Access to Headington – Who Decides?

We know that a series of public exhibitions on the latest version of the Access to Headington (A2H) project starts on Saturday 27 February (see previous post). What I didn’t know until a few days ago is that the final decision to go ahead with this project is expected to be taken on Thursday 28 April this year by the County’s Cabinet Member for Environment, David Nimmo Smith, acting alone under delegated powers.

This strikes me as another potential public fiasco by the County Council’s Highways Department. I would have thought they would have learned from their handling of the Headington Heatpipe that openness and involvement of the local community would save them much embarrassment. Whatever emerges from this round of consultation the A2H project is bound to be controversial, balancing the demands for improved transport systems with the wish to retain visual and environmental amenity, mitigate noise and air pollution, and find alternatives for lost parking places.

I have nothing against Cllr Nimmo Smith, but he is not local to Headington or even Oxford. He cannot be expected to know the strength of feelings that will emerge over the coming weeks. He will be relying on his officers’ summary of feedback and their recommendations of a course of action. But given the heatpipe project failings how confident can he and we be that he will have enough information to take an informed decision?

Our local County Councillors will be closely involved and are approachable and easy to contact. They should be given the chance to express their views in an open forum before a final decision is taken. Ideally members of the public should be able to have their say too. For these reasons I believe the final decision on A2H should not be taken by the Cabinet Member alone, but at least by the County’s full cabinet (19 April or 24 May would be appropriate) or even better by Full Council on 17 May (5 April is probably too early).