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.

Barton Park Reserved Matters

This guest article was written by someone I know to be a reliable source.

A recent meeting (10th Dec 14) for councillors and local residents on progress with the new Barton Park development presented the reserved matters application 14/03201/RES, now on the city’s website under Barton. This is expected to go to East Area Planning Committee in February. The 65 documents are mostly concerned with infrastructure, and the hope is to get fully on to the site in the spring.

Main items were:

  1. Sewerage and drainage.
  2. Ecology and landscaping along linear park at Bayswater Brook.
  3. Main spine road, car and cycle parking.
  4. Main A40 crossing opposite Northway, and construction traffic entrance near the electricity sub-station.

Grosvenor fielded a strong team who clearly intend to achieve a very attractive development. No contractors have yet been appointed for the building work [correct at the time of writing, but now we know that builders Hill have been appointed to build the first tranche of housing – Ed], but there is a clear design code in place.

(1) and (2): Clear anxiety was expressed by the audience over sewerage. A new main sewer is to be constructed, roughly under the line of the central spine road, replacing part of the existing main sewer which runs through the site and down towards Northway, where acute problems have existed for years.

There will be large attenuation tanks to hold excess flows and give a controlled flow down into the main system. The capacity here will have a considerable margin for possible later expansion.

Thames Water is conducting a full review of the whole ancient Oxford sewerage system, due it was stated in about 15 months.

Surface water drainage is northwards, with a number of channels (“swales”) incorporated into the green N-S corridors which divide the site. Water flows into  Bayswater Brook, where a number of linear ponds at different levels provide an attractive environment. Flow from pond to pond is again controlled, with some attenuation tanks to avoid surface water surges into the main sewerage system. This area will be attractively and ecologically landscaped and planted, with varieties of habitat at different places. The need for  the long term management of this ecosystem was raised. It was agreed that this required a specified responsible body, which would be established.

Considerable thought is being given to type and siting of trees.

(3) The Spine road is designed for 20mph, with a number of slowing bottlenecks to discourage rat-running: bridges, dogleg bends etc.

Alternative cycle routes will exist along more minor roads to avoid cycling along the main spine if preferred. There was ome anxiety about the amount of parking along spine road, particularly near school and shopping square.

(4) Main crossing. We were assured this would be cyclist-friendly – but cyclists need to examine the  design on the website. A main uncertainty was the Northway Town Green. If this were eventually approved, additional buses would have to access JR/Headley Way/Marston Ferry Road via Marsh Lane (already at capacity during peak periods). [We now know the Town Green application has been turned down – Ed.] The number of buses was claimed not to have significant impact on congestion – they would just find it very difficult to keep to timetable (so delays could encourage people back into cars!)

Perhaps more concerning is that the main access to the site is only on the east-bound carriageway of the A40, so construction traffic from east will have to overshoot and turn, either at Marsh Lane flyover, or at Banbury Rd roundabout (which may be dug up at same time? !)  Assurance was given that a tight delivery schedule would avoid peak periods, and all had been discussed with the County Council!

First builder chosen for Barton Park

Oxford City Council and Grosvenor Estates, joint developers of @BartonPark_, have announced that housebuilders Hill have been chosen to build the first tranche of new housing in Barton Park.

Hill’s company profile says:

Hill is committed to designing and building homes that offer their occupants stylish and contemporary living environments and that help to create appealing and sustainable local communities.

Our homes are distinguished by their inspirational design, creative use of materials, sustainable strategies, contemporary fixture and fittings and meticulous attention to detail.

At Hill we don’t believe in standard house types because every environment is different. So each development, large or small, rural or city centre, is carefully crafted by our in-house design team to be sympathetic to its surroundings and influences.

Although their website features many rather upmarket and expensive houses and developments, in and among you can find some developments which are more in keeping with what we might expect for Barton Park – see for instance this apartment development in Bow, East London or this in Cambridge, or this mixed development in Sidcup.

Barton Park has always said that Oxford’s newest suburb will be built to a high standard and with the intention of creating a sustainable community, and the choice of builder for the first stage seems to support this. However, the success or failure of Barton Park will depend just as much on the provision of infrastructure – a school, shops, and most importantly viable transport links which encourage new residents to cycle, walk and use public transport rather than adding to Headington’s congested roads by using private cars for every journey. We have still to see anything other than fine words on these matters.

Barton Park shrouded in obscurity

I’ve criticised the obscurity of the planning system before, and another example has just emerged. Big developments thrive by making informed public debate virtually impossible. The @BartonPark_ reserved matters planning documents are online for scrutiny. There are 113 documents, so good luck to anyone who wants to know the details.

For example, the preamble to the list of documents says it covers cycle paths, but not one of the documents has the word ‘cycle’ in its title so it’s extremely difficult to find any information about what’s being proposed. In fact I tried searching the page for ‘cycle’, ‘park’, ‘lighting’, footpaths’ and ‘ponds’, all said to be included within the application. None of the documents listed have any of these words in their titles.

In practice the only people who will dig into the details are a few professionals working for the developers and a few Council officers. Elected Councillors won’t have time and will rely on being told what the officers think they need to know. Meaningful discussion will be non-existent, and public participation effectively quashed.

Nice one, Barton Park and Oxford City.