I am doing my project on the village where I live, Wheatley. It has a population of c.4000. I have chosen Wheatley because it is the easiest place for me to collect data and research and I am quite knowledgeable on it, as I have lived here for over 15 years. It is a large and thriving village with over 60 clubs, societies and voluntary organisations represented, making it a vibrant and active society. It is situated some 6 miles East of Oxford. I have chosen it from a geographical studying point of view, that it is the product of counter-urbanisation. This is where people have moved away from the cities to find a quieter life style before and after work (in the day). This is one contributing factor to the expensive housing (or so I think presently).
1.1.1 Wheatley in the past
Wheatley started as a farming village, and it was recorded that the only industry here was still agriculture (in a Census) 80 years ago. The population from 1800-1900 stayed around 900 and then slowly rose to today’s figure, c.4000.
Traffic in the High Street in the early 1920’s was still virtually all horse drawn. ‘The Butcher, Milkman, Coalman, Grocers, Builders, Farmers, even the Chimney sweep had a donkey and cart.’ (Merry Bells Centenary Booklet 1988). It is noteworthy that in the early years of the last century employment in Wheatley had improved. The sawmills had expanded, also the building trade had begun to flourish, with more houses being built. Roads were improving, and people could cycle further to work, opening up opportunities beyond the traditional farming work. The railway station at Wheatley further developed the migrant population, and further road improvements led to Wheatley becoming a desirable area to move into. Today there are local residents whose families have been in the area for generations, together with migrants who have moved into the village. My study is trying to analyse what it is which makes Wheatley an attractive place to live.
1.1.2 Wheatley today
Today, Wheatley is a thriving and desirable village, with many facilities and amenities.
There are 3 churches, 6 pubs, a health centre, sports centre, dental practice, veterinary surgeon, bank, estate agent, local shops, a large supermarket on the outskirts of the village, garages and a garden centre. There is a state primary school and a large comprehensive, drawing approx. 2400 pupils from a wide catchment area.
Wheatley is situated just off the A40 and M40, a major link between Oxford, Birmingham and London. There are good local bus services to surrounding towns and into Oxford, and there are frequent fast coach services to London.
Although there has been no rail station in Wheatley since 1964, there is easy access to Thame and Haddenham parkway with a direct train service to London Marylebone in 35 minutes. It is within an hour’s drive of major shopping centres (such as Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Cheltenham) and central London. It is set in the countryside – nearby are the Chiltern Hills and the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds.
There is a wide and diverse range of housing in Wheatley today, both privately owned and council rented. There are starter homes, terraced and ‘town house’ properties, bungalows, flats both for let and sale, semi-detached and detached properties, several housing estates built in the last 15 years, and sheltered housing for elderly residents. There is considerable infill and most available land is in high demand for property development.
My research includes a comparison of house prices with those found in similar-sized villages
To confirm that Wheatley is an expensive place to live, to discover why people live in Wheatley, what made them come here, what things about the village (i.e. location, facilities) or the particular property they chose, made them pay the prices of living here, and whether Wheatley has met their expectations?
* To survey all the houses for sale in Wheatley, plus any that have been sold in the last 6 months (to ensure a reasonable sample size of the house prices).
* To categorise the properties into house type; Detached, Semi-Detached, Terrace, Bungalow and Flat.
* To compare house prices in Wheatley with villages of similar size using the internet.
* To create and deliver questionnaires both to a random sample of residents in Wheatley, and to those residents whose properties are currently on the market. The purpose of this is to determine information about their property, and whether it was the house’s specific features or its location, which persuaded them to buy it or made them question buying the house.
* To research the positive and negative points of Wheatley, by asking if Wheatley met resident’s expectations.
* Finally, to draw conclusions about about living here and determine which category (location and facilities of Wheatley or the internal features of the house) are greater pull factors.
That house prices in Wheatley are relatively high
That people live in Wheatley because of its facilities and desirable geographical and economic location rather than specific property features.
There is evidence of a settlement in Wheatley in Roman times. ‘Oxford and its environs was the centre of a thriving pottery trade, specialising in ‘colour-coated’ wares, and by the fourth century these potteries were responsible for a considerable proportion of the British market’ (www.roman-britain.org/places/north_oxford.htm). There is evidence of a Roman villa at Wheatley, with substantial Roman buildings nearby at Cuddesdon (SP6003)
Factors influencing the site of a settlement are: water supply, building materials, soil quality, climate, shelter, and defence. Supply of water was probably the most important factor in determining where a settlement might be located, and this was indeed the determining factor in the Oxford area settlement. Oxfordshire’s fine pottery was distributed over a large area, particularly to the south, due to transportation along the river Cherwell and other tributaries of the Thames.
Wheatley itself is not situated on the river but some 4/5 miles from it, so the factors affecting its settlement were more locational than driven by other factors such as water supply.
As a settlement directly on the route from London to the Midlands and North, it rose to prominence as a staging post for travellers to and from London. The fact that there are 6 pubs in Wheatley today is significant! An interesting fact is that Wheatley was the last place to allow bear baiting, and in fact the merry Bells was built as a refuge of temperance for travellers and the youth of the day. Obviously Wheatley had a colourful past!
This all pointing that Wheatley had a huge array of positive externalities. And, at the time, internalities were obviously a lot less important. Today, many of those externalities are valid. The transport factors (the motorway, various bus stops and proximity to a railway). The pubs. It’s immediacy to Oxford. And when it comes to negative externalities (i.e. a sewage farm next door) Wheatley only has one, its hilly landscape.
More recently, the area around Wheatley is part of the Greenbelt (fig ~will insert figure~) which are rings of heavily protected open land circling an urban area. They aim to protect the surrounding countryside from development. So in fact the counter-urbanisation may well be stopping soon (mentioned in 1.1 Background) as land will run out.
But I still believe Wheatley to have retained many of its externalities (extrinsic values) and therefore this is a greater factor than the intrinsic properties of the home.
I have broken down my aims and objectives into research questions, which my primary and secondary data will address. These research questions are as follows:
a) To determine house prices in Wheatley and compare with prices in similar sized villages in the UK
b) To determine the relative importance of Wheatley’s facilities versus specific property features, when choosing to live in Wheatley
c) To ascertain any factors other than location and house features which may lead people to live in Wheatley
d) To assess whether Wheatley has met resident’s expectations
My primary data addresses research questions b), c) and d) and my secondary data addresses research question a), taking the form of an analysis of current house prices from newspapers and local estate agents, plus comparisons with similar sized villages from the internet.
2.1 Primary Data
In order to gather data about why people live in Wheatley, I decided to draw up a questionnaire to distribute to a random sample of residents in all types of house. To enhance the reliability and validity of this research, I enlisted the support of the local estate agent, who distributed my questionnaire to the 20 residents in properties which had recently been sold or currently on the market.
Questionnaires are one of the most widely used survey data collection techniques (Saunders et al 1997). As each respondent is asked the same set of questions, it provides an efficient way of collecting responses from a large sample prior to quantitative analysis.
I decided on a self-administered questionnaire, i.e. sent to the respondents, and returned to me through a stamped addressed envelope. I thought this would ensure as great a response rate as possible
My questions were designed to gather as much detail as possible regarding the locational factors and property features influencing their decision to live there. I used a combination of scaling, using a 5-point numeric scale, quantity questions, and open questions with space for comment, in order to gather qualitative, opinion-based data.
‘The purpose of the pilot test is to refine the questionnaire so that respondents will have no difficulties in answering the questions and there will be no problems in recording the data’ (Saunders et al 1997)
I wanted to keep my questionnaire quite short and focused, so as not to deter people from responding.
I firstly asked David Martell, from Wheatley Estate Agents, to look at my draft questionnaire and offer advice on any changes.
He did not feel it needed changing in any way, and so I then asked my parents and 3 sets of friends, to pilot it for me.
As a result of feedback, I made some minor changes to the layout, e.g. spacing and box sizes, plus writing the word ‘important’ rather than using ‘NB’. I made no major changes however.
SAMPLE SIZES NEEDED HERE PLUS REF TO Q IN APPENDIX
2.1.2 Other primary data
I also conducted research to find people who may have knowledge of my subject area and who may be able to help with information, targeting these individuals through unstructured and semi-structured interview. These were:
Semi-structured interview with Liz Williamson of the Wheatley archive group
Unstructured interview with David Martell at Wheatley Estate Agents, to discuss house prices in the village, to retrieve information on recent house sales and value of properties sold, and to seek assistance with questionnaire distribution
Unstructured interview with Pam Simmonds, chairman of the parish council, to discuss current housing issues in Wheatley
Discussion with Chris Hawkins, from the Oxfordshire Records Office
Discussion with Jim Watson, Wheatley Society, regarding the results of the Wheatley survey of residents, conducted in June/July 2003
2.1.3 Secondary data
My secondary sources of data are local newspapers for house prices (Oxford Times 8/8/03, The Star 7/8/03), (journal articles on urban geography,)? the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies at the Westgate library for local area maps, Landscape and Environments Dept, Oxfordshire land and records – Highways, and Wheatley village publications (Wheatley News, Merry Bells Centenary booklet, Wheatley Information booklet)
I had intended to look at how location affects the price of houses in Wheatley i.e. why the more expensive houses are seen as more valuable. However, as there were few properties in the higher price ranges on the market at the time of the study, I could not find sufficient data for this to be a viable study; therefore I changed it to look at what gives a house its price, location or property features
Many people live in Wheatley for social and domestic reasons i.e. born and bred in the area, live close to relatives etc. Such factors are not part of this study
My house price comparisons are with similar sized villages in the UK. Geographical situation has not been taken into account, therefore limiting the validity of the results
Statistical generalisations cannot be drawn from the relatively small sample of the population used for my study. An informed narrative however, results from my primary research and its link with secondary sources