Headington Headlines #323

Your weekly round-up of local news for 19 – 25 June.

As predicted last week, the start of the Access to Headington work on Headley Way which was due today has been postponed to 24 July to allow Thames Water to carry out sewer replacement work in St Clements first. The St Clements work means traffic lights and closures for two months.

Judy Webb, naturalist, conservationist and leading light of the Friends of Lye Valley @FriendLyeValley received an Oxford City Certificate of Honour “for 16 years of service as a volunteer promoting nature conservation within Oxford”. She was presented with her certificate by Oxfordshire Deputy Lieutenant Lady Helen Baker.

Judy Webb receiving her Certificate of Honour
Judy Webb receiving her Certificate of Honour

Oxford City’s Executive Board ‘made’ (i.e. approved) the Headington Plan. To complete the process it still needs confirmation by the full City Council, which will happen next month.

The Oxford Mail reports that the OU Hospitals Trust is considering installing number plate recognition controls at the hospital car parks.

The day before the new parliament started, Oxford East’s new MP @anneliesedodds was tipped by the Huffington Post as one of ‘nine MPs tipped to shine‘ in the new parliament. They predict a significant role in Labour’s Brexit team.

I was one of a group of 14 locals who enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Energy Project at the JR Hospital on Thursday. After a short presentation giving an overview of the project we were shown the new boilers and the 4.5MW CHP engine. They’ve managed to fit some impressive equipment and miles of pipes into the existing hospital structure without losing any of the hospital’s working time.

The man who pleaded guilty to the murder in Windmill Road in February (see HH319 and HH305) was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years 10 months. Egidio Da Silva Alves murdered his brother-in-law Domingos Ramalho in a family feud.

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

  • Strimmer found

The Hospital Energy Project – Summary

The Energy Project – Summary

The OUH NHS Foundation Trust announced this project to the press, local councillors and a few other interested parties on Monday 30 November. They provided much more detailed information than had leaked out before, and I’ve tried to summarise the main facts.

Although the installation of the heat pipe will have a huge impact on Headington for at least six months starting in January, the whole project is much more than just a pair of insulated pipes feeding hot water betweem the JR and Churchill hospitals. Here I describe the full project, the impact of the construction works, and the measures the Trust is setting up to keep everyone informed, listen to and try to answer their concerns.

I’ve written about

  1. The Hospital Energy Project
  2. Installing the heatpipe
  3. Public communications
  4. Financial

each on a separate link.

If you haven’t got much time and don’t want to read all the articles, here’s a summary.

  • The Energy Project is much more than just a pipe between the two hospitals. It’s a major upgrade to the energy systems, and will save the Trust nearly £2m and 11,400 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
  • The installation of the heat pipe will start early in January and last for six months. Roads will be closed for various periods during that time. Serious disruption is inevitable.
  • The Trust has so far failed to establish meaningful communications with residents and others who will be affected. A public meeting is being arranged for next week which may or may not start a meaningful discussion.

Read more by clicking the links in the headings above.

Hospital Energy Project 1 – The Project

The Hospital Energy Project

The Hospital Energy Project is costing £14.8 million and is expected to take 18 months to complete. The main contractors are Vital Energi. At the JR the project involves replacing four ageing boilers with a new high efficiency boiler. This will produce enough heat to meet existing and growing future demands. It will function as a combined heat and power (CHP) system with spare heat being transferred to the Churchill.

At the Churchill, three ageing boilers will be replaced with two modern ones. The hospital will normally draw part of its energy needs from the connection to the JR, but extra capacity will be brought on line when the supply from the JR is not enough.

At both hospitals, instead of circulating hot water to meet heating demands the new systems will circulate steam and low-temperature water. Using steam means the system will be more flexible and will be able to deliver heat where it is needed. Modern heating controls will also raise the efficiency of the system. The new systems will be more reliable and cheaper to maintain that the old ones, some parts of which are over 40 years old. Also at both hospitals there is a programme to replace over 7,000 light fittings with new low energy fittings.

The energy systems at both hospitals will be centrally controlled from the JR, but each hospital can control its own system independently if necessary. The Building Management Systems will also be extensively upgraded (this is like adjusting the thermostatic radiator settings in your home when you need more or less heat in any particular room).

The heat link between the two hospitals is of course the heat pipe: two insulated pipes laid underground to carry hot water from the JR to the Churchill and cool water back again. The pipes are supplied by Danish specialist district heating company Isoplus Fjernvarmeteknik A/S. The Trust is taking the opportunity to link the two sites with a high-voltage power cable to support the centralised control systems, and a fibre-optic data cable to improve the resilience of IT systems shared between the two sites.

What will all this achieve? The current cost of electricity, gas and oil at the two hospitals is £4.3m a year, resulting in carbon emissions of more than 30,000 tonnes a year. When it’s finished, the Energy Project will deliver a 45% reduction in energy costs (saving £1.9m on present costs) and a 38% reduction (about 11,400 tonnes) in annual carbon emissions. The new system will be much more reliable, cost much less to maintain, and be (in the buzz-word of the moment) much more resilient – which means able to withstand unforseen problems without breaking down. It will also mean less reliance on the national grid, which is an important consideration as demand on the grid over the winter months is very close to capacity and will stay that way for several more years. And as I explain later in the section on how the project is financed (not yet available), the Trust gets all this at a known annual cost for 25 years.

Hospital Energy Project 2 – Installing the heat pipe

Installing the heat pipe

This will be the most visible, controversial and problematic part of the scheme for local residents and businesses. The pipe will leave the JR grounds at the corner of Sandfield and Woodlands Roads, go along Sandfield to the London Road, along London Road a short distance before turning down Latimer Road, down to All Saints’ Road, along there to Stapleton Road, from Stapleton onto Old Road, and finally down Churchill Way.

Except for the London Road and Old Road, each road will be closed off at both ends when work starts there. There will be ‘secure access’ (I don’t know what this means) for residents and those who need to get in and out. The pipe itself will be laid in trenches dug 120 metres at a time, so the hole in the road will progress down the street. We are promised that access to properties will be maintained at all times, but my impression at the moment is that none of the difficulties have been studied or thought through.

On the London Road one of the three lanes will be closed to allow the pipes to be laid. Two-way traffic will still be able to pass most of the time. Old Road is too narrow to keep two-way traffic, so there will be traffic lights controlling single-file working.

Working hours for the project will be between 8am and 5.30pm weekdays although the contractors have said they may work weekends if the project falls behind.

The work will be going on at at least two places at once. This is to complete the work as quickly as possible, but it brings more problems with two roads being closed at once. The schedule we have at the moment is this (though it might change now everyone can see where the problems might be).

All Saints’ Road
closed 4 Jan to 27 Jan
Stapleton Road
closed 11 Jan to 16 March
Sandfield Road
closed 1 Feb to 22 April
Old Road
single file 23 Feb to 13 April
London Road
working 9 March to 14 April
Latimer Road
closed 21 March to 30 June

Click to enlarge

As this chart shows, there will be times when Stapleton Road will be closed and Old Road restricted; Sandfield and Latimer Roads both closed with the London Road havinng traffic restrictions, and other potentially horrendous combinations. The schedule seems to have been drawn up by someone with no knowledge of Headington and its traffic problems, and the Trust and the County Council must surely revisit this with the input of local residents, businesses and institutions.

Hospital Energy Project 3 – Public Communications

Public communications

Let’s be honest; this hasn’t started well. Since the coloured paint appeared in the affected streets back in June and word got out that it was to do with a heat pipe linking the two hopsitals the Trust has been stubbornly mute. Requests for more information by Councillors and local residents, particuarly Highfield Residents Association, have been turned down by  the Trust on the grounds that “we’re still in legal discussions”. This position continued as visible construction work started in the JR grounds and interest – and concern – grew. As well as my reports the story was picked up by the local press and radio, and on the local e-democracy forum.

The information released on Monday gave points of contact for any questions:

There is also a website which reproduces some of the slides from the press briefing.

Since then the twitter account has been silent. The correct facebook name is actually OUHospitals and there doesn’t seem to be anything about the project there (I may be wrong as I don’t do facebook and I’m not familiar with its layout). Enquiries to the email address get a standard response promising a reply by Monday 7 December, and the telephone number is the Trust’s Estates Department general enquiries who know nothing about the project.

It’s hard to be polite about this. The Trust’s handling of external communications on this project can at best be described as inept. It is certainly counter-productive. It only fuels the uncertainty and genuine anxieties felt by residents and others who will be affected. I can only plead with the Trust to get this under control before they lose all hope of keeping local opinion on side.

The latest news is that a public meeting is being arranged by local councillors and Highfield Residents Association on Wednesday 9 December at 7pm. The venue is to be confirmed but is expected to be All Saint’s Church House in New High Street. The organisers are hoping that the Trust will be there and be able to make a start listening to people and answering their questions.

Headington Heatpipe #3

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has released much more detail today about the ‘heatpipe’ scheme, which they call the Hospital Energy Project.

I was able to go to the press conference, and came away with two main thoughts. Firstly that the overall project is much bigger than I, and I’m sure anyone else outside the Trust, realised, as we have so far only really been aware of the heat pipe. I think they have a very good story to tell about this. Secondly, I think the disruption to local roads is going to be worse, possibly a lot worse, that people realise.

I will have another chance to discuss the project with the Trust later this week, and plan to write a fuller report after that. Meanwhile, you can find information on their website (here and here) and by following their new twitter account @OUH_Estates. I expect the e-democracy forum will attract some comments too!