Exactly a year ago today (9 December 2015) I went to the first public meeting about the Hospital Energy Project – the ‘heatpipe’. More than 80 local residents crowded into All Saints’ Church House to confront representatives from the Hospital Trust and Vital Energi and express their anger and frustration at discovering their local streets were going to be closed and dug up, their parking spaces lost for several weeks, and their drives blocked without them ever having been warned or consulted.
A lot has happened since then. The Hospital Trust, Vital Energi and the County Council have all in turn apologised and in some cases reviewed their procedures. The City Council has forced the contractors to get planning permission for the work. Local Councillors and residents have put in a huge amount of time and energy to make sure that disruption and inconvenience is kept to a minimum. You can follow the story through my posts under ‘Energy Project’.
Move on a year, and last night there was the latest ‘Stakeholder Liaison Meeting’, effectively a public meeting with Vital Energi and the Hospital Trust for people to keep up to date with progress and raise any concerns. It was the first such meeting since pipelaying work started almost two weeks ago. Only six local residents and Councillor Ruth Wilkinson were there. The Vital Energi engineers gave a progress report: they’d had a few problems but they’d all been sorted; everything was going well and on schedule. A few polite questions were asked and answered. The meeting struggled to last 30 minutes. How things have changed!
Having got off to a dreadful start a year ago I think credit is due to both the Trust and Vital Energi for recognising they had to raise their game and work with local residents rather than ignore them. The County too, who have been active in helping coordinate these works with Access to Headington – although they are still capable of crass blunders like posting parking suspension notices covering the whole period of the works. Credit too to Councillors Ruth Wilkinson and Roz Smith and numerous local residents for their part representing people’s concerns and helping find solutions.
So now as hostilities have ended and peace has broken out, it all goes to show that openness, collaboration and cooperation produce the best outcomes. There are bound to be unforeseen problems cropping up as the work goes on, but there seems to be confidence that they will be sorted out amicably. Merry Christmas, OUH NHS FT and Vital Energi!