Trial road closures will NOT go ahead

As you know, local councillors were asked just over a week ago to provide comments on the suggestion of trial road closures in Highfield and I advised the County that I would be collating responses and getting back to them by the end of this week. However, to my surprise and (to be honest) annoyance, the County has not waited for that feedback but announced a decision. The e-mail  which I have just received sets out in detail their argument and decision. To cut the chase: the County has decided not to carry out trial closures in the Lime Walk area, primarily  because of lobbying from the emergency services.

Many residents  have expressed an opinion on this issue. Some  will be relieved, others dismayed, others downright angry — there is a wide variety of views within the area to be affected by the closures and adjoining streets. Some will feel that the area has been robbed of possible closures after the press coverage a couple of months back but, as I have said before, the newspaper was misinformed by the present MP for Oxford East: he went to the press claiming that trial closures were definite without either having a written guarantee that they were to take place and without thinking through the controversy his action would cause. He should have known better. But that is behind us and the question now is how we move forward.

I am determined that we do not lose the opportunity actually to get measures to help the Lime Walk area. I have represented Headington for over seven years and in that time I have seen detailed proposals drawn up, then torn up, followed by a refusal to consider any changes in the area. What has happened has now put the issue back on the agenda and we must capitalise on that. The County is now, after years of saying ‘no’, offering to come up with measures for the area, within what seems to me a curiously short time period. I welcome that but what I will welcome more is fuller consultation with all local residents so that they can be engaged in the solutions to the problems that they have to face.

I and my ward colleague, Ruth Wilkinson, will be meeting members of the Highfield RA traffic group later this evening. We expected the meeting to be about our response to the County in consulting on trial closures. The agenda will be different now. What remains the same is my determination — and that of everyone around the table, I am sure — to get to solutions of the situation and not to allow this very real issue once again to disappear from the County’s view.

As always, if you want to contact me or Ruth, please do drop us a line.

What do you think about trial road closures for the Lime Walk area?

It’s fair to say that one of the most controversial proposals to have come up recently is the suggestion that there should be trial road closures in the Lime Walk and Latimer Road area. Ruth and I have received a very large post-bag (yes, even during the strikes) from people both in favour and extremely worried about the suggestion.

As we have said before, the County has not made any firm commitment to going ahead with closures. Last week, we received the latest communication about the proposals from the County. They have asked for our opinion and we will be sending a formal response but before we do so, we’d be interested to hear from you. We certainly intend to emphasise to the County the importance of seeing any trial closures in the context of wider traffic management measures — we certainly do not want to get into a situation where, if there are trial closures and the County judges them as a failure, that there are no other options on the table. We will also stress that the range of possible measures should be put to the local population for their comment, with the intention of making sure we do get action to help deal with the traffic problems in the area. Of course, that consultation will also need to make clear what would be judged a success or failure for any trial closure.

Any there other comments you’d want us to add? We already have a sense of the range of attitudes in the area, but are always ready to hear from more of you! You can respond by leaving a comment here, or by e-mailing myself, Ruth or Altaf.

Headington’s newest buildings: what do you think?

In the past few weeks, the wrapping has come off Headington’s newest buildings — the flats and offices at the top of Lime Walk. It’s the site where the Royal Mail sorting office used to be and I suspect that you, like us, would prefer that to have stayed. But, in their wisdom, Royal Mail closed it down and sold it off and now we have a new addition to Lime Walk’s street-scene.

The buildings are designed by Douglas Riach, who was also the architect for the elegant London Road building used by Scott Fraser, and for John Leon House, further up on the corner of the main road. When the plans were first presented, I must say I was worried by the design, particularly the arch of the metallic roof curving down half the height of the building. So, it was a surprise to me when I saw the building and thought it was actually an interesting arrival in the street…

…But I expressed my opinion the other day to one of the residents of Lime Walk whose reaction was ‘how can you? It’s the worst building I’ve ever seen.’ As another person present commented on our difference of opinion: tastes differ. But Ruth and I would both be interested to hear your views on the Lime Walk building — and on the architecture of Headington more generally. Do leave us a comment!