We don’t want people to see Mill Street’s backside, top Oxford architect avers

WE FOLK IN Mill Street in Oxford tipped up to an inquiry by a government inspector on Thursday on whether or not Oxford City Council had perversely overturned a plan to build a three storey building at the bottom of houses numbers 17 to 41, here.

Well that is what Tony Brett, a LibDem councillor  reckoned.

If the inspector finds for the developers, that will mean Oxford City Council will have to pay costs to the developers for the monolithic wall.

The meeting was postponed because Oxford City Council forgot to send letters to us residents, and we understand, sub rosa that it duly got a bollocking from the inspector, Mrs Jane Miles. To be honest, the residents don’t really count in these matters – the law turns us into tokens. But wasn’t it always thus?

The Oxford Mail story  is misleading, because it got the story wrong in so many ways.

First of all, possibly pandering to some of its readers, the article suggested that we were all anti-student, we were NIMBYs – not in our back yard.  Personally, I am pro-student, even though I never have been a student, but I am a little concerned that the three storey building at the bottom of my back garden will be subject to big vibrations from freight trains, especially when Network Rail electrifies the line in the next five years. And also, the studes will find me at the bottom of their not quite garden.

But the most egregious statement came from Adrian James, the architect for the project, and who lives on the west side of Mill Street, in a place that kind of looks like an observatory.

As Oxford is known worldwide, and many visitors come here by train, they will be impressed by his design, rather than the “backside of houses”, said James.

I am taking pains with my back garden, and I rather resent this bit of spin.  One resident said that visitors will see the cemetery before the monolithic three storey wall. Which is true.  The monolithic three storey wall doesn’t look very nice at all, but hey, what do I know about design?

At one point, what seemed like a very bitter exchange happened between Murray Hancock, a civil servant for Ox Cit Coun and Nick Lyzba, representing the developers. Mrs Miles provoked the quarrel by asking about some jargon called “emerging policies”. It was beyond us plebs, I’m pleased to report.

Architect James seemed, at one point in the proceedings, to be arguing for a two storey building –  the developers already have approval for one of them. Nick Lyzba described arguments about sewage as a “red herring”. Surely, if anything, it is a canard (duck).  Thames Water hadn’t appealed, said Lyzba, but we are half convinced TW doesn’t know its arse from its elbow. James v douchsafed to me, in apersonal conversation, that he had once lived in number 44, my side of the road and the noise from the trains really disturbed his sleep.

Bellerbys, a college which according to one resident of Mill Street,  wants the building to house 16-18 year old students with one warden supervising the young geezers and geezerettes, all day and all night will have communal areas where the poor kids will have to smoke their tabs and hope the licensing laws allow them to get drunk.

Susanna Pressel, a Labour councillor for this area, made an impassioned speech accusing the developers of being greedy. She suggested that the architect and the developers had already a plan in place for a two storey version that was banged in not long after the three storey monolithic building was rejected.  That cheesed off Mr Lyzba, who denied it. Pressel said: “Look at the dates.”

I, personally, was impressed by Susanna’s  passion. The other councillor, also Labour, a Mr Colin Cook, did not attend. He is up for re-election soon. Nicola Blackwood, a Tory MP, didn’t seem to be around either, although her majority over the Lib Dems is only 176 votes up here in Olde Oxford Town.

Mrs Miles told those who attended that she would issue her decision in due course. She took the trouble to make a site visit, and also visit three houses in Mill Street, including mine. “Your house is very neat and tidy,” she said as she left.

That was nice. I do take the trouble to clear after myself. The cleaner only does two hours a week. 

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