Who should empty your bins? Join the debate

There is ongoing debate about whether local councils should be reorganised. Austerity cuts affecting the County Council means that it’s having to cut or reduce services that are important to people, and it thinks reorganisation of the whole structure is necessary to use money more effectively.

There are two schools of thought on whether complete reorganisation is necessary.

Here is the link to the One Oxfordshire proposal supported by the leaders of the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour groups on the County Council: it seeks to abolish the county council and the five district councils and replace them with one new unitary authority.

http://www.oneoxfordshire.org

The City Council believes that the necessary incremental savings can be made if all existing authorities can come together and work as one combined authority, however it is likely that this can only be allowed by central government if the proposal includes a directly elected Mayor.

Here is the Oxford City Council web page article explaining the rationale for its petition against the One Oxfordshire proposal.

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/384/oxford_city_council_launches_petition_against_unitary_county_council

Disclaimer: any inaccuracy of information displayed on the above linked web pages are entirely the responsibility of the local authority concerned.

Currently the county and district councils (the city council is a district council) are split over whether reorganisation should go ahead, and what form it should take.

We urge all our residents to take part in the public consultation on the One Oxfordshire proposal, whether you are in favour of it or not – your comments will count. We are interested to hear your views on this: we think there are strengths and weaknesses to both proposals. Unitaries may be the future, but their number, size and even the principle are not yet decided and deserve wide discussion.

We think it is very important that all authorities continue to debate the issues with one another, rather than take polarised positions.

Suspension of parking bays for street works

Residents (and police) have asked us for clarification regarding the temporary suspension of parking bays. The County Council has sent the following clarification.

Under the Traffic Management Act 2004 which covers Civil Enforcement, as the enforcement authority we have the ability to suspend parking bays  and there is no requirement for a TRO [Traffic Management Order] or a  TTRO [Temporary Traffic Management Order].  We erect the signage giving a minimum of 5 clear working days to give notice and then when the suspensions comes into force we have the ability to carry out enforcement.

Should anybody receive a PCN [Penalty Charge Notice] they have the ability to appeal, there is a due process to follow which eventually leads to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Service.  The PATROL website gives full information of the process. 

https://www.patrol-uk.info

 

Energy efficiency grants for private landlords

Private sector landlords in Oxford can now apply for funding to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and reduce fuel poverty, thanks to funding from The Ebico Trust, with Oxford City Council carrying out the improvement works.

The offer is open to privately rented properties within the city’s boundaries and will allow them to carry out improvements to their properties such as:

  • Loft insulation
  • Thermostatic Radiator Valves and pipe insulation
  • Draught proofing,

Following changes in legislation that came into force in April 2016, it is now a legal requirement for private residential landlords to consent to a tenant’s reasonable request for energy efficiency improvements where finance is available. From 2018, it will be unlawful to rent out a property that does not reach a minimum energy efficiency standard.

Funded by The Ebico Trust, the Private Rented Energy Efficiency Grant (PREEG) is available on the provision of certain documentation (see web link below for more details).

 

To register your interest for grants of up to £1,500 per property for up to five of your properties, landlords should go to www.oxford.gov.uk/preeg or email

PREEG@oxford.gov.uk.

Successful applicants will have their properties surveyed for free to determine which of the eligible works are feasible and can be included in the energy efficiency package.

Phil Levermore, Trustee of The Ebico Trust, said: “Ebico is dedicated to tackling the problem of fuel poverty, both locally and nationally. It’s clear to us that the key will be energy efficiency improvements in people’s homes. We’re pleased to be able to help Oxford’s private landlords rise to this challenge.”

 

Conditions

  • The property must continue to be available for letting two years from the date the City Council confirms the works are complete, otherwise the grant must be repaid in full.
  • Landlords are also required to make a 50 per cent contribution in full before the works can start.
  • The properties must be rated D, E, F or G in their Energy Performance Certificate

Air quality in Headington

Here is an update we have received from the City Council about air quality monitoring in Headington.

By way of background, we monitor air quality at 75 locations across the city.  This specifically looks at Nitrogen Dioxide.  In order to gain good coverage across the city we rotate monitoring locations on an annual basis. A number of sites are maintained year on year in order to gather long-term data. We prioritise sites where we see breaches of the air quality objectives, as it is important for us to understand where the worst air pollution is experienced in the city

In Windmill Road we had a number of monitoring points in 2015, the majority of which showed air pollution levels well under the annual objective of 40ug/m3.  One monitoring point, called Windmill Road W, showed air pollution above this objective and we have therefore continued monitoring at this site. The other monitoring sites in Windmill Road, due to their relatively low readings, were moved elsewhere during 2016.

Monitoring data for 2016 will become available in the next couple of months, following ratification and approval by DEFRA and will be available on the Oxfordshire Air Quality Website so you will be able to see what has been happening at Windmill Road over the past year.

Trees on the JR site

In following up a resident enquiry, we have made contact with the Facilities Manager at the OU Hospitals’ Trust who has kindly sent us the following update about trees on the JR site.

The two Poplars mentioned were felled on 14th Jan ’17 due to disease, one was rotten at the bottom and the other was rotten further up. Both were detailed to the council in our application and we will be imminently replacing these with lime trees.

The other tree mentioned was our precious Mulberry that unfortunately had major decay in the main stem and limbs so we had to pollard it quite severely so as to prolong its life and encourage it to grow further. This was completed on 21st Jan ’17.

The Trust does not have a tree management policy as such but I would like to assure you that we complete Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM). We contract professional services to conduct Tree Safety Surveys every 2 years and from this report we program in essential works that are required with our contracted professional tree surgeon; dependant on the available funding. As previously mentioned, any works within the conservation area will be detailed to the council for their review prior to commencement. Any trees that require felling do get replaced with suitable alternatives to continue to preserve our valued landscapes.

I do have other works to complete in the near future that I have briefly detailed below:

  • 2 x tall Poplars to fell due to visible cavities in the main stem.
  • 2 x tall Poplars to reduce to previous pruning point.
  • 1 x False Acacia to fell due to main stem decay caused by laetiporous.

 

Parking pressure in Headington

Residents in the Windmill Road / Gathorne Road area are feeling angry and frustrated about a recent appeal decision concerning parking zone eligibility.

There is rising concern in Central and New Headington that in cases where permission is being given for housing developments only on condition that they are car-free, applicants are paying the County Council to exclude their properties from the Controlled Parking Zone as conditioned in order to get development completed, but are later submitting requests to the County Council to include them in the CPZ.

The problem is that there is increasing pressure on parking space in central Headington and along the Headley Way/Windmill Road corridors, and this is partly caused by owners of properties renting out their private driveways to employees in the area and parking their own cars on-street.

The government is pressing for planning authorities to grant consent for infill, intensification in areas where there is pressure on building space, and for offices to change their use to residential accommodation. This means that increasingly consent is given on condition that properties are car-free.

This latest appeal ruling gives the go ahead for the owner of flats in an area which will already be hit by reductions in on-street parking space as part of the Access to Headington scheme to apply for CPZ inclusion, and was unexpected in that many objections were received from all quarters ahead of the decision being made.

County and City officers are currently reviewing the decision notice and Ruth has discussed issues that have arisen with the planning team leader.

At some point the following questions will need to be addressed:

  • should there be a limit on the number of parking permits allowed per household in Headington? (there are elsewhere in the City)
  • should there be an urgent review of Headington Controlled Parking Zones and how will this be prioritised in terms of funding?
  • should more applications be refused on grounds of harm arising from increasing parking pressure in the area? And would they fall on appeal?

We would welcome your views on this.