Tag Archives: Botley Road

Gibbs Crescent: we get the lowdown and the highdown too

So today we took ourselves to St Frideswide’s Kirk, on the Botley Road, the one that couldn’t afford to build a spire although it tried to crowdfund it back in the daze. We’d never been inside before. (See footnote after the pictures – Ed.)

We only knew there was a public consultation there this evening because we’d seen a flyer in our letterbox in Mill Street from massive housing association A2Dominion last week – there was no notice outside of the kirk, either.

Regular readers of this bog will remember that Mike Magee almost evacuated himself when he heard the explosion on St Valentine’s Day (please excuse picture).

Anyway, here below are pictures of the project that A2Dominion plans to replace and displace the current residents of Gibbs Crescent. A2D officials referred to the residents being “decanted”, which is a new one on us for people.

Once the residents have been “decanted”, which could take as long as six months or longer, A2D will set in motion an application for planning permission, for 140 units on the site, some going as high as six stories, with space for only a few car spaces for wheelchair access.

Some of the properties will be dedicated to social housing – as far as we can gather it’s a portion of the 50 percent of the properties that will be “affordable” housing. The rest of the non-affordable properties will be let. An A2D functionary said any profits will be ploughed back into the housing association. The whole process could take three or more years until completion.

Unfortunately, no plans are available from A2D on the World Wild Web (sic) and there were no handouts, so we took these snaps below. If you have any questions, A2D will be glad to answer them. Email Claire Bartlett – claire.bartlette@a2dominion.co.uk at A2D by Thursday, the 27th of September, the year of our Good Lord! 2018.

The redevelopment of Gibbs Crescent, of course, will further gentrify West Oxford, init?

And due to the redevelopment of the Old Oxford Power Station, there will be much trundling to and fro in the narrow Victorian street called Mill Street over the next few years, and of course the Botley Road too will, as usual, be free of traffic.

We believe that St Frideswide, the patron saintess of Oxford, and her kirk was probably based on a pagan goddess called Freya or Frigga or something. But that’s all lost in the past. Don’t mention Pusey!!!

Here at volesoft.com, we’re talking about the future. The future of Gibbs Crescent, one of the few – if any – social housing communities left in the centre of Oxford, hangs in the balance. One source at A2D whispered – of course off the record – that many of the residents will be glad to leave the centre of the City.

With a little help from their friends, of course.

Oxford’s Old Power Station to get poshed up

A missive from the egregious Said Business School (SBS)is holding a “consultation” on the future of the Old Power Station, on the Thames, just a slingshot away from Mill Street.

The message, in a bottle, is reproduced below.

But there are things the SBS doesn’t say, as well as things it does say, with implications for the original inhabitants of Old Osney Island, that’s us folk on Arthur Street, Mill Street and the rest.

The towering edifice was used in times of yore to test Concorde engines and then to host exhibits from the Ruskin.  Then there was a health scare because it seemed to hold rare chemicals and stuff stored away.

Then a possibly dangerous harpoon was found, it seems. And squatters were evicted.

The SBS didn’t really respond to FOI requests, I think you’ll find.

Anyway, the document issued for the consultation, below, said SBS is pushing ahead with a proposal offering “bespoke conferencing facilities. It doesn’t say what the impact on the area will be, how many bricks will go, and how the poor people on Arthur Street will feel about huge lorries making a right turn from there past Kite 2.0, also known as the Porterhouse now and the effect it will have on both Mill Street and the Botley Road.

Hey, I guess we residents will have the chance to forewarn the planners ahead of the “conference”. It’s all about the regeneration of West Oxford, you know.   

MP responds to West Oxford floods

Nicola BlackwoodDear Mr Magee,

Many thanks for your recent email telling me of your concern about the current flooding in Oxford, and in particular around the Botley Road area. Please accept my apologies for the delay in my reply, which was due in part to the large number of letters and emails I have received in recent weeks.

For many local families what should have been an enjoyable beginning to 2014 was quickly turned into quickly a nightmare by the distress and disruption of flood risk to their homes and businesses. I am sorry to read that a number of your friends have suffered flooding in their homes on the Botley Road, and I can only imagine how difficult it has been for you in the last few weeks.

Please be assured that as your local MP, I am absolutely determined to keep the issue of our flood defences firmly on the local and national agenda. In recent weeks I have travelled back from Westminster to the constituency on numerous of occasions to meet local residents, Environment Agency (EA) officials, local councillors and emergency response teams to see and hear for myself the situation on the ground as it is developing. On the specific subject of Environment Agency staffing, as you may be aware, the Prime Minister announced a few days ago that in light of the current situation, the planned 550 job losses at the EA will now be put on hold.

I have met on numerous occasions with all the key players in the response effort, including the EA, the Police, Fire Brigade, local action groups and local residents, many of whom have  been working tirelessly almost since Christmas to pump out water, repair burst piping, confine sewage leaks and restore normal services to our communities. While there will always be ways in which we can improve our response to flooding, many local residents affected regularly by flood risk tell me that locally the emergency response and resilience to flooding has improved year on year since the terrible floods of 2007.

Burst Sewage Pipes

However, whilst I applaud the hard work of these teams to reduce and repair the damage, I am bitterly disappointed that yet again this year recurring problems such as leaking sewage pipes have still affected so many. The truth is that we need urgent action on our drainage infrastructure, a point which have raised repeatedly with both Thames Water and the Environment Secretary. Hard-working local groups such as Oxfordshire Flood Alliance and the Ock Valley Flood Group, have done a great deal to highlight these problems to relevant authorities and I will be holding a half day meeting with Thames Water in the near future to go through the detail of the problems that have arisen in each part of my constituency and discuss how this appalling state of affairs can be more effectively prevented in the future.

Local Term Solutions Necessary

On flood prevention more widely, I was pleased to see that this year many local flood defence measures implemented since 2007 have been successful in protecting people and property; but there is clearly a great deal more work to be done. Yet again many properties have not escaped the flood water and countless more residents have been affected by closed roads and delayed buses and trains. I have therefore continued to put pressure on the local and central Government, response agencies and utility companies to improve and strengthen our flood defences going forward.

Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State

I have also ensured that local flood prevention and defences remain firmly on the Government’s horizon by asking a number of oral and written Parliamentary Questions in the House of Commons. You can read these questions and the responses here:

Oxford Western Conveyance Plan

At the end of January I co-signed a letter with Andrew Smith MP and Councillor Bob Price to the Prime Minister, highlighting our ongoing concerns about the impact of regular flooding on Oxfordshire’s economy and calling for extensive investment in our flood defences. In particular the letter requested support for the Environment Agency’s flood alleviation scheme for Oxford and the Oxford Western Conveyance Plan, which would provide a viable long-term solution to the flooding problems that the city and its neighbouring villages has been experiencing in recent years.

David Cameron replied, assuring them of his determination that the right measures are taken over flooding in Oxford and offered a meeting with key Downing Street Advisors to discuss the practical details involved in the Western Conveyance Proposal. You can view the Prime Minister’s full reply at:

River Maintenance, Including Dredging Operations

I am also raising with both the Secretary of State and the Environment Agency the issue of putting in place more regular maintenance of key tributaries around Oxford, including the Hinksey and Osney Stream areas. Continuing maintenance by riparian owners along the banks of Thames and its tributaries, smaller streams and watercourses on a regular basis is vital in order to clear obstructions and remove overgrown vegetation. Whilst the Environment Agency may not always have official responsibility carrying out these maintenance operations themselves, it is nevertheless important that they play a central role in advising and encouraging landowners to clear obstructions, providing practical assistance where necessary.
I also feel strongly that it is time we gave serious consideration as to whether future dredging operations along the Thames and its key tributaries would help to maintain water levels during times of heavy and persistent rainfall. The Environment Agency have not prioritised this method of flood control in recent years and to that end I have sent a series of written Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking that his Department look into this subject in more depth.

The Future Of Flood Insurance – Flood Re Scheme

I am pleased that after many months of painstaking and detailed negotiations, Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the insurance industry to ensure affordable flood insurance for households in high risk areas without placing unsustainable costs on wider policyholders and the taxpayer. This new agreement with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has been incorporated in the Water Bill, now in the final stages of passage through Parliament, and replaces the current ‘Statement of Principles’. It will bring peace of mind to people who need to renew their insurance from next year.

The new agreement will cap flood insurance premiums by linking them to council tax bands so that people will know the maximum they will have to pay. Customers will also be free to shop around to get the best overall deal from an insurer of their choice with some customers seeing prices fall. This agreement will also constrain the excesses that could be imposed on households at high flood risk. To fund this, a new industry-backed levy will enable UK household insurers to create a fund that can be used to pay claims for people in high-risk homes. The agreement will have legislative backing and will last for at least 20 years. The Scheme is due to come into effect in July 2015 and until then, the industry has agreed to continue to meet their commitments under the ‘Statement of Principles’.

Further information from the ABI on the Flood Re Scheme can be found here:

And here is a link to my most recent Parliamentary Questions on Flood RE:

Flooding is without doubt a very serious problem for Oxfordshire and what we need now are long term solutions. I have been raising all of these issues locally and in Parliament and I assure you that I will continue to do so. I will also remain in close contact with local people, flood action groups, Thames Water and the Environment Agency as the flooding continues, vigorously representing the concerns of my constituents.

I do hope that this response has been helpful and thank you once again for taking the time to write to me. Please do get back in touch if I can be of further assistance.

Kindest regards


Nicola Blackwood
MP for Oxford West & Abingdon

Mick of Mick’s Cafe returns

And it’s even closer than it wasmicks.  At the Westgate Hotel. Which is just down at the end of the wonderful Mill Street. ♦