NEW OSNEY AND THE PLANNING PROPOSAL FOR GIBBS CRESCENT Meeting (2) of residents, 19.30, 12 March 2019, Cherwell College, Osney Lane (W)
In attendance Residents present Cherwell College: Stephen Clarke; Abbey Walk: Henry Nebrensky; Oxford City Council: Susanna Pressel; Arthur Street: Penny Baker; Malcolm Keay; A2Dominion Oxford: Jim Smith and Tina Proctor Barrett Street: Anne James (Chair); Andrew Walker; Marshall Walker; Jericho: Joe Shallis [representing Jessica Leaf of Gibbs Crescent]
Millbank: Andrew Chapman; Lisa Hulme; Apologies Mill Street: Rhiannon Ash, Caroline Bradley, Gibbs Crescent: Paul Hobbs Catherine Byrne; Salvador Osney Marina: Les Wright Exposito; Mike McGee[ sic: Magee]; David and Rosemary Preston; Charlie Raikes; Andrew Walker; Marshall Walker; Felicity Wenden;
Oatlands Road: Robin Harrison [Representing his son of Gibbs Crescent]:
Osney Mill: Tony Munsey.
A2D INPUT (JS and TP)
1. With 37,000 homes and 7800 currently being developed in Southern England, A2D is a large UK provider of mixed occupancy homes (new build, private, shared ownership and social homes). Through its non-profit arm, it offers affordable rentals, and additional care and personal support to 2500 units. It provides 3000 homes in Oxford, catering to 1000 students and others in mixed bed-sit, private and social housing.
Developing Gibbs Crescent
Eleven of 86 units were lost in the 2017 explosion. Fifteen other tenants have since moved away with A2D support. A2D claims that 60 tenants remain on site, but there may be more.
With the proposed development, A2D is looking to create 140 dwellings for 209 people, with social rent tenancies, affordable shared ownership properties. and privately owned and rented flats at market rates.
A2D suggested that tenancies might be offered to 15 former Simon House residents, closed when the County withdrew its funding.
In refurbishing Gibbs Crescent, A2D’s intention is to increase A2D income by maximising resident density beyond existing capacity.
A2D does not consider that the proposed population increase, housed in in 4-6 storey blocks, amounts to the overdevelopment of this location.
Given historically negative perceptions, A2D suggests that Gibbs Crescent might be renamed.
A2D owns the freehold of the Gibbs Crescent and its access road, from the swing gate between the cemetery and Bishop Gate. Contrary to what was said at the 2018 consultation, there is no provision in the current proposal to enhance access to the finished development on land not owned by A2D. This is regardless of any implications for established residents in the Mill Street area or in respect of users of the railway footbridge. Such costs could be met through Section 106 processes.
A2D has considered improvement to the footpath from the site to Oxpens Road, but owned by the Marina. No plans have yet been proposed.
10. There is no provision for community development initiatives at the site being developed. The wider area is thought to be very well-served. A2D experience of mixed occupancy carless sites has been without problems.
11. The intention is to plan the build to minimise problems, facilitating communication between residents, contractors and other stakeholders, as the site is developed.
12. The work is likely to take 2 years. It was suggested that site managers might meet with residents as the planning process advances.
13. A2D is in regular communication to address the expressed concerns of Thames Water.
14. A2D agreed the need for residents to communicate with site managers and would facilitate introductions, through agreed named contacts. AJ was willing to take this on.
15. Whichever the authority responsible, A2D should have a Duty of Care in respect of the wider social and environmental implications of the demolition and later reconstruction of Gibbs Crescent.
16. It should seek to coordinate the timing of this work and HGV movement with the rebuilding of the Power Station in Arthur Street, to minimise adverse implications for local residents.
17. The appropriateness of demolishing all the existing Gibbs Crescent buildings should be questioned as should its protection as peaceful green space.
18. The proposed doubling of population density on such a small site is unacceptable, not least given the significant recent increases in density across the Mill Street area. Of the 209 intended occupants, it is not clear how many people will be offered the different tenancy arrangements in social or market rented units, shared and/or affordable ownership.
19. Accommodation at 4-6 storeys is unacceptably high in a leafy conservation area. It seems set to recreate the Roger Dudman Way debacle on Port Meadow and, higher than the nearby power station, it will exacerbate the sense of exclusion currently being imposed by the massed 6 storey blocks of the Student Castle which will remove all views of the city across the tracks.
20. The project amounts to further insensitive urbanisation at the cost of amenity to established residences in the area.
21. Strong criticism of the proposals as ‘beyond belief’ was expressed on behalf of members and residents of the Osney Marinas, as threatening the quality of their living and working environment, practically and aesthetically.
22. There was no acknowledgement that such development must comply with rules of pedestrian and vehicle access in Oxford, including for police, fire and ambulance services, even when access land is not controlled by the developer.
23. Specific reference was made to access from Mill Street, Osney Lane over the damaged railway footbridge, the narrow road between the cemetery and Millbank, and along the unsurfaced footpath to the site from Oxpens Road and the Westgate Centre.
24. A permanent 5 or 10 mph speed limit should be introduced between the South of Mill Street and the site to control taxis, multiple rubbish collectors, delivery vans and bikes, which already cause severe distress. This is only set to worsen with the increased number of residents proposed for Gibbs Crescent.
25. Likewise, there is dismay at the minimal parking provision envisaged for 200 occupants and visitors, and the implications for rebounding stress onto scarce Mill Street parking.
26. Residents lament any change in name of the site, given that it commemorates one of Oxford’s most esteemed post-war mayors, dedicated to the improving the lives of the city’s most marginal groups.
The meeting thanked Cherwell College for offering its dining room and Cllr Pressel and A2D representatives for attending. Thanks are also due to those who designed, printed and delivered leaflets announcing the meeting and to everyone who attended.