’t get a doctor’s appointment, are told that parking enforcement isn’t a priority or have to spend at least 20 minutes stuck in traffic every morning on their way to work.”