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.

Improvements to Oxford’s play areas massively overdue

Cllr Alan Armitage, Chair of North Area Committee, by the recently improved play area at Aristotle Recreation Ground  (photography: Alan Armitage)


The Labour administration on Oxford City Council has announced significant new budget for improving and maintaining Oxford’s play areas, but the Lib Dems are asking who will lose out.

Said David Rundle, Lib Dem leader on the City Council: It’s all too true that refurbishing Oxford’s play areas is massively overdue. Under previous Labour administrations, they were left to rot. It was the Lib Dems in 2006 who highlighted the problem and started a programme of refurbishment.

He added: “What Labour has announced may sound good, but it would be wise to ask a few questions. It is claimed that more money will be spent but who will pay for it? Even on the most optimistic forecasts, there’s going to be at least £500,000 to be found. We know that Mr Brown has put the thumbscrews on local council and there’s no money to spare, so what’s going to be cut to make up the shortfall?

Lib Dems want to know how the communities are going to be involved in the decisions. Labour say they will consult – but, as the Conservatives have shown repeatedly at County Hall, consulting is not the same as listening. Much better than consulting is actually making the decision in the local communities which are affected.

Latimer Road surgery

Many thanks to those who attended our street surgery this evening, we enjoyed meeting you and are taking up the issues you raised. Over 25 people attended and the event was very worth while. We shall be repeating our street surgeries in areas across the ward. Please watch out for details of our next surgery by clicking the box in the left hand margin

Some of the issues you raised included:  the future of the Dorset House site, uneven footpaths, the site of the old tree stump, the drains in Latimer Road, the delivery lorry at 4 am to St Luke’s Hospital, parking problems, rubbish problems at a site in Beech Road, RPZs for disabled constituents and their carers, green waste, replacement tree planting, cycling on pavements, affordable housing, and health and safety incidents involving buses in Osler Road

We are on the case!

Have your say on neighbourhood nuisance!

I am about to join a review panel on antisocial behaviour which will have a remit for scrutinising facts and figures on how “antisocial behaviour” or neighbourhood nuisance is tackled by the City officers and the agencies with they work in partnership.

The scope of this panel is being drawn up currently – if you have any ideas about what this should be, or if you have any comments about the way in which antisocial behaviour is tackled across the City, please let me know soon – by Thursday 7 August, or at the street surgery in Latimer Road on Thursday night from 6.00 pm-7.30 pm. I would welcome your comments on this.

Bus tickets and fare stages

Oxford City Council Concessionary Travel Scheme  Concessionary bus passengers are often concerned that zero-value concessionary tickets issued to them by bus drivers appear to mis-state the actual destination of the passenger. Passengers may be worried that the Council will be “over-charged” for the journey made, and have regularly raised this concern with elected members and Council staff.  The fact is that with the Council’s present arrangements for reimbursing bus operators, there is not a direct relationship between the length of a passenger’s journey and the payment that the bus operator receives for carrying that passenger. So it makes no difference to the operator – or to the Council – if drivers accurately record concessionary passenger destinations, or do not. The key thing is to ensure that drivers accurately records all concessionary zero fare journeys as such, and that no fare paying passengers are recorded as making a concessionary journey. 

Accurate estimation of the fare revenue that the operator would receive from concessionary passengers if there was no concessionary scheme is a very complex and controversial topic, in which practical considerations are as important as theoretical accuracy. Estimates of the fare that would be paid for concessionary journeys is only one aspect of this. The method used by the City Council uses the average cash fare actually paid by non-concessionary passengers as a proxy for the average fare that would be paid by concessionary passengers in the absence of the scheme. This avoids the practical problems of having to accurately record the actual destinations of all concessionary passengers. It means that errors in recording concessionary passengers have no impact on the amount of reimbursement received by operators.  Other concessionary travel schemes do use the destinations stated by passengers to estimate the fare, but the accuracy of this method relies upon both passengers precisely identifying where they are alighting, and accurate recording of this by the driver. It should be noted that it will often be the case that the alighting stage recorded by the driver will not be the same as the destination stated by the passengers. This does not necessarily imply an error on the part of the driver. The reason is that fares may not vary between alternative alighting stops – indeed, in

Oxford, there are very few distinct fares, so that the same fare is charged for a very large number of specific bus stop to bus stop journeys. So there is no need for drivers to record the precise destination – and if the driver was require do so, this would significantly slow down bus operations and make all passengers’ journeys slower. The conclusion is that concessionary passengers should not be concerned if their zero-fare ticket shows a different alighting point to that stated to the driver. It does not imply that the Council will get charged more for the concessionary journey, and in any case is quite likely not to reflect any error on the part of the driver.