Monthly Archives: July 2011

Oxford Council lobs brick at The Wall

A plan to build a student hostel next to the railway line where 74 young souls would have had to have faced fast and noisy freight trains on one hand and hostile natives on the other side was decked by a planning committee in Oxford last night.

In a frankly very weird room called the Council Chamber, and  decorated with the signs of the zodiac, seven councillors voted against the project while the chair abstained.

It was a victory for common sense although architect Adrian James and developing agent Nik Lyzba of John Phillips Planning Consortium (JPPC) looked gutted.

Several councillors on the committee quizzed James, Lyzba and Oxford planning man  Murray Hancock (pictured, in gumboots) on the proposed building. The meeting was well attended by local residents who applauded, heckled and occasionally booed during the meeting.

The councillors found against the project on several grounds, including the overbearing height of the property after a site visit last week.

The developers have the right to appeal against the decision. Several residents spoke up against the plans and celebrated later at The Kite hostelry in Mill Street.

The height of the building-to-be was hotly disputed between residents and Hancock, and councillors repeatedly asked for clarification, with the waters ending up being more than a little muddied. ♦

Councillors decide we do need a Big Wall, after all

OXFORD CITY COUNCIL decided today that whether the residents like it or like it not, a big big wall is going to be built at the bottom of our gardens.  The votes went six for, one against, and two abstentions. See this one.

Our own councillor, a councillor Colin  Cook, voted in fave.Well done Colin, for listening to your constituents!

This is what the view from my first floor window looks like right now.

27 Mill Street without the Wall

Here’s an artist’s impression of what the “ingenious building” will look like…

Mill Street: The Wall
Another view: My garden is to the right of the Silver Birch – you can see my clothes pegs.

And here’s the document Amanda Whiting and I were supposed to talk about together. The learned councillors would not let me speak “because I wasn’t on the list”.

“M This major three story monolithic structure will overlook our houses between 16 and 41 on Mill Street.  The fact it will be raised by one metre because it’s being built on a flood plain will make it even more dominating. It will take light from our back gardens and the architecture is utterly out of character with a Victorian street. Mill Street is a terraced street of railwaymens’ cottages and are two storey buildings, regardless of what the developer says. It will also destroy our view of a leafy outlook and the view we will have us peering at the students and the students peering at us.

“A It will also change the nature of the present community, increasing the population of Mill Street by 25 percent, meaning that the proportion of students in the street will be about 50 percent. The Sites and Housing DPD is working towards a policy that limits the number of students in any street in Oxford to much less than this.

“M Just  about everyone living in 16 to 41 and Abbey Walk, as well as people in Barrett Street has written well-argued letters of opposition, which are on the Council website, and I hope that committee members have read them. No-one at all wants this development, especially not at three storeys – it’s a solid wall. The angling of the windows on the proposed plan will not prevent currently leafy and private back gardens being overlooked.  Concerns of residents also include additional traffic, increased noise in the street, rowdyism, light pollution and congestion on an already crowded narrow street for both pedestrians and cars.

“A There’s a strong sense of community here, and some families have lived here for three or four generations. The Bellerby students will be under 18 so won’t otherwise be freeing up family homes. These students would normally be home stay students.

“M A recent  consultation about the preferred options for Oxford development said about the Mill Street development:  “The site would be contrary to the emerging student accommodation location policy as it is not on a main thoroughfare nor within a district or city centre or on an existing teaching campus. The preferred option is therefore not to allocate the site.” In the DPD document it adds that a development here would not be suitable because of the narrow area for the accommodation. It seems crazy that this document should be ignored. In the early 1990s permission for 24 flats was refused but later development of 19 study rooms was approved a decade later but not implemented. How the applicants are suggesting that was a precedent is crazy – 19 study rooms is not the same as 74 study rooms.

“A What do the developers propose to give back to the existing community if this development or a modified development is given planning permission?

“The strip of land is home to shrews, hedgehogs, grass snakes, bats, badgers and a wide range of insects including various species of bumblebee. There are many trees in the area including cherry, fruit and other deciduous trees. The Elfin Group in Oxford consists of six to 10 year olds and the local schoolchildren have been spending a lot of time planting new trees, weeding them and learning how important trees are to the environment.

“The wider democratic issues referred to in Robert Mitchell’s email today, state how West Oxford is a very environmentally friendly area, with much effort and resources going in to preserve and enhance the local environment – we are actively promoting the lowering of carbon emissions, new wildlife areas, many houses being equipped with solar panels etc.  These initiatives run by low carbon West Oxford are generally supported and encouraged by the council and government, nationally. So we wonder what message will the granting of planning permission be giving this community if it approves of these plans??

“With regards to replanting issues, a few stretches of new grasses and ornamental trees is hardly the same as the wild habitat that’s been there for 100 years.

“M To reiterate, the main points are that many houses will be completely overlooked, deprived of light and the percentages of student in the community will be more than the recommended number. You’ll be agreeing to destroy the wild life habitat, and increasing traffic in an already congested and busy area. We urge you to reject this application.”

Most of the councillors didn’t seem very interested at all…. Murray Hancock, chief planner at Oxford City Council is a master of bureaucracy… 

All in all, brick walls don’t rhyme with trouble down the Mill

THIS WEDNESDAY, the great and the good will make a decision on the Mill Street Wall. Volesoft will be there to report on the adjudications of the august councillors on the plan.  See here.

Over here – as a matter of record – are the observations of “interested parties” including quite a few from the residents, er that’s us.

Matters of wildlife will not be discussed at this planning meeting.  Down the bottom of our gardens are havens of wildlife protecting us from developers and planners and the like.

Oxford Council just recently made a decision that the small area shouldn’t be developed. But Bellerbys – a college – has to put its studes somewhere.  We’d suggest a brownfield site. But what can we proles do? We can do what we can.  There’s a petition about the wild life here. In planning applications, wild life is not included apparently as a reason for accepting or rejecting stuff.

Strange, because under the UK BAP (UK Biodiversity Action Plan) local authorities are supposed to be mindful of and use in their considerations. A neighbour sends me this list…He says many of these have been found in this narrow strip of wildlife. Wonder how this will all work out… Many have been seen in the narrow strip – soon to turn into a narrow strop – between Mill Street and the railway line.   All in all…

Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006

S41 list. These are the species found in England which have been identified as requiring action under the UK BAP.


Bufo bufo Common Toad Vertebrates Amphibian
Triturus cristatus Great Crested Newt Vertebrates Amphibian
Bombus ruderatus Large Garden Bumblebee Invertebrates Bee
Bombus subterraneus Short Haired Bumblebee Invertebrates Bee
Lasioglossum angusticeps A Solitary Bee Invertebrates Bee
Osmia xanthomelana Large Mason Bee Invertebrates Bee
Cuculus canorus Common Cuckoo Vertebrates Bird
Motacilla flava subsp. flavissima Yellow Wagtail Vertebrates Bird
Passer domesticus House Sparrow Vertebrates Bird
Prunella modularis subsp. occidentalis Dunnock (Hedge Accentor) Vertebrates Bird
Pyrrhula pyrrhula subsp. pileata Bullfinch Vertebrates Bird
Streptopelia turtur Turtle Dove Vertebrates Bird
Sturnus vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Starling Vertebrates Bird
Turdus philomelos subsp. clarkei Song Thrush Vertebrates Bird
Cupido minimus Small Blue Invertebrates Butterfly
Erinaceus europaeus Hedgehog Vertebrates Mammal
Micromys minutus Harvest Mouse Vertebrates Mammal
Plecotus auritus Brown Long-eared bat Vertebrates Mammal
Anguis fragilis Slow-worm Vertebrates Reptile
Natrix natrix Grass Snake Vertebrates Reptile



News of the Screws sells out in Oxford

THEY SHOULD SHUT it every week was the verdict in Oxford, cultural world centre and home to the Screaming Squires, today.

We conducted a straw poll of newsagents in Oxford and came up with very surprising results. One newsagent told Volesoft that its copies of the News of the World had sold out by 10:30AM, Sunday. We asked him if that had been followed by rapid sales of The People – the competition to the News of the World. “No,” he said.

In a more literary part of Oxford we asked the same question. The newsagent said: “You can’t get it for love or money”. All rather surprising, because News International doubled the print run last night in anticipation of the News of the Screws final edition becoming a collector’s item.

“We’re looking forward to other revelations from other newspapers using similar methods,” another newsagent said. “Before we know where we are, we’ll find ourselves selling milk to students and no magazines whatever.”

And there’s another thing. The imaginary Inspector Morse, created by Colin Dexter, also read his copies of the NOTW surreptitiously, in case his local newsagent thought the worse of him for not reading the “quality newspapers”. ♥