Tag Archives: Oxford City Council

Gibbs Crescent, Oxford – it’s the nightmare on Mill Street!

Blossom in Oxford in Spring

On the 14th of February this year, at 4:45 PM, a  huge explosion hit West Oxford.

I was in the wazzeria at the time, but the explosion was so great my windows bowed and I almost evacuated myself. I didn’t. I finished my wee and checked things out.

It seems some crazy greezer had blown up a house in Gibbs Crescent. He killed himself with the explosion – luckily no one else – and we’re waiting for the inquest to give us some rhyme or reason. And have been waiting for some time now. For the inquest.

I have some friends down in Gibbs Crescent, so have been following this closely.  Susanna Pressel and Colin Cook, the local Labour councillors, have involved themselves and got their faces in the Oxford Mail.

But, although I am by nature an anarcho-syndicalist – read trade unionist and NUJ member for that, I thought I’d drop a line to our newly elected LibDem MP – that Layla Moran – who seems to have pursued this story in an exemplary way. I draw your attention, for example, to the almost complete lack of social housing she highlights, and to the big big question.

When A2Dominion “rehouses” the Gibb Crescent residents, where are they going to go? ♥

Ms Moran wrote to me on Friday:

“Dear Mike

“Further to our previous correspondence, and particularly focusing on Gibbs Crescent, I have now received responses from Dawn Wightman, Director of Housing for A2Dominion, and Patsy Dell, Head of Planning Services at Oxford City Council.

“Ms Wightman confirms that any plans to redevelop Gibbs Crescent would include 50% affordable housing, consisting mostly of 1 and 2 bed apartments with some 3 bed properties.  She has not indicated what proportion of these affordable properties would have social rents.  The properties are described as being significantly larger than those currently at Gibbs Crescent, but A2Dominion do not confirm how many of the new homes would be 1 bed.

“A2Dominion have also outlined a number of the benefits that they feel the redevelopment of Gibbs Crescent could bring, though have not indicated what assurances they intend to provide existing tenants.

“Ms Dell confirms that Oxford City Council has not yet had any detailed preapplication discussions with A2Dominion regarding proposals to redevelop Gibbs Crescent.  I understand that officers at the Council held a meeting with A2Dominion, in which they discussed the need for public consultation on any proposals, but that by early December the Council had not had any follow up to this meeting.

“One of the issues Gibbs Crescent residents have raised with me is the serious shortage of social housing available in Oxford.  In light of this, I asked Ms Dell to confirm how many social properties are currently available for let.  She has replied that out of 7746 Oxford City Council properties and 3753 housing association properties, there are only 14 currently advertised as being available to let, with 2858 households currently on the housing register.

“I share the concern expressed by many Gibbs Crescent residents that these proposals would reduce the stock of social housing available in Oxford, rather than increasing it as is needed, and appreciate the impact that redeveloping Gibbs Crescent could have on existing tenants, including those who have lived there for many years.

“I hope that this information is useful.  I will continue to pursue these issues with the Council and A2Dominion, and will share any updates I receive with you.

“Kind regards,
Layla”

Layla Moran MP
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon
Layla Moran
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon

Oxford reveals costs of “blue bin initiative”

YOU KNOW you’ve got to give credit to Oxford City Council. It takes the freedom of information act (FOI) seriously.

We asked, a month ago, about the cost of its rather infamous “Blue Bin Initiative”.

It sent out a very expensive leaflet to us very  long suffering residents of Oxford.

Here’s what it came up with on its FOI request. We have asked for an internal review from the Vale of the White Horse on how it lost votes. Unfortunately, the Vale of the White Horse seems to have lost everything. We asked for an internal review. We are still waiting, us Oxford residents.

Hello Mike,

…………………………>

Further to the acknowledgment below, regarding your FOI request dated 28 September, I am now in a position to respond. Please see below for the answers to your questions.

1. Please break down the costs of this initiative – I and other residents of this street received a colour brochure yesterday – oxford.gov/uk/recycling league – see sub questions:

Oxford City Council received 350k after they were successful in applying for a DCLG grant.
As this is a three year project officially launching on October 5th, a full breakdown is not yet available.

1a How much did the smartphone app cost to develop?

The Smart App is not part of the project, it was already developed. It cost £750 to include the Blue Bin Recycling League pledge form.

1b To how many households were the full colour brochures delivered in Oxford?

All Oxford households, approximately 60,000. 61,000 packs were ordered.

1c Please name the areas represented by the colours at the back of the leaflet.

Oxford has been split into 8 areas which have been given a colour. These areas mirror our collection days and geographically incorporate several different well known Oxford area names

2. Who was responsible for the initiative? Was it council members?

The Recycling Team submitted a bid to the DCLG grant fund to run the incentive scheme. It has had full Councillor support and consultation and is overseen by John Tanner, board member for Cleaner Greener Oxford

I hope this helps,

Best wishes

Merilyn

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Votes go missing in key marginal Oxfordshire constituency

smartalxWE’RE HELPING Francis Delaney on his way to a charity bike ride from Oxford to Paris – you can see details of that ride on tourdeframbo.com

Francis set off on his  221 mile journey last Saturday – but needed a postal vote for the general election which happens this Thursday, the 7th of May.

The postal vote hadn’t arrived by Thursday last week but with the help of local  Lib Dem candidate Layla Moran, we managed to get one to him in the nick of time.  His constituency is a key marginal – West Oxford and Abingdon.  Only 176 votes separated the winner, Tory Nicola Blackwood, and the Lib Dem runner up in 2010.

Layla turned up to wave Francis and the other four cyclists off last Saturday, and chatting to her it became obvious that this wasn’t just a problem confined to him.

She said that a number of postal votes couldn’t be delivered on time.

Today we made a request to Oxford City Council – below.  We’ll keep you updated on what we hear. 

Oxford…. shambhala or shambolic?

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11775471.Appeal_to_Oxford_dons_as_crucial_student_flats_vote_draws_near/

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.

Mill Street, the Wall and Cherwell College

I AM NOT entirely sure the venerable Oxford Mail got the whole story about this, but hey, WTF. We only live here. ♥