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.
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.
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?