Beech House construction traffic – response from Planning Enforcement

As promised, here is the response from the City Council regarding the requests from us and from Highfield Residents’ Association for enforcement action regarding the change of access route for construction vehicles to/from the Beech House site in Latimer Road via Highfield residential roads.

I have reviewed the original planning permission, the Construction Traffic Management Plan and the information sent in by yourself and the local residents.

Whilst the Construction Traffic Management Plan does limit the access to the development from London Road, on to Latimer Road and into the site, having discussed the matter with a number of council officers and under the circumstances, it is the council’s decision that is not expedient to take any enforcement action against the breach of planning control in this instance.

The National Planning Policy Framework advises that “local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control”. In this instance, the developers are not wilfully choosing to breach their planning conditions under normal circumstances but have been forced into a temporary deviation due to other unrelated works that affect access into their site. It would not be reasonable to prevent deliveries from accessing the site or stop the site from developing whilst the Hospital’s energy pipework is installed.

Even if the council did decide that enforcement action was expedient and proportionate, the amount of time it would take to prepare, serve a breach of condition notice and the time for compliance allowed to the developers would likely exceed the time the London Road/Latimer Road junction is temporarily closed for. Any prosecution the council tried to bring against the developers would likely be dismissed as the developers would have a more than reasonable argument as to why they couldn’t temporarily comply with the condition.

The council is working with the county Highway team and the developers to try to make the situation as manageable as possible during the road closure and ensure residents are impacted as little as possible.

During the temporary closure of the London Road/Latimer Road junction, issues of highway safety should be referred to the Highway team at the county council or to the local police force who have the jurisdiction to deal with such matters.

I appreciate that this is not a welcome decision for you or the affected residents but I hope you can appreciate the reasoning why the council have arrived at the decision we have.

Beech House construction traffic in Highfield

We have been contacted by a number of residents with concerns about the high volume of construction vehicles in various streets in Highfield. Residents have reported queues of construction vehicles in Latimer Road, a low loader in Stapleton Road, blocked access to driveways, use of a private road for construction vehicles turning and damage to trees.

The original construction access route approved with the planning consent specified entry and exit via London Road. London Road is now closed for three weeks for the energy pipe trench work. An application was sent to the City Council Planning Dept last week requesting alternative access to the site. There was recognition that this would entail the use of smaller vehicles. Councillors have not been sent a copy of this document so we don’t yet know the exact details.

The process for this type of variation application is for the planning officer to send out the revised scheme to County Council depts. for comment before making an informed decision under delegated authority.

The decision on whether or not to grant consent has not yet been made as comments are still being collated.

Until planning consent is given for a revised access plan,  we are advised that access to the site other than via London Road is technically a breach of condition of planning consent. It is possible to request investigation by the Planning Enforcement team if a breach of condition can be substantiated. In the light of the above complaints from residents, both Ruth and Highfield Residents’ Association have made a request for enforcement action.  We are awaiting a formal response from the City Council and will post it up on this site when we get it.

Ruth and Altaf have also written separately to the planning case officer to make sure that the impact on residents and particularly the safety of childen and families on their way to school is fully taken into account when the delegated decision is made on whether the revised plan should go ahead, and to ask for the County Networks Team to re-consider any comments they may already have made to reflect the experiences of today.

Frontier has sent the following statement following a full and frank discussion regarding construction traffic to/from the Winvic Beech House site.

We have spoken but to confirm I have spoken with our team and can report as follows:

The low loader that came today had not been booked and Winvic had no knowledge of its arrival. The vehicle has been removed and will not be returning to site and the contractor involved has been severely reprimanded.

There have been 2 lorries on Latimer Road and one is a stationary stud welding vehicle and needs positioning to carry out work. It will only be there today and will not be returning. The other deliveries are being called in as required.

Winvic are in touch with [redacted] at Oxfordshire and he is fully aware of what we have in place to manage construction traffic while the energy works are being carried out and the Construction Traffic Management Plan has been updated accordingly.

I can assure you that we will keep working to make sure our scheme runs smoothly with minimum disruption to the community. Please do let us know if there are any other issues.

Energy pipe – Christmas update

Work on the first phase of the energy pipe works is coming to an end. Trenches in Lime Walk, All Saints Road and Latimer Road are being backfilled and resurfaced, ready for a final clean on Friday. At today’s meeting with the County Council, Vital Energi and the Trust, we discussed the lining in the affected roads. It was agreed that double yellow lines would be painted before the start of the Christmas weekend – if this cannot be scheduled by the City Council, this will be done by Vital Energi as we don’t want any safety issues to come up from parking on corners and other hazardous spots. White lines for parking slots need to be checked to make sure locations tally exactly with traffic orders, so will be re-painted back in the New Year.

The second stage of works to the south side of London Road will resume on 3 January. Work on the north side of London Road is scheduled to start on January 16th. For the schedule of works, please go to the Trust’s website via this link.

Latest news on energy pipe works

There has been a change of plan regarding traffic management in Lime Walk up until Christmas. Three way traffic lights have now been ruled out for various reasons e.g. this would significantly increase the currently congested situation causing a bottleneck and as a result parking bays would need to be suspended in order to accommodate traffic waiting at a red light. We asked for assurances about the safety of pedestrians at that junction if another solution was found.

The preferred course of action by Vital Energi and the County Council now is for the traffic flow to continue as it is now, but with marshalls for pedestrian safety & manual traffic control.

Re enquiries about signage, the yellow diversion signs in the Stapleton/Bickerton Road areas are in place for drivers of vehicles unable to turn into Latimer Road from London Road who are following a diversion route. We realise that local residents don’t find these helpful but they are placed there to help visitors to the area.

Science Transit Bus route update

Following intervention from Headington Lib Dem councillors, the following communication has been received from the University.

After meeting the County and discussion with UNO Bus Ltd we have agreed to maintain the service on the current routing for the time being and not to implement a diversion.

We will continue to review the situation and if it does transpire that congestion causes problems with reliability we will again re-examine.  However, a diversion by Lime Walk is clearly in no-one’s interest whilst the Heat Pipe works are in operation.

I will contact you in advance if this situation changes and would be happy to meet in due course

Ruth says,

This is a welcome move by the University at a time when many residents are beset by roadworks, parking displacement, and temporary road closures.

Roads re-open in Highfield

All Saints Road, Bickerton Road and Latimer Road are now open to through traffic, pending the submission of a planning application by the contractors Vital Energi to Oxford City Council.

A temporary road surface has been tarmacked across the top of the filled in trench as an interim measure. When the pipe is laid and the road surface is reinstated after the works, the finish will be of a much higher standard.

The City Council hopes to receive the planning application and supporting documents early next week.

Thanks to all residents for your forbearance while this is sorted out.

Temporary surface at All Saints Road

Energy link work suspended temporarily

Here is a press release which was sent to us by Vital Energi this evening

“We have received correspondence from the Local Planning Authority of Oxford City Council regarding the energy link which we are currently investigating further. Works associated with the energy link underground utility services and the formation of the service trench have been suspended whilst discussions with the Local Planning Authority continue. We will continue to work closely with Oxford University Hospitals Trust, the Local Planning Authority, Residents and Stakeholders to minimise disruption. Further updates will be provided in due course.”

 

Ashley Malin, Project Development Director, Vital Energi

We are presently trying to find out whether parking suspension notices in Stapleton Rd can now be withdrawn, whether the fencing in All Saints Road can come down, and whether the road closures will remain. We shall update this site as soon as we know more.

County Council’s position statement on energy pipe project

We are publishing the Chief Legal Officer’s email dated 29/12 in full. It explains why the County Council believes it has undertaken its role (limited to granting permission) lawfully but it is not ‘legal advice’ as such. Those wishing to explore the possibility of taking legal action will need to seek their own independent advice.

  • I am not aware of all the communication that has (or has not) taken place.  Clearly officers considered they should have done more and you have received an apology.  I am not sure I can add much to that.  I believe the County did urge the Trust to undertake consultation as they are the key players in this Scheme.  Fundamentally, the County’s role is to ensure they have permission to undertake work on the Highway – not unlike many applications for permission the Council receives…
  • In terms of Vital Energi – acting for the Trust – they have not claimed statutory powers to undertake works to the Highway – such as, say, a mainstream utility company.  The route for those who are not a statutory undertaker is to seek permission to undertake work from the Highway Authority.  Vital Energi are a licensee, not a statutory undertaker.  Having said that, it is a condition of the licence that they abide by the provisions of the New Roads and Street Works Act.
  • Licence applications were originally applied for in January 2014 but these were not granted although detailed discussions did take place about the work Vital Energi wanted to undertake.  That resulted, finally, in further applications being made on the 28 October 2015 and granted on the 21 December 2015 – I can confirm that the works would be classed a ‘major works’ for the purposes of the NRSWA.
  • Ordinarily a licence holder is required to give 3 months’ notice from the date when the licence is applied for, not from when it is granted.  The County agreed start dates within that 3 month period, mainly due to the proximity of other scheduled works and to start earlier was considered to be the least disruptive option.
  • As to the Executive Arrangements Regulations, the granting of a licence is a function delegated to officers.  It would not be a key decision because the County’s Constitution and the relevant Regulations define a ‘key decision’ as one which is likely to (a) involve the County in significant expenditure (which this does not) or (b): ‘to be significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in an area comprising two or more electoral divisions in the County’
  • As will be clear, a licence has been granted on each individual street, not for the whole Scheme.  I am not aware (although have not checked in detail) that these would involve two electoral divisions.  However, even if they did, the term ‘significant’ is defined as 25% of the people living or working in the area.  I do not believe that that threshold has been met.  As such, the grant of the licences would not be a key decision which requires an Cabinet/Executive decision.
  • In terms of the subsoil, that is really a question for the Trust.  The County’s principal concern is with the Highway fabric and as much subsoil as is needed to keep the Highway intact.  The ownership of the subsoil and notification that may need to be made to the owners of that is, as I say, a matter for the Trust undertaking the work.
  • I would not profess to know the detail of the City’s planning powers, but certainly the County’s role is restricted to granting permission under the New Roads and Street Works Act to those who wish to install apparatus  in the Highway or break open the highway for this purpose.  Accepting that communications can always be improved, I believe we have carried out that function appropriately and lawfully.  I note you are seeking your own advice on the planning issue.
  • In terms of the parking issue I can confirm this has been actively considered and the County has agreed that affected residents may apply for Visitors Permits to park in adjoining streets, outside of their designated Controlled Parking Zone.  The issue of funding of that has yet to be addressed as between the County and the Trust, but that does not affect the right of residents to apply.

Details re the visitors’ parking permits follow in the next email.

We have asked for further details regarding the “proximity of other scheduled works” which was referred to above, so that we can understand why the period of notice of less than 3 months for major works was considered to be the least disruptive option – we are expecting a further email on this later in the week.

We have also queried the dates on the temporary traffic order notices issued on 29/12/15 – there is a discrepancy between dates displayed in notices on street and those on the TTRO for All Saints Road, and the end date for the Sandfield Road works is currently listed on the TTRO as Tuesday 22 April – it’s likely that this should read Friday 22 April but we are asking for clarification.