Port Meadow: lop a storey off

Port Meadow campaignIn a heady cocktail of sheer stupidity and egregious incompetence, Oxford City Council and Oxford University managed to blot the Oxford landscape by building six five storey blocks on the edge of Port Meadow.

Unfortunately for functionaries at both organisations, people at The Save Port Meadow Campaign and the CPRE managed to raise enough cash to force a retrospective environmental impact assessment – that was released in October 2014 and includes the following:

“It is considered that the high adverse impact on the high veritage value sites can only be reduced to medium adverse by the reduction in height of all the buildings under the option three mitigation measures.”

The four landscapes in question are Port Meadow itself, St Barnabas Church, the view of the famous “screaming spires” of the university and the River Thames and towpath.

The three options for mitigation are (1) use brick cladding and trees – cost £6 million; (2) flatten the roofs with cladding and trees – £11 million; and (3) remove a floor off each of the buildings – cost £12 million.

The campaign says that both the university and the council are being skinflints and want the cheapest option.  As the campaigners say: “They want to minimise the embarrassment of their negligence in building the Port Meadow blocks, and also the cost and incnvenience.”

In 2011 the University said: “It has been concluded that the development will not be visible from the majority of Port Meadow.”  A Mr Murray Hancock, a planning functionary at the Council, said: “It gives rise to some impacts but these are not significant.”

The campaign says there are various things people can do:

(1) Write to your city councillor.
(2) Email the City Council consultation at planning@oxford.gov.uk by the 19th December using the ref 11/02881/FUL telling them why option 3 is acceptable.
(3) Go to the meeting held at 7:30PM on the 4th of December 2014 at St Barnabas Church, Cardigan Street, Jericho

You can also donate by going to www.justgiving.com/portmeadow ♣

Oxford City Council delays FOI requests

Through a glass, darkly

Unusually, in our experience, the normally *very* transparent Oxford City Council has decided to delay replying to two FOI (freedom of information)  requests and so is potentially breaking the law.

On the 14th of October 2014, we asked about Oxford’s surveillance of peoples’ bins after we got a snottogram from a functionary – you can read our request here.

Then, being sort of IT biased, we made a request of the cost of IT during the calendar year 2013. That request has been delayed too. You can read that request here.

Finally, we asked Oxford City Council the cost of hiring IT firm Capita to try and cut down the number of people claiming a 25 percent discount because they live alone.  We received a letter from said Capita saying if we didn’t reply, Oxford City Council reserved the right to knock off the discount. Fortunately, the letter was in 14 point Tahoma, so we could just about read it with a magnifying glass.

We haven’t had a response to that question either.

Transparency, through a glass darkly.  We have emailed the City Council meisters in charge of the requests.  Maybe they haven’t had the influenza immunization yet.

Banana plant attempts to break through Oxford’s “glass ceiling”

THE PLUCKY banana plant, no doubt, will have its nadgers frozen when the frost starts.

But it continues to entertain!

bananas

Mill Street, the Wall and Cherwell College

I AM NOT entirely sure the venerable Oxford Mail got the whole story about this, but hey, WTF. We only live here. ♥

Students’ hall turns into boutique hotel

geese

You might remember we wrote here on Volesoft a year or two back about the wall that was being built at the bottom of the gardens between numbers 17 to 41 Mill Street.What a racket, since January, and no promise of either a champagne or a cava reception! Typical Oxford.

Yes, it has been delayed and the student accommodation has turned into a boutique hotel, according to the Cherwell College web site.

What is the Cherwell College? Well you can find it on the UK Company House   site. The company number is 07730348.

Originally, this was going to be a place where Bellerbys students could have a nap and consider their futures going to universities and that.

But now it has morphed. And according to Stephen Clarke, ex-UK diplomat, is it going to be a centre of excellence for the children of billionnaires.

Poor kids! Imagine that the kids of billionnaires find themselves opposite  the back gardens of plebs! And in a boutique hotel, sandwiched between the railway station and Mill Street residents.

Stephen Clarke – the proprietor of Cherwell College,  graced us with his presence at famous Mill Street pub the Kite earlier this week. Stephen said this was a place for billionaires’ kids  to come. Discipline would be strict.

One resident said that when Stephen Clarke mentioned the warden taking care of these students, he referred to the ‘Manager’. It seems that what he actually meant  was the Hotel Manager of the Boutique Hotel (i.e. the new building).

Eon’s HES in total fail

SOME OF you will know that Eon spun off its home support unit and created a new company called Home Energy Services (HES) in some kind of deal.

I had a contract with Eon for it to look after my boiler and stuff, and HES was supposed to service my boiler as part of the annual contract.

Here’s the audit trail – so far:

2 June 2014: Your HES central heating annual service is due.
16 June 2014: Your HES central heating appointment has been scheduled between 12:00 and 16:00 on 20 June 2014. No show
16 June 2014: Your HES central heating appointment has been scheduled between 08:00 and 12:00 on 1 July 2014.  No show
29 June 2014: Here’s a reminder that your HES central heating appointment is scheduled between 08:00 and 12:00 on 1 July 2014. No show
1 July 2014: Hello. Your HES central heating engineer Jamie Spearman is on their (sic) way No show
1 July 2014: Your HES central heating appointment has been scheduled between 16:00 and 20:00 on 1 July 2014. Thank you. No show
2 July 2014: Your HES central heating appointment has been scheduled between 08:00 and 12:00 on 5 July 2014. Thank you. No show
7 July 2014: Your HES central heating appointment has been scheduled between 10:00 and 14:00 on 24 July 2014. Thank you. No show yet…

Now what could possibly have gone wrong?  According to the charming people at the Call Centre there is no such address in Mill Street as the one I live in. Strange, then, that Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado and every man+dog can find my address, isn’t it?

“If you would like to book your service by telephone, you can call us on 0345 872 85903″  Oh, I know, I know…

EON’s Chris McLain in mighty fail

Bob CollingtonChris McLain is the CEO of Home Energy Services Ltd, spun off from EON, as far as I can tell.

HES was supposed to service my boiler on Monday the 16th of June last but the engineer said he couldn’t find a parking space, according to the wonderful Zoe, someone who obviously cares at HES.

She called me back pronto and said the engineer couldn’t be arsed to try to park again so my boiler would have to wait until the 1st of July to be serviced.

Zoe was obviously cool but Mr Chris McLain obviously doesn’t give an arse about his customers, inherited from EON. We await to hear from the spun off company and hope Chris McClain doesn’t get a knighthood for no services to old people! ♣