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Improving Oxford City homes – latest update

Oxford City Homes Tenants and Leaseholders may be interested to click on this link to find out about the progress of the homes improvement work plan. Click on the link to the Homes Improvement Works Plan edition 2 December 2008 to access a document which tells you what work will be carried out in OCH homes in different areas of Oxford. In our ward, properties in the following roads are included:

  • Bury Knowle House
  • Gardiner Street
  • Headley Way
  • Laurel Farm Close
  • London Road
  • Mattock Close
  • New High Street
  • North Place
  • Old Road
  • Stephen Road
  • York Road

If you think your property should have been included in this work list, then telephone 0800 227676 to ask why it’s been missed out.

City Council dilemma on making planning decisions

Plans for the Kennet Valley 'mini-town' have temporarily been withdrawn

Lib Dems believe that planning decisions should be made as close as possible to the people affected

An inadequately argued proposal from the Labour administration on Oxford City Council, to remove the right of area committees to make decisions on planning applications in their areas, and to return to centralised decision-making, was so fundamentally amended at the last full council meeting that the council is now in limbo.

Since 2002, when a Lib Dem-led administration set up six area committees to make decisions affecting their own communities – including deciding key planning applications – people in Oxford have found that they can get much more involved with matters which concern them, and can influence their councillors much more effectively. Attendance at area committee meetings is regularly many times higher than was the case with centralised planning committees.

But the current Labour administration has vowed to change this, and return to a system of decision-making in the Town Hall by councillors who often know very little about the likely effect of their decisions on the people living closest. Said Lib Dem group leader Cllr David Rundle: “We have protested loudly that there has been very little consultation about this change with the communities affected. Representatives of many groups in the city have come forward in recent days to object, but they have been ignored by the Labour group. This flies in the face of their own Government’s claims to want to increase the powers of communities to decide things which affect them.”

Added Cllr Rundle: “Labour claim that the change will save the council money, but their financial case is so full of holes that they dare not let the scrutiny committee, or area committees, check it out. We have heard a succession of contradictory and false statements by the portfolio holder, and it is clear that the whole idea is being pursued for reasons which have nothing to do with community empowerment or improving quality of decisions.”

As a result of amendments agreed in council, the council may now allow area committees to decide for themselves whether they want to retain planning powers. People in those areas of the city with Labour-dominated area committees would find their planning decisions being made centrally, with limited opportunities to hold their councillors to account.

Water Watch in Old Headington

tap.jpg

David and I have been informed by Thames Water that the cleaning out of the sewers has now been completed in Old Headington. The extent of the operation had to be extended as they found the line was heavily fatted and greased, and was heavily scaled

This should have sorted out the problems. Please let us know if anything else needs to be done

Changes to controlled parking zone restrictions

David and I received notification of this today from the County Council

OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL (HEADINGTON CENTRAL, OXFORD)(CONTROLLED PARKING ZONE AND VARIOUS RESTRICTIONS) (VARIATION No.6) ORDER 200* NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that Oxfordshire County Council proposes to make the above mentioned Order under Sections 32, 35, 45 & 46 and Parts III & IV of Schedule 9 to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and all other enabling powers. 
The effect of the proposed Order will be to amend the Oxfordshire County Council (Headington Central) (Controlled Parking Zone and Various Restrictions) Order 2005, as amended and revoke the Oxfordshire County Council (Headington Central) (Controlled Parking Zone and Various Restrictions) (Variation No.5) Order 2008 effectively replacing Schedule 4 Part A.
  The proposal is to:

1.      exclude the following properties from eligibility for residents, business and visitors permits:

·         Champneys Court (Flats 1-6) 88 Windmill Road.·         Edna Rose Court (Flats 1-5) 90 Windmill Road.

·         No 124A Lime Walk.

·         Lime Tree Mews (Flats 1-12) 2 Lime Walk.   

·         Wingfield House (Flats 1-5) 2A Gathorne Road

.  2.      include the following property as eligible for residents and visitors permits

  • No 124 Lime Walk.

Documents giving more detailed particulars of the proposed Order are available for public inspection at County Hall, New Road, Oxford OX1 1ND from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm Monday to Friday and at Headington Library, Bury Knowle Park, Headington on Monday & Wednesday from 9.15am to 1.00pm; Tuesday & Thursday 9.15am to 7.00pm; Friday 9.15am to 6.00pm; and Saturday 9.15am to 4.40pm. Objections to the proposal, specifying the grounds on which they are made, and any other representations, should be sent in writing to the Director for Environment and Economy (ref. MJR/TRO) at the address given below, no later than 15 January 2009. The County Council will consider objections and representations received in response to this Notice. They may be disseminated widely for these purposes and made available to the public.  Dated:  18th December 2008  Huw JonesDirector for Environment and EconomyOxfordshire County CouncilSpeedwell House

Oxford, OX1 1NE.

Planning decision overturned

Re: 10 STEPHEN ROAD – Application  08/01961/FUL

The Strategic Development Control Committee met yesterday and resolved to approve the application for the following reason, and subject to conditions as detailed in the planning officers report. The Council considers that the proposal accords with the policies of the development plan as set out in the report.  It has taken into consideration all other material matters, including matters raised in response to consultation and publicity.  Any material harm that the development would otherwise give rise to can be offset by the conditions imposed.

Why is David Rundle looking so excited?

congrats.jpg     Ruth Wilkinson writes…

I am sure everyone in the Headington Ward will join me in congratulating David and his fiancee Ruth on their recent engagement.  She’s either brave or foolhardy, but we wish her (and David!) all the very best for a long and happy future together.

 

PS from David: Thank you, Ruth, for your kind words about me and the other Ruth! (A source of eternal confusion). Like you, I’m surprised she said ‘yes’ but I’m not going to ask for a re-count. Thank you to those of you who have written to me and my fiancee with warm wishes: we appreciate it.

Will they listen? Well…they’re going to have to!

STOP PRESS

Councillors voted tonight and amended the recommendation on ways to handle planning decisions as follows:

Area Committees to be given the choice of whether or not they continue
to determine planning applications

So this means the paper will be referred through to area committee meetings for further debate, and if councillors at Area Committees vote against continuing to determine planning applications, they will have to do so in front of their own residents and residents’ associations who will be able to petition them and challenge them

Basically this will mean that, if councillors vote according to party lines then NEAC is likely to meet only every two months and won’t determine its own planning decisions, as I understand it, unless a couple of Labour councillors are brave enough to defy the whip.

This may mean that there will be disparities between the way planning decisions are made in different areas of Oxford

David and I feel that this outcome is better than we expected. We are really pleased that residents will now have the opportunity to have their say and we thank all those Headington residents and the Highfield Residents’ Association for taking such a spirited stand on the need for public consultation and partnership

Planning decisions – will they listen?

Full Council meets at 4 pm on Monday 15 December to discuss a proposal that has been driven through by the Labour administration without any consultation with the public. Nor has there been any consultation with Group leaders of opposition parties or the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of area committees. The proposal is to take away the powers of the area committee members (local City councillors) to make decisions on planning applications in wards they represent. The administration and officers have also refused to let this badly-argued paper be properly examined by the main scrutiny committee.

This proposal spurns local democracy

  • You have emailed us and told us this proposal will not result in better decisions
  • You have phoned us and told us this proposal will not save money
  • You have written to us and told us this proposal will turn away local people from getting involved as active citizens
  • You have organized written and verbal statements to full Council to tell all councillors that making changes like this without engaging with the community is fundamentally wrong

But will they listen? We will know Monday night.

Do planning decisions matter to you?

Nowadays we are called ‘front-line’ councillors because much of our work is in on the doorstep. But there are times when what happens outside Headington, in the Town Hall, needs must take up the attention of councillors — and residents. It can be a frustrating distraction, but when the Council announces it intends to undermine radically the way things work and hinder the job of ward councillors, then it’s time to fight back.

One of those times is now. Much of the casework both Ruth and myself pursue relates to planning issues, because residents know that we, like all councillors, sit on our local Area Committee where planning decisions are made. But the Labour administration wants to stop that and take planning away from local decision-making. Not only that, but they want to do it without even going through the must basic process of consultation. So, earlier this week I wrote to some of my local residents for whom I’ve worked on planning issues. Here is what I said:

Dear Headington resident,

 

I am writing to you as you are one of the many people I have attempted to help in the past over a planning issue that has concerned you. Unfortunately, in the future, it will be more much difficult for me to be of assistance – if Labour at the Town Hall get their way.

 

Here is the background. At the moment, a large or controversial application can be heard in the local community, with local residents having their voice heard and their local councillors making the decision in front of them, at the Area Committee. Labour’s proposal is to stop that happening. They argue that this is inefficient and that planning should be decided away from the local area. They also want to decrease the number of councillors who can vote on planning. That will mean that councillors like me who are interested in working for the best interests of their patch but would not want to stick their nose into areas of the city they know less well will be excluded from all planning decision-making. They argue that instead a councillor like me could be an ‘advocate.’ They don’t seem to realise that councillors who are not making planning decisions are soon going to be out of touch with the changing demands of planning law and end up being unreliable advocates.

 

So, if I have helped you with advice before a planning meeting, if I have asked questions prompted by your concerns at an Area Committee, if I have appeared on behalf of you at a Planning Appeal, I have been glad to do all that and believe that, working with you, we have achieved some successes. But Labour want this to stop.

 

If this is the first you’ve heard of all this, that’s a mark of what makes this even worse: Labour are trying to push through this significant change without even consulting Oxford’s residents. They have made no attempt to ask the local people who go to Area Committees or who write in about planning applications what they would prefer.

 

Is there anything that can be done to stop this mean-spirited, half-baked plan? I will certainly be working hard to force Labour actually to consult and to listen to what local people say. You can help by writing to any Labour councillors you know asking them not to vote with their party on this key issue. But this is urgent: Labour have set a date of 15th December for a decision to be made.

 

If all this sounds party-political, I’m afraid it’s unavoidable. It is a Labour administration who are attempting to force this through – and, from what I’ve seen, it’s all too  typical of their top-down attitude, telling people what is good for them, rather than letting people decide what they think will work for them.

 

And if I sound angry, that’s because I am. I have served Headington for more than six years, with planning being one of the ever-present issues in my post-bag. I don’t take kindly to being told part of my job is no longer any of my business.

 

I’ve been amazed by the level of reaction. One of the reasons that I want there to be proper consultation on this issue before a decision is made is because I really wouldn’t want to second-guess local opinion on this matter. But even I am surprised and relieved by the level of interest there is in planning and the desire to keep it local — coming from people of all persuasions and none.

At the moment, my own opinion is that there are three failings in what is proposed. First, it won’t do what it says on the packet: what’s proposed won’t achieve the savings or the ‘improved efficiency’ that is supposed to be its purpose. But that’s a problem for Labour who have come up with a plan which to my mind, and in the opinion of many local residents who have written to me, is wrong in principle: it flies in the face of the talk of community engagement which, it now appears, is empty rhetoric on their government’s part. But my own opinion is now — as it is whenever I discuss a particular planning application with objectors or the applicant — only tentative and provisional. Because my third point is that this is no way to make such an important decision. Consultation must come first. And I don’t mean consultation Tory-style where the County Council asks people a question and then ignores the answer. I want the Council on which I sit to be better than that: it should both give people the chance to comment and actually listen to the responses. Is it too much to ask for that? We will see on Monday.