"To every complex problem there is a simple solution, startling in its simplicity, piercing in its clarity, and hopelessly and completely wrong" - Gore Vidal.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Headington Headlines #158

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 7 - 13 April.

The main obstacles to the Haboakus developments in Northway seem to have been removed with Thames Water agreeing what needs to be done about the sewerage system.

Dr Mark Crowley, a Consultant Anaesthetist from the JR Hospital, has been selected to play for the England over-40s Masters hockey team. England currently hold the World, European and Home Nations championships at this level.

Following the news of the retirement of Headteacher Keith Ponsford last week, it's been announced that Bayards Hill primary school in Barton is to become an academy school from the start of the new term. It will be sponsored by Cheney School, the secondary school to which many Bayards Hill pupils progress.

New fitness equipment was installed in Headington Hill Park, some of it in the wrong place according to the newly-formed Friends. The Council has said it will move the offending apparatus.

The planning application for a change of use from retail to a restaurant/café at the ex-Trade Exchange shop on the London Road was withdrawn. It was unlikely to have been successful anyway.

Active topics on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

  • London road from Hamburger roundabout to Headington
  • Bar Meze
  • Proposed Changes to Green Road Roundabout
  • Tree-felling on Oxford Bypass adjacent to Northway
  • Tree Felling on A40 By Pass
  • Barton / Northway bus link
  • Northway consultation
I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Northway Haboakus developments clear to proceed?

Back in June 2013 the east Area Planning Committee approved the two Haboakus developments in Northway subject to conditions - chiefly about drainage - being met. You can remind yourself about them, including the Kevin McLeod connection, here and trail back through the whole history here.

Firstly, on the Westlands Drive site (ref: (original) 12/03281/FUL and (this condition) 12/03281/CND) the developers have undertaken to contribute £1500 to the County Council towards the cost of amending various regulations so that residents are not eligible for residents' and visitors' parking permits. The official document is here. I am not sure how this squares with the provision of 21 car parking spaces to go with the 21 flats which form the development.

On the same Westlands Drive development, Thames Water have confirmed that after carrying out a study they have determined that no new work needs to be done to cope with the extra foul sewage from this development. There is no need for a foul storage tank.

For the other site, Maltfield Road, aka Dora Carr Close, (ref: (original) 12/03280/FUL and (this condition) 12/03280/CND) the problem is that the foul sewers fill up with surface water at times of high rainfall and there is a danger of foul sewage flooding. Three options were considered and the favoured solution is to build an on-site storage tank to contain the foul flow from the development at times of high flow in the sewers. A new pumping station will be needed, controlled by telemetry so that the foul drainage from the site will only be discharged to the sewers when the flow is low enough not to cause problems. You can read the full report here.

No part of the Thames Water study looked at surface water flooding. If these responses to the conditions on the planning permission are acceptable they remove the most significant objections to the developments going ahead.

Cézanne and the Modern at the Ashmolean

I went to the Ashmolean the other day to see their current exhibition "Cézanne and the Modern". It's quite a small affair spread over three galleries but hardly crowded with exhibits. Cézanne himself is well-represented with a series of watercolours showing his style evolving towards abstraction, and making use of a restrained blue-green palette. In oils, the Mont Sainte-Victoire used as the exhibition's featured image stands out. It's one of many paintings he did of this subject.

As far as I remember (I didn't take notes) other big name artists are represented by only one work each - van Goch, Sisley, Toulouse-Lautrec, Dégas, Manet - and two (or three?) Modiglianis. Of these the Sisley appealed the most to me.

But the exhibition did introduce me to two artists I didn't know before. Three bronzes by Jacques Lipchitz impressed: a bust of his wife (said, I think, to be in Impressionist style), a striking Cubist "Acrobat on on a Horse" (left), and a powerful Jason wrestling a bull.

The other was Chaim Soutine, variously said to be Russian, Lithuanian and French. He certainly ended up in France where he did most of his work. He is represented in the exhibition by some portraits in oils, but the abstract landscapes he painted after discovering the Pyrenees are astonishing. Their visceral energy reminded me of Francis Bacon, although his colours are brighter and wilder. I read afterwards that Soutine also painted raw meat.

A Soutine landscape (not in exhibition)

The exhibition has one example of this - a painting of a (dead) hanging turkey. I wouldn't want one of his landscapes in my home, but I'm pleased to have seen his work for the first time.

Oh, and I couldn't resist illustrating my first reaction on seeing his self-portrait!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Headington Headlines #157

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 31 March - 6 April.

A barrier has been installed on the bridge carrying Old Road over the ring road and up to Shotover. Apparently one side of the bridge is in a bad way and the County engineers have decided they need to restrict the traffic to one side. There's a discussion on the e-democracy website including a letter from the engineers.

The relaunch of the bike hire scheme at Thornhill P&R and Headington has been put back by at least two months as the operators say they need more time to install their technology.

Keith Ponsford, Head Teacher at Bayards Hill primary school in Barton, retired this week. Over a forty year career he has taught in Marston and Cutteslowe as well as Barton.

Friends of Quarry are hoping to get the Stansfeld Outdoor Centre listed as an Asset of Community Value. I blogged about it, thinking it may be destined for housing.

Istanbul Barbers opened in the old Lazy Gamer shop.

Power was out on Saturday afternoon in an area from Bickerton Road to Wharton Road and extending out to near the NOC, with a reported brief 'blip' in a wider area from Wood Farm to Quarry. The power cut lasted about an hour.

The police helicopter @NPAS_Benson hovering over Headington on Friday afternoon was helping in the search for a person reported missing, who was eventually located by police on the ground.

Smart new blue bus shelters have been installed in the JR grounds.

Active topics on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

  • Multi-storey car park at Old Road campus
  • Activities for under 5s on Fridays
  • Tree-felling on Oxford Bypass adjacent to Northway
  • Barrier on bridge on Old Road
  • Quarry Gate pub
  • Trade Exchange
  • Student accomodation where Cavalier pub was
  • New Headington Residents’ Association
  • Bar Meze
I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Stansfeld Outdoor Centre - a Community Asset?

The Stansfeld Outdoor Centre on land just off Quarry Road has been owned by Birmingham City Council since Canon John Stansfeld gave it to them in 1933. It has been used by Birmingham and by local Oxford schools and other groups for outdoor learning and recreation for all that time.

Birmingham City has decided it can no longer afford to keep the Centre going and will close it in July. It says it has not yet made a decision on the future of the site, but the obvious fear is that the land will be sold for development.

Friends of Quarry, backed by local councillors, are planning to apply to Oxford City Council to have the Centre listed as an Asset of Community Value. If they succeed it means that if Birmingham put the site up for sale the local community (presumably led by Friends of Quarry) will have six months to raise enough money to buy it themselves. Which begs the question if the site does come on the market, where's the money going to come from to buy it? 20 acres of land within the Ring Road will be worth a fair bit. Oxford City might well be interested in the site for much-needed housing - it's close to the Old Road Campus and the Churchill and Nuffield Hospitals after all, so would be an attractive proposition. What if Birmingham City applies for planning permission to build houses on the site? The price will soar.

Which all makes me think that however attractive it might be to keep the site as an Outdoor Education Centre, the realistic outcome is that the only people who will be able to meet the market price are Oxford City Council themselves, and what chance is there that they will prefer an outdoor centre to new housing?


Would the site get planning permission for housing? The Council's Sites and Housing document doesn't include the Stansfeld Centre. I think this means that there are no presumptions about its future use. Someone who knows the local planning situation better than I do can probably say.