Stagecoach bus services

David and I have been invited to discuss local Stagecoach bus service issues with the managing director of Stagecoach in Oxfordshire.

Do get in touch with us with any issues, suggestions for improvements, or problems with bus services, and we will include these in the discussion.  Please add your comments to this post, or contact us directly – our contact details can be found by clicking the Contact us link on the left hand bar.

I am also contacting all residents’ associations in the ward to ask for their views.

The re-routing of the no. 10 service from Headley Way to Osler Road will be on our agenda.

Stagecoach policy on family friendly fares

At the Central and N Headington Residents’ Association meeting, a local resident asked me to investigate Stagecoach’s policy on family friendly fares. Here is their response.

 “We are very keen to attract families and therefore offer group/family fares on all our services.  An Oxford adult Dayrider ticket costs £3.50 for unlimited number of journeys for up to 24 hours.  The family version costs £6.50 for up two two adults and three children.   To put this into context at day return to the city centre from Blackbird Leys in £2.80 for an adult and £1.40 for a child.  We offer rduced rate passes for travel to.from schools and colleges and, to encourage wider use by young people, last summer we extended their validity to allow travel at weekends and duting school holidays.  On Oxford Tube, children travel free when accompanied by an adult.  We are mindful of the requirements of families and are working on a number of other ideas an initiatives to make our services as “family friendly” as possible.

Bus routes through the City Centre to North Oxford

Further to our earlier post about the Oxford Bus Company bus routes through the City, I now have a response from Stagecoach to share with Headington residents, as follows:

“We split the direct service between Headington and Kidlington last in April last year, principally because it was impossible to run it reliably through the city centre. If delays occurred on one leg of the route, they would inevitably have an impact on the other. the effect of the Green Road roundabout reconstruction was disasterous for reliability, and, in the knowledge that other schemes were on the horizon, we decided that the only option was to split the service in two. Whilst I realise that this has caused inconvenience to many people and regret this, there is little prospect of restablishing the though service.

There are major road works schemes on both London Road and through Summertown at present together with work in St Aldates. The Westgate development, when it goes ahead, will cause further disruption to services. I regret to say that, whilst I would not rule out the prospect of a return to a through service at some point in the future, there is little prospect for one at present. “

Unoccupied dwellings in the City

At our recent street surgery, David and I were asked a very good question by a ward resident: does the Council know how many flats above shops in Headington are empty, and what steps are being taken to offer them to homeless people?

I have asked officers to investigate this, and this is underway. In the meantime, I have been sent a briefing note on empty dwellings across the City that contains some interesting figures that I thought you might like to see.

Unoccupied and Council Tax Exempt as from 1.07.08

Class Description No.
A Recently built or uninhabitable due to work (time limit of 12 months) 218
B Empty and owned by charities (up to 6 months) 122
C Vacant (empty and unfurnished) (up to 6 months) 434
D Left empty by persons in detention 1
E Left empty by patients in hospitals or care homes 61
F Left empty by deceased person (for up to 6 months after probate) 155
G Unfit for habitation (where occupation prohibited by law) 9
H Unoccupied pending use by a Minister of Religion 1
I Left empty by people receiving care 10
J Left empty by people providing care 6
K Left empty by students where the students remain liable 3
L Unoccupied where the mortgagee is in possession 16
Q Responsibility of a Bankrupt’s Trustees 0
R Unoccupied caravan pitch or house boat mooring 9
T Unoccupied Annexe not capable of separate occupation (e.g. ‘Granny Flat’) 2

All properties falling within the above Council Tax exemption classes would also be exempt from intervention by the Local Housing Authority under the Housing Act 2004 (empty dwellings)

Total empty dwellings 1724
Total exempt empty dwellings for purposes of empty dwelling legislation under Housing Act 2004 1047

Therefore, of the 1724 empty dwellings, 677 may not be exempt from intervention by the Local Housing Authority. However, that figure includes 44 dwellings owned by Oxford City Council which are empty pending demolition, disposal or refurbishment, at least 35 small Housing Association flats which are to be demolished and redeveloped as family accommodation, and numerous other properties which the owners intend to redevelop, remodel or re-let.

In a city of Oxford’s size, and with such a high proportion of transient residents (students, tourists, academics, medical personnel etc), it is inevitable that there will be a constantly shifting body of properties standing empty for various periods of time.

There is, however, a small number of properties (officers believe there are less than fifty) which are and have been empty for considerable periods of time, and where the owners, for one reason or another, have no intention of bringing the properties back into use. It is on these properties that the Council concentrates its efforts of persuasion & enforcement, through the work of the Empty Homes Officer, the Planning Enforcement Team, and officers of Environmental Development.

Here is a case study to show the sort of work that council officers undertake, acting on this data.

A landlord owned two properties in different parts of the city. Both were run down and in need of substantial works. One had suffered an arson attack. The owner had insufficient funds to commence work on either property, and could not sell either without making a substantial loss because of their condition. The Empty Homes Officer met the owner, and arranged for a Planning Officer to visit the burnt-out property. The Planning Officer gave the owner an informal view that the property was suitable for redevelopment into three flats. This enabled the owner to interest a developer, who eventually bought the property at a much better price than the owner had previously been able to ask. This, in turn allowed the owner to carry out remedial work on the second property. The redevelopment went ahead, and there are now four habitable properties where previously there were two pretty derelict buildings.

Bus services Barton-Headington- City Centre – N Oxford


I recently received an email from Manager Stefan Soanes of the Oxford Bus Company concerning an issue raised by a Headington resident about the difficulties faced by elderly people and those with mild mobility problems who find it awkward to transfer buses in the City Centre when travelling from Headington to Summertown.

I’ll post this reply up because it explains the rationale behind the move to split the former no. 2 route, and because it is interesting to note the statistics that he quotes:

“Traditionally the service from Barton/Headington to Oxford was linked to
the service that operated between Oxford and Kidlington, which was
numbered 2 and provided a through service from the North to the
Headington/Barton area.

The pedestrianisation of Cornmarket Street meant this service no longer
had the direct path through Oxford city centre to get from the High
Street to St Giles. Instead, the service made it’s way around the bus
priority system to the south and west of the centre before heading
north. This added additional time and mileage into the service.

I am sure you do not need me to tell you about the traffic congestion
leaving Oxford along the London Road through Headington. This increased
to the point that we could no longer operate a reliable service between
Oxford and Headington/Barton. However, the knock on effect was that the
‘linked’ part of the service to the North of the city would also be
adversely affected.

The route from Kidlington to Barton traveled through many traffic
hotspots and we were faced with the need to add more resources to the
route just to stand still and combat such traffic congestion.

Therefore, in order to operate as reliable service as we possibly can to
both areas the decision was taken to curtail both services in the city
centre with no through facility. We did not take this decision lightly;
survey work prior to the change found only 6% of passengers made the
through journey.

The outcome of this is that the residents of both Headington and North
Oxford have a more reliable bus service as congestion on one leg does
not affect the other service. Indeed the service 7 was curtailed in the
same way due to a further worsening of congestion since our service 2
was split.

I think as with most things, changes will affect some more than others.
It could be said that the benefits of having a reliable bus service for
94% of our passengers outweigh the fact that there is no through service
for the other 6%. However if there is a social need for public
transport that cannot be provided by commercial operation, the County
Council is empowered under the 1986 Transport Act to offer a tender for
such a service. It may therefore be worth approaching Allan Field at
the County as to whether this could be viable. ”

All comments welcome, just press the Comment? button above….

Disabled Access for Bury Knowle House?

It seems for ever that disabled access has been talked about at Bury Knowle House. It ic certainly needed for access to the library which, at the moment, is by the steep stairs facing onto the park. Now, at last, we can report some action or, at least, preparation for action. Plans are actually being drawn up, finally, to provide a lift to the left of the entrance (looking from the park). The plans are being drawn up by the agents of the County Council. They will be submitted as a planning application and probably discussed at a future Area Committee — if, by then, we are still allowed to make any decisions at Area Committees (read elsewhere about that scandal). In the meantime, don’t hold your breath but we may, at last, see action.

The Future of The Black Boy

I have been liaising with Greene King, who own The Black Boy on Old High Street, following the departure of the last tenant. As you’ll know, it’s now under temporary management but Greene King have now told me that they have  found new permanent tenants and it is hoped that they will take over by the middle of September. I am also in contacting with the new tenants who are enthusiastic and highly able. We will post more when we  have discussed with them further but this could be really good news for Headington.

Stapleton Road Appeal

News just in: a few weeks ago, Highfield residents and myself defended a planning decision concerning 16, Stapleton Road. The issue at stake was whether parking permits should be allowed for the flats. The application had been rejected, against the advice of officers, because the original application had envisaged a car-free development and this would clearly undermine that. At the appeal, the developer’s agent not only argued vehemently against the decision but also caused for the Council to pay costs to the developer for having acted unfairly.

The inspector’s decision has come through today: no costs against the Council and, what’s more, the appeal has been dismissed.

In reality, this is a small issue but an important decision. If it had gone the other way, it would have made it all the harder to be able to ensure that future small developments were car-free and thus reduced the number of vehicles in our area. That’s not to say there are not problems with car-free developments, with tenants often not realising they are not supposed to have a car and getting understandably upset when they are belatedly told that. But that’s not a reason not to try to make such a system work — and it’s very good news to have the inspector agree with us. I’d like to thank the residents of Stapleton Road who worked with Stephen, Ruth and myself to get this result: well done!

White Hart application

The White Hart, the attractive pub on St. Andrew’s Road in Old Headington is applying for a change to its alcohol licence, in order to allow smokers to use the back garden after 11pm in the evening. The details are on the City Council’s website, under item 08/00734/PREM. If you live in the immediate vicinity and want to make a representation about this application, write to the Council ahead of the deadline on 26th August. If you want advice about how to make a representation, do drop Ruth or myself a line.

Appeal allowed – Headington School

The Planning Inspector has allowed Headington School’s appeal against refusal for floodlighting for their new sports pitch bordering London Road. This will be a disappointment to the residents nearby who have been concerned about the possibility of light pollution as well as the ugliness of the lights. The North East Area Committee rejected the application when it was discussed and Cllr Chris Scanlan (LibDem, Barton and Sandhills Ward) represented the Council at the appeal.