Headington Ward Focus Meeting (19 July)

The Headington Ward LibDems held the first of what they intend to be a continuing series of “Focus Meetings” on Tuesday evening in the Baptist Church, Old High Street. The meetings are designed to fill the gap left by the abolition of the Area Planning Committees but are unofficial, which means Councillors, City Officers and other representatives are there on a strictly voluntary basis and none of the business of the meeting is binding on anyone.

That said, the meeting was well-supported. More than 80 people were in the hall at the peak time. City Councillors and organisers David Rundle (who chaired the meeting) and Ruth Wilkinson were there, together with County Councillors Altaf Khan (Headington & Marston) and Roz Smith (Barton & Churchill). Two City Planning Officers, the Estates Manager for the Radcliffe Hospitals Trust, the manager of Headington Waitrose and representatives of several local organisations were there and took part.

The first half hour was scheduled as ‘Informal Chat’, which is a fair description. People wanting to buttonhole their Councillors could do so; others just sat, some chatting to their neighbours.

We then had a series of short presentations and discussions. The JR’s Estates Manager introduced himself and spoke about traffic problems, recognising that the hospitals are major traffic generators. He also confirmed the JR had ‘no intention’ to build on the large grass area between the car park and the Manor Surgery. He was asked, and agreed, to look into a request that the access road from Headley Way be given a name to recognise it being part of the repatriation route for forces killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The request seems to have got lost in the administrative process.

Also in this session:

  • the bus gate by the London Road/Osler Road junction being used as a pedestrian crossing;
  • traffic congestion on Osler Road;
  • language schools and buses;
  • property at 29 Old High Street;
  • the Friends of Old Headington’s concerns about the future of Ruskin Fields;
  • the work of Headington Action;
  • success of the “Save Our Cheques” campaign

At about 7.10 the meeting moved on to discuss the City Council’s Sites and Housing Policy document. This has been widely consulted upon and inevitably discussion immediately homed in on the future of Headington car park. The manager of Waitrose confirmed the company’s opposition to any development, and many of the arguments against loss of car parking were again put to the Council’s planning officers. [Note: Friday 22 July is the deadline for commenting on this document.]

At this point the meeting should have moved on to the Old Headington Conservation Area Action Plan but the intended speaker was not at the meeting so David Rundle continued with general discussion points:

  • affordable housing on the Manor Hospital site – bogged down due to changes in the original proposals but hopefully resolved before much longer;
  • “hotel” accommodation for JR parents/relatives/carers of long-term patients – the hospital is keen to do this but doesn’t know how it can finance it;

That was more or less the end. I have probably skipped a few of the things which were raised, but hopefully this is a fair impression of the occasion. The next Focus Meeting is on 16 August at Headington School. A small group of diehards adjourned with Ruth, David and Roz to the pub but that’s another story, although I can confirm that no inappropriate conversation took place.