Here is a reprint of the piece Ruth wrote for last week’s Oxford Times (p77) in case you missed it!
2018 is going to be an exciting year for Headington. But with some traffic chaos thrown in, so no changes there!
Bad news first. There will be roadworks practically all year starting January, in the Headley Way area for 36 weeks, then in Windmill Road, as part of Access to Headington improvements. Let’s hope the outcome is worthwhile. I’m still pushing for the pedestrian crossing point across London Road from Osler Road if money allows.
But what great community projects are opening up following the success of the Neighbourhood Plan referendum result! This has released community infrastructure levy contribution for Headington, and we’ve identified unspent developer money too.
Working together with Headington Action and residents’ groups, there are a number of new initiatives about to kick off.
Chief among these are projects to promote Headington’s character and identity. Headington’s not just a main road to use between Oxford and London, we have culture and heritage and technological achievements we are proud of.
We are currently looking to introduce audio-benches and audio-posts in Bury Knowle Park and through the centre that tell Headington’s story – its people, its history, its achievements. Another venture is to provide a central wifi hotspot where people can access and download information about Headington to their smartphones using a QR code – this could help people use walking trails or get information on local shops and amenities.
Our biggest tourist attractions are Bury Knowle Park and the Shark. We’re looking to put in a new circular seat near the flagpole with an audio-post explaining the history and amenities of the Park and the House. And a group of residents are keen to get the Shark listed, so that it has some protection in planning terms. Like it or loathe it, the Shark brings visitors to Headington and boosts local trade, so it makes good economic sense to look after it. It’s an internationally renowned icon and it continues to delight generation after generation. Let’s celebrate its quirkiness!
Headington Action already runs amazingly successful events like its Headington Market, and plans for next year’s Headington Festival are already well under way.
The LED lighting in Headington centre’s trees is a great start to brightening up the centre. There is also a greening project in preparation that will encourage folk to plant bee, bird and insect-friendly plants in public and private spaces.
There’s a project looking at bringing together all local groups who provide activities for those in our area who feel isolated or lonely, and finding out how these can be supported more effectively all year round.
The Neighbourhood Forum has called on the City Council to undertake a governance review that will take twelve months. One potential outcome might be that Headington could get its own Community Council, with more powers devolved to local community councillors. This would encourage even more people to get involved in community action. Exciting times!
For many, the biggest worry is the lack of affordable homes. Headington’s staggering economic growth brings challenges: hospitals and care homes fight to retain staff because low-paid public and private sector workers can’t afford local rents. Workers have to commute in, and this impacts on congestion and air quality.
More keyworker housing is needed, and quickly – particularly for young families. We need innovative housing schemes for those trying hard to save up for a deposit on a home. The publication of the Masterplan for the hospital sites could be a long-term game-changer if it incorporates more homes and deals with its parking problems.
2018 brings many challenges and opportunities for Headington. There is much to look forward to!
Ruth Wilkinson, Lib Dem Councillor for Headington Ward