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.