Category Archives: Litter & Graffiti

82 Westminster Way – vacant and derelict, for now

For years this property has been empty and derelict. For months I’ve been working with Vale officers to get the property cleared up; it’s the best we can do without legal action. But in the long term, I’d really like to see this house put back into use, either by making it habitable and ensuring there are occupants, or by demolishing it to build some new affordable residences.

This week I met with the head of planning, who agreed to seek advice from the legal team and housing team to begin to move forward on efforts to bring this long-term vacant house back into use. I feel renewed optimism.

Here’s the short history: 

Before this year, Vale enforcement officers served notices on the homeowner to clear up the property. There was no response to the orders.

There have been fires set, causing the fire brigade to respond. Windows and doors are broken, blighting that part of the neighbourhood. Environmental health have been called-out to deal with vermin infestation. Young people find it an attractive place to vandalise; police have been called to deal with brick throwing, for example. (Thanks to Emmett Casley for the photo.) It’s all made worse by being right beside the pedestrian under crossing children use to get to North Hinksey Primary School.

In January this year the Enforcement Team began the process of procuring a contractor to come and clear the site of overgrown shrubs and rubbish, secure broken doors and windows, and basically make it look not so derelict. Of course this is a short term solution, and will need to be repeated periodically as long as the property is neglected. Vale are realistic in not expecting to recoup these costs from the homeowner; apparently there is a long list of creditors with liens against the property.

One bit of good news: in the opinion of building inspectors, the building is not unsound and is unlikely to fall down. It’s not known what all the scaffolding at the site is for.

I’m concerned about three things, basically:

  • that we minimise the amount of taxpayers’ money used to make the property safe and reduce its attraction for more vandalism
  • that we explore legal options for bringing this house back into use
  • that action is ultimately taken to either make the house habitable, or demolish it and provide some new dwellings

This week I met with the head of planning, who agreed to seek advice from the legal team and housing team to begin to move forward on efforts to bring this long-term vacant house back into use. I feel renewed optimism.

As to what happens next, well the Vale is obliged to give the owner 30 days notice to retrieve any personal property from the site, and then the site will be cleared up. Notice was given in early March, so that clear up should happen in April. I consider this to be a reasonable use of our tax money to arrest decline.

(Have you heard of the broken windows theory?  In areas where there are broken windows, graffiti, and other vandalism and signs of dereliction, it somehow acts as implicit permission for more of the same behaviour. If we don’t clear up our neighbourhood messes, more messes appear. So I bang on about litter, graffiti, derelict houses and the like. Read more here:


Litter along the A34

In early Feb, it must’ve been, I was driving northbound on the A34 from Abingdon toward Botley, and noticed an amazing amount of litter along the roadside. Over the next few days, I decided it looked like a recycling lorry had driven that way with their back doors agape, strewing the plastic mess all over the road.

I went to the USA for three weeks, and visited Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah. The highways were pristine.

I got back home to the littered A34 and felt really angry and actually embarrassed that this is the first view many visitors to the country get of our part of the world. The next day I heard a heated discussion on Radio Oxford and learned I wasn’t the only one upset by this.

Now it’s been over two months since I first noticed the mess, and still nothing has been done.

Last night I spoke to the Cabinet member responsible for road cleansing and recycling. He’s a nice chap, and he tried to assure me. ‘It’s in hand.’ I asked (a few times) when it would be cleaned up, and he smiled kindly and said, ‘It’s in hand.’ So I asked again. We did this dance for a few minutes. At last, he offered to speak to the head of service and come back to me about when it would be cleaned up.

Hooray. I await notification. Do let me know if you notice anything, won’t you?


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