Border Skirmish in Narnia

Battle lines are being drawn up over a planning application in Risinghurst. The application (ref: 16/02549/FUL on the Council’s website) is to build

“4 x 3-bed, 3 x 2-bed and 2 x 1-bed apartments. Provision of amenity space, 22No. car parking spaces and cycle store. Formation of new vehicular access from Lewis Close. [on] Land Adjacent 4 Wychwood Lane Oxford OX3 8HG”

People are concerned about issues of access, traffic and more, but perhaps the most emotional reason for local opposition is that the site is right against the boundary of the C S Lewis Nature Reserve, a space that is much-loved, even treasured, by local people and admirers of the author and his works from all over the world. The proposed access road to the buildings starts at the top of Lewis Close directly opposite The Kilns, Lewis’s house in Risinghurst.

Site plan for the development
Site plan for the development

The Planning statement says “The proposal is made on behalf of the Wychwood Foundation, a charitable Trust.” This is not strictly true, as the Wychwood Trust does not exist as any recognised entity. It is not a registered charity or a limited company. However, among the planning documents on the Council’s website is a statement by the Foundation over the signatures of Jonathan and Sarah Beecher of 4 Wychwood Lane – the same address as the planning application so presumably the owners of some or all of the land. In their introduction they say “The aim of the Wychwood Foundation is to look after people who are vulnerable, and to give them a sense of happy and supportive community.”

Despite not being a registered charity the applicants are asking for the statutory exemption available to charities from the CIL contributions developers normally have to pay. The CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) is the route by which local councils get money for providing infrastructure services (drainage, street lighting, refuse collection etc.) I have no experience of dealing with the Charity Commission, but it seems very unlikely that the Beechers will be able to satisfy the Charity Commissioners of their genuine charitable purposes and achieve registration in time for their application to be dealt with.

I notice that a Jonathan Beecher is the Director of Beecher Acoustics Ltd, whose registered address is 1 Quarry High Street. This company says its Nature of Business is “Manufacture of musical instruments, Repair of other equipment, Buying and selling of own real estate” – that last phrase seeming to cover the development in question if it is indeed the same person. The architectural drawings were drawn up by another Beecher based in Edinburgh.

The elevation drawings show a terrace of three storey buildings with steeply pitched roofs accommodating the top storey. The buildings are partially sunk below the ground level of part of the site. I’m sure the plans will be examined in great detail by all those who fear the impact the development may have on the local scene.

East and south elevations
East and south elevations
North and West elevations
North and West elevations

I should mention that there is a petition calling on the Council to reject the application – follow the link. As I write it has attracted 3570 signatures.

Footnote: I asked the applicants’ agents for a comment on the charitable status they are claiming on behalf of their clients but have had no reply. Documents shown or linked here were downloaded from the Council website on 25 and 27 October 2016 and archived on my website. Beecher Acoustics information from Companies House website 25 October 2016.

1 Pullen’s Lane care home timeline

Here is a brief history of the proposals to build a care home on the site of 1 Pullen’s Lane. Click here for a location map (the site boundaries are approximate).

March 2014 – Developers Carebase submit a planning application for a 55-bed care home at 1 Pullen’s Lane.

August 2014 – Planning permission refused. East Area Planning Committee said it did not fit with the area’s “rural tranquility”.

Jan 2016 – Frontier Estates submit a new planning application also for a 55-bed care home on the same site.

May 2016 – Frontier withdraw their application.

Sept 2016 – Frontier announce revised plans will submitted to Oxford Design Review Panel before submitting a formal planning application before the end of the year.

Barton Park progress

I went over to see what was happening where the Barton Park access road is being built into Foxwell Drive from the A40. Work is obviously progressing, and workmen were actually plantiing trees either side of the new link. Looking over to the Barton Park site I was struck by the size of it – it’s one thing to see it on a map, another for real on the ground. There seem to be new trees on the Barton Park side of the A40 too.

I took a couple of pictures. They’re not great, but for what it’s worth here they are.

A40 link road into Foxwell Drive
A40 link road into Foxwell Drive
The Barton Park site from the A40
The Barton Park site from the A40

Health and Fitness in Barton Park

Barton Park is one of ten places designated ‘healthy new towns’ by NHS England.

Barton Park is the one of the smaller developments. The full list is:

  • Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks. A new care campus will co-locate ‘care-ready homes’ specially designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.
  • Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units. Data suggests that Cranbrook has three times the national average of 0-4 year olds and will look at how prevention and healthy lifestyles can be taught in schools from a young age.
  • Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone. Darlington is developing a ‘virtual care home’ offer where a group of homes with shared facilities are configured to link directly into a digital care hub, avoiding institutionalisation in nursing homes.
  • Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site.
  • Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units.
  • Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units.
  • Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 1300 new homes planned.
  • Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land.
  • Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years.
  • Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.

The NHS will bring in clinicians, designers and technology experts to work with developers to explore new ways of encouraging healthy lifestyles and of delivering healthcare. They say they want to “test creative solutions for the health and care challenges of the 21st century, including obesity, dementia and community cohesion”. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said:

“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school – rather than just exercising their fingers on video games. We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible. And we want new ways of providing new types of digitally-enabled local health services that share physical infrastructure and staff with schools and community groups.”
Source: www.england.nhs.uk/2016/03/hlthy-new-towns/

These NHS objectives match up well with the objectives the Barton Park developers set themselves: to create an ‘exemplar’ development which encourages walking and cycling rather than car use, safe streets, open spaces and access to the countryside. But as ever, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Barton Park development Phase 1

As I reported in my previous post, there’s a presentation about the development of Barton Park Phase 1 in the Town Hall on Monday 11 May. I’ve tried to follow this development fairly closely, and there are several matters which I think might affect its success if they are not addressed sooner rather than later. I can’t go to the presentation but for those of you who can and do go, this article might give you some questions to ask.

Barton Park Phase 1

The success or failure of the Barton Park development as a whole, and whether or not it achieves the ‘exemplary’ status to which Grosvenor, the City, and Hill all say they aspire, will depend as much on matters external to Barton Park as to any within its boundaries. This article identifies some issues which to the best of my knowledge have not been addressed. If I’m wrong and some or all of them are in hand so much the better – I shall be pleased and relieved.
At the end of this analysis I have listed some questions which you might like to ask the developers if you go to the presentation at the Town Hall on Monday 11 May. Unfortunately I can’t be there, but if you find out anything please let me know!

Public transport connections 

As far as I am aware, nothing has yet been agreed with Oxford’s bus companies as to how and when they will serve the Phase 1 development. Apart from the restricted access junction with the A40 nothing has been made public on this. Informally, bus company executives have suggested initially extending the ‘Barton loop’ of the current No. 8 route. This is only practical if the whole of Barton Park’s main street is constructed as part of Phase 1 so that there is a physical road link between Barton and Barton Park. As far as I know this is not currently planned to happen.
Even if extending the Barton loop as part of Phase 1 were possible, it is unlikely to be an optimal solution. It is expected, or assumed, that a significant proportion of new residents will work at the hospitals, especially the JR, and at Oxford University’s Old Road Campus. The no. 8 route does not serve either of these destinations well. For those wanting to get to the City Centre, journey times will be unattractively long.
Access from Barton Park across the new A40 junction and into Northway will be restricted to buses, bicycles and pedestrians. It is therefore assumed that there will be a bus route using this junction. It is well established that people’s travel choices are set very soon after they start living in a new place, so it follows that for Barton Park to be setting an example of low car use, active modes of travel and use of public rather than private transport, at least one bus service across this junction and serving the destinations most users are likely to want to reach must be in place as soon as people start to move in.
I believe it is essential that this is discussed with the bus companies before the planning application is submitted so that firm proposals can be included in the developer’s travel plans.

Impact on Northway – buses, cycling, walking routes 

Following from the above, I am not aware that any ideas have been put forward for how buses, people on bicycles and people on foot will circulate once they arrive in Northway having crossed the A40. This is understandably a major concern for Northway residents, especially since the Town Green application was turned down.
The earlier planning documents show lines on maps indicating cycle and pedestrian routes from the new junction to, for example, the JR, other hospitals, Old Road Campus, Headington shops. I’m not aware that any work has been done to examine these routes, assess what needs to be done (and where the money’s coming from) to make them sufficiently attractive, convenient and safe to entice Barton Park residents out of their cars and onto active transport modes. This needs to be in hand now, not in a year’s time when people are about to move in. Expected routes for these various journeys need to be described, and the work needed to bring roads, cycle routes and walkways up to the necessary standards assessed, planned, and consulted upon.
These are of course matters for the County as Highway Authority. It would be helpful to know if the developers (Hill) or the LLP have talked to the County about these questions.

Links with Barton 

The existing community in Barton has been told that Barton and Barton Park will have strong links, both physical and social. This is said to be for the benefit of both existing and new communities. It has recently been announced, for example, that both Bartons will share a single medical centre based in an expansion of the existing one in Underhill Circus. It is intended that new shops in Barton Park will attract custom from Barton. The City Council hopes that creating Barton Park will bring a degree of regeneration to the Barton estate.
For this to happen, links rather than barriers need to be created between the two communities. This will not happen if the Phase 1 development appears to ‘turn its back’ on Barton, which will be the impression if the only way in and out of Barton Park for the first year or two is via the A40 junction. Ideally Barton Park’s main street needs from the outset to join up with Barton. Failing this, attractive, safe and convenient access for people on cycles and on foot needs to be created as part of Phase 1 to demonstrate to existing Barton residents they are welcome in Barton Park, and to open to them the alternative travel arrangements we discuss above.

Summary 

These issues can all be classified in one way or another as ‘connectivity’. They arise because of the fragmented nature of the planning and development processes, especially where transport and travel are concerned.
I share the aspirations for Barton Park to be an ‘exemplary’ new community. I know that much thought and study has gone into its conception and design. I believe that these issues need positive management and the involvement of stakeholder citizens and elected representatives rather than being left to chance or addressed as afterthoughts. They are too important for that.

Questions 

·       Will Phase 1 include building the spine road so that it runs all the way from the A40 to join up with the existing roads on the Barton estate?
·       Has there been any formal discussion with the County and the bus companies about how and when bus services to Barton Park will start?
·       What has been done to identify and designate cycle and pedestrian routes from Barton Park to important destinations and determine what needs to be done (and where the money’s coming from) to make them sufficiently attractive, convenient and safe?
·       What plans are there to keep residents in Northway particularly, and in Headington generally, involved and informed about progress on these issues?

Barton Park Phase 1

Building company Hill, who have been given the contract to build the first phase of Barton Park (see my article about this) are giving a presentation of their plans at the Town Hall on Monday 11 May. I gather that the presentation will cover four plots of land, two either side of the entry road from the A40.

The presentation is open to the public but so far there is no other information other than the venue (The Long Room in the Town Hall) and the time (6 – 7pm on Monday 11 May).

The official notice is on this link.

Latimer Road development

After the first round of public consultations last year, developers Frontier Estates have revised their proposals for their site on the corner of Latimer Road and London Road. They are mounting a public exhibition from 4 to 8pm on Tuesday 27 January, in the St Clement’s Family Centre in Cross Street.

There is more information in Frontier’s invitation. Frontier have not yet submitted a planning application for this potential development.