Tag Archives: murray hancock

Oxford City Council gives power station plan the nod

The Said Business School (SBS) has revealed details about its plans for the Old Power Station in Arthur Street and it seems that chief planning officer Murray Hancock, Bob Price leader of Oxford City Council and Roger Harmsworth all seem agreed that it is a “good thing”.

(See Said Business School makes bid for Old Power Station and  Old Power Station seems to have a use.)

There is a public meeting about the SBS plans on the 13th of May.

SBS wants to turn the Old Power Station into a place that will provide short term residential accommodation for 160 students and other stuff. The students will be business suits and not undergraduates.

“Consultation” with local residents will precede several months of architectural planning with planning permission folllowing in mid 2016 and then a couple of years building the wing. The frontage of the building is Grade II listed.

Knocking bits down and building this wing will be an interesting logistical exercise given that access to the proposed site will be a bit net.

These screen shots from Google Earth show the area. The wine glass represents the Kite pub, on the corner of Mill Street and Russell Street. The Old Power Station is next to the river with the white roof. in the first screen shot, below.

An eighteen months to two year build will considerably disrupt the people who live round here. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 08.14.11 Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 08.16.16 Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 08.19.51

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.

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…