Tag Archives: nicola blackwood

RustyPoleGate – the plot thickens…

I HAD a letter from my MP Nicola Blackwood this morning.  She also enclosed what I regard as a rather wooden letter from Chris McCarthy, from Oxfordshire County Council.

In case you haven’t been following RustyPoleGate – a parking post outside my house is very rusty. I’d offered to paint it in rainbow colours, at my own expense, but apparently this is a criminal offence under Section 132(1) of the Highways Act 1980. So here we go. 

rusty1 rusty2 rusty3

Onsey – you can now vote

THERE IS an election here in West Oxford this coming Thursday, the 5th of May, in West Oxford.

So far we’ve only had three communications from candidates – from Ms Muddiman (Green), from Jason Fiddaman (Tory) and from Colin Cook (Labour).

We do feel Colin should possibly have spell checked his – he is a candidate for Jericho and Osney.  But as you can see below, Colin spells Osney as Onsey and has a photo of himself outside Halfords in the Botley Road, demolished some time ago.  It is now a Waitrose shop.

Colin Cook

And Jason’s document reveals no personal information about himself – just a photo which looks like maybe he might need a) a shave and b) a better high resolution picture.

Jason Fiddaman

We’ve had nothing from the Liberal Democrats yet.  We’d like to make it clear that we are commenting on the documents from an editorial, rather than a political perspective.

Here is Lois’ Green party thingie, and here is our local Tory MP Nicola Blackwood MP, with a perfect colour picture from Conservative Central Office  showing her gift of gravitas.  Poor Jason!  

Nicola Blackwood


Doctor stands for parliament

Dr Helen SainsburyIt’s the general election in May here in Blighty, so last night we travelled to the West Oxford Community Centre to listen to Dr Helen Salisbury outline her plans for the big day when it dawns.

Dr Salisbury is an engaging individual with an obvious passion for the National Health Service.  She’s standing as a candidate for the National Health Action Party for the Oxford West & Abingdon constituency. She is a doctor of medicine.

This is a marginal seat.  Nicola Blackwood won it at the last general election from the Liberal Democrats, in 2010, with a very slender majority indeed.  Dr Salisbury believes that all  of the three main English parties have an interest in an NHS being “run down” and “sold off”, and she wants an end to privatisation, the price finance initiative (PFI) scheme and TTIP.

Dr Salisbury is far from oblivious to splitting the vote in the marginal – but as an outsider, or rather a voter in this constituency, I can see her taking votes away from the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party and so helping to put incumbent Nicola Blackwood back in place as the standing MP.  You can find the National Health Action Party here. 

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

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. 

Oxfordshire traffic managers get their own hut

I NOTICED at the beginning of last week that two geezers attired in orange tops and dubbed “traffic managers” had set up shop outside Mick’s Café and the YHA at the end of my road.

What were they doing, I wondered? They just seem to stand around doing not very much at all and presumably getting paid for it.

The weather got a bit cold last week so I was amused to see that the guys – two of them, had been supplied with a garden shed (pictured) – but it is still entirely unclear what they do.

I picked up a copy of the daily Oxford Mail yesterday – it had the alarming splash that cyclists had lashed out against plans for Frideswide Square – “It will be a death trap”.

I asked a few local residents what the function of these two traffic managers and their hut was.  We’re all a bit puzzled. We think that they’re there to arrest cyclists for not having lights and that.  We’ll put in a freedom of information request. (Dhera Dun, Ed.)

Meanwhile, plans to build a three storey atrocity at the bottom of our gardens get appealed at Oxford Town Hall on March 7th at 9:30AM. We’ve seen workmen attired in radiation suits stalking around at the bottom of our garden in the last few weeks.  Unfortunately, we’ll be at SnowBIT (CeBIT) – bit of an inconvenient time for working people, we’d suggest…  maybe the traffic managers will tip up. We are sure that the winsome Nicola Blackwood, our very fragrant Tory MP, will make her representations and defend the residents from voracious developers. Sure as eggs is eggs, one of our two councillors is up for re-election this year. ♥

There are badgers in our back gardens. More trouble down Mill Street, Oxford

The email of the specious is more deadly than the Mall or Wall

Sure enough, the planners are ploughing ahead with the attempt to hedge us residents of East Mill Street in with an ugly building fit for 74 students of Bellerbys, provided, that is, the UK government allows students with cash into the UK for the purpose of studying.

Objections against the plans are allowed until the 9th of May, so it’s incumbent on us lot to object – that is, if we want to object. The clever developers are attempting to tell us that the overweening wall will protect us from the noise of the railways. There is very little noise from the railways…

Just as a matter of record, below is  the letter I wrote to Murray Hancock, planning officer of Oxford City Council. Others might find it useful.

I have copied it to Susanna Pressel and to Sherriff Colin Cook – councillors for this neck of the woods – and to our MP, Nicola Blackwood.  I would have copied it to Michael Crofton-Briggs, a chief planner at the outfit, but couldn’t find his email on the Oxford City Council web site. The architect, Adrian James, lives in Mill Street but on the western side of the road.

Local newspaper the Oxford Mail has already written a story about our complaint. Here’s my billet doubt (sic) to Murray the Man.

25 April 2011

Murray Hancock
Planning Officer
Oxford City Council
Ramsay House
10 St Ebbe’s
Oxford OX1 1PT

Dear Sir

I am the owner/occupier of 27 Mill Street, OX2 0AJ.

I am writing to express my objection to the planning proposal for ground between Mill Street and the railway – planning reference number 11/00927/FUL.

My objections to the planning proposal centre around Council policy HS19 – Privacy and Amenity, to wit:

”Planning permission will only be granted for development that adequately provides both for the protection, and/or creation, of the privacy or amenity of the occupants of the proposed and existing neighbouring, residential properties. The City Council will assess each development proposal in terms of:

a. potential for overlooking into habitable rooms or private open space;
b. potential for noise intrusion;
c. sense of enclosure, or development of an overbearing nature;
d. refuse and recycling storage;
e. cycle storage;
f. drying space; and
g. sunlight and daylight standards.”

In particular, I am concerned that the development will impact points (a), (c) and (g). Currently my garden is very private and I will feel very hemmed in if this building is allowed to proceed.

At the recent open day when the proposed plans were shown, the developers made the to my mind somewhat specious argument that the development would provide benefits to residents because the building would reduce the noise from the railway.  In fact, as matters stand right now, there is little noise from the railway as most trains are slowing to stop at Oxford Station or slowly leaving the station.

I am also concerned that the development is likely to have a severe impact because most of the existing trees will be destroyed – I understand that only six trees are likely to be kept. I am also concerned about increased traffic on the already congested Mill Street, which is something of a rat run already.

I would appreciate a written reply to my objection. I am copying this letter to councillors Susanna Pressel, Colin Cook and Nicola Blackwood. I would also appreciate the email address of Michael Crofton-Briggs, who I would like to copy in too.

Yours faithfully

Mike Magee