Category Archives: West Way

West Way – Planning Committee supported Botley

The Planning Committee met on Wednesday night to consider Doric’s plans for Botley and decide what our future will look like. Or, WON’T look like, in this case. Doric’s plans were refused unanimously; the final vote was 13-0.

I have a lot of thoughts about the whole process, and what I’ve learned, what this community and West Way Community Concern have learned. I saw so many courageous and compassionate people live up to very high expectations, and some people not manage to do that at all. Some people were able to put party politics aside and come to just and fair conclusions; others weren’t. Some people had a lot of influence behind the sceens, and won’t get enough recognition for it. Others were visible and did their work out in the public eye. Everyone played their part and we got the right result.

At the end of it all, we got to see what people stand for. And the result was heartwarming; most people stand for community, for localism, for democracy. They stand for kindness, and fairness, and effectiveness. Even the poor Vale Cabinet decision making couldn’t destroy a vibrant community.

Do you have high expectations of people to step up, when called, and do the right thing? I do. Generally those expectations are met. There are very few people who simply want to hurt others (I’ve seen those too) but most people want to help others and to do the right thing. These people deserve our thanks.

I’m so pleased at the outcome. At the same time, I want to explore the path we took so that the good and effective practises we learned in this effort (was it a year and a half?) can be assimilated into the next Main Thing.

It’s not often I get to see karma within a short enough timespan to recognise it. This was gratifying.

West Way Development Forum – My Questions

17 Nov 14 Update. I received the answers. Mostly, they tell me that my questions aren’t material planning considerations. Of course I know this; they are material community concerns. Our second greatest fear (after the fear of them demolishing the centre of Botley to build this behemoth) is that they will build it and it will fail, leaving us without the resources we need to support our little community. Therefore it’s relevant to us whether they have a food store operator, whether Mace are the student housing operators due to the fact that no other operator would take it on (because the universities have said they won’t send their students here!), whether they’ve consulted with stakeholders outside Vale of White Horse, such as  Oxford City, or the two universities. They say in their docs that this development is not for the benefit of Botley or the Vale, but to benefit the City of Oxford. Therefore, they should have been working closely with the city and both of the universities to create a solution. They didn’t talk to either of them. Here you go. Have a read.

Botley Questions from Cllr Roberts and Cllr Hallet 13 11 _1


On 7 October 2014, Vale Planning Officers hosted a Development Forum for the various stakeholders of the West Way Redevelopment scheme to come together to get questions answered.

On the night, we ran over the alloted time. Those of us toward the end of the agenda asked our questions, but there wasn’t time to answer them there. We were promised a written reply from Doric within 10 days. I haven’t had my reply yet, and have now chased it, twice. Most recently, I’ve been promised I’ll have my answers next week.

I thought you’d be interested to see what I asked.

West Way Questions for Tues 7 Oct 14

  1. It appears that no Oxford City Council reps have been invited today. ES Vol I claims that student housing in Botley would be a Major Benefit, city-wide (not for Botley). There is no evidence that Oxford City Council has been consulted at all on the student accommodation. Why are none of those stakeholders present here?

  2. What discussions have been held, with whom, at Oxford City Council about this plan, and with what outcomes?

  3. What discussions have Doric/Mace held with the two universities regarding demand for  525 student rooms  in Botley for their students,  and with what outcomes?

  4. Doric say frequently the reason for student housing in Botley is to free up family homes currently occupied by students. What is their estimate of the number of student houses in Botley – thinking of their recent Saville Report?

  5. Could Doric/Mace comment on affordability of their proposed student housing.

  6. Specifically, what level of rent, at 2014/15 prices, would Mace expect to be charged for (a) a room in a cluster and (b) a `standard’ studio, and for what length(s) of contract?

  7. Oxford City policy requires that developers of new student housing contribute a sum to affordable housing elsewhere in the city. Vale has no such policies, because we have no policy for student housing, because we don’t have student housing here. How does the applicant see their responsibility to offset this high number of student housing with contributions to the true housing needs of the community? How is proposal not an attempt to circumvent City Policies by building in Botley?

  8. SMP p.6 states that the development `has been designed and configured to provide communal space for the students upon the podium.’ Given the size of the proposed student population, how is this compatible with the piazza area  being for the whole community?

  9. What’s the biggest building in Abingdon, and how does this plan compare in height and length? Wantage and Grove? These are the two biggest centres in the Vale.

  10. Who is the food store operator?

  11. Who is your student housing operator? When I Googled “Graduation Management Services” I got no results.

  12. How big is the superstore compared to Waitrose in Abingdon? (It’s hard for average person to visualise what 8100 sq m actually looks like, but most of us have been to Abingdon Waitrose.)




West Way planning decision delayed

I had this from David Buckle this evening:

Dear councillor
I wanted to let you know that we have decided to defer consideration of the West Way application by the planning committee, currently scheduled for 10 November.
Although we have been able to work through many issues since the application came in, there are still some that are unlikely to be sorted out in time for a report to the planning committee to be published in a week’s time.  Having discussed the matter with Doric/Mace, the developers, and Adrian Duffield we are all agreed that it makes sense to allow a little more time to try to resolve the outstanding issues.
We are currently looking for a new date sometime in December and I expect you to be notified of that date during next week.
Best wishes
David BuckleChief Executive, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils

West Way – it IS a political issue; don’t be bamboozled

How Tall panorama

How Tall? Balloons tried to show, but the gusty breezes prevented them rising to the full height of 8 stories right up next to the road. 11Oct 14 (click on photo to enlarge)

For those Conservatives (and anyone else) whining about how the Lib Dems have politicised this issue of the Doric deal for West Way redevelopment, I have three things to say about it. OK, four things.

First: In 2011, the Lib Dems (in power at the Vale), in collaboration with other property owners, listed Site 1 for sale for development, with some of the proceeds to be used to improve West Way Shopping Centre. (Site 1 is the extended corner of West Way and Westminster Way, comprising the Baptist Church, Seacourt Hall, Grant Thornton, part of the Co-op and all of its car park, and the Elms Court building (library, flats, bank and dry cleaners)). There were 13 bidders on the short list to buy Site 1.

Second: Then came the 2011 election, and we (the voters) elected a Tory majority in the Vale. One of the first decisions the Tories made was to sell Site 1 to Doric. That was quickly followed by a decision to sell Site 2 to Doric as well. They also decided to make the sale of both sites contingent on Doric gaining planning permission for a larger scheme, extending beyond site 1 and Site 2, that demolished the entire centre of Botley, both businesses and residences.

Third: Since then, your local Lib Dems have been working with this community to get the Tories to Drop the Doric sale deal. We have presented petitions to the Vale, tabled motions to full council of the Vale, and provided information to the newspapers. The Tories have refused to do anything to help. Your local Tory Vale councillor has been heard on the radio alongside Doric, giving his support to their plan for Botley. Our Tory MP, Nicola Blackwood, is opposed to the the plans. I don’t know what happens on the inside of the Tory party, but clearly they aren’t united in what they stand for.

Finally:  Vale officers are employed to implement the wishes of Cabinet, and they do that very capably. There’s only one way to ensure we get the Vale to listen to the residents and business owners of Botley and drop the sale to Doric, and that’s to vote differently in May 2015.

Conclusion: The decision to sell West Way, with the decision to make that sale conditional on Doric successfully gaining planning permission for the scheme to demolish the heart of Botley and build the behemoth that is proposed, IS political. It isn’t being politicised by the Lib Dems. That’s a #logicfail. Tories are trying to bamboozle the public. Don’t fall for it.

Oxford mail covers my policy change win

lib-dem-team-aLib Dem team at West WayThere’s good news for Botley in the Oxford Mail. (I hope you can follow the story.)

If you know me at all, you’ll agree the newspaper used a hideous photo. I look like a drunken crone. I may be a crone, but…

In the photo on the left, is Judy Roberts, Emily Smith, Layla Moran, me, Dudley Hoddinott, in a photo taken last winter. I think we all were quoted in the newspaper article except for Layla.

Here’s the link:

West Way Concern Present Petition to Vale Planning Committee

There are less than three weeks to go until the Vale Planning Committee decide about the Doric plans for West Way.

Tonight, West Way Concern are presenting a petition to the planning committee. It has 1000 people asking planning committee to refuse permission for this unwanted and inappropriate scheme.

Dr Caroline Potter is presenting it — I’ll try to get a copy of her speech and put it here. Here’s a link to her speech:

I wish I had  photo to share!


Oxford University – not interested in student housing

OU letter Goffin to Deech 8 Oct 14-page-001Here’s a letter from the Director of Estates at Oxford University, Paul Goffin, to Ruth Deech, making it very clear that they aren’t interested in any student housing in Botley.

I’ve also had an email from the Director of Estates and Facilities Management at Oxford Brookes University. She says,

‘Doric have been in touch with me and had had earlier conversations with the Director of Finance here at Brookes. I can assure you that we have again written to them stating  categorically that we have no need or no interest in contracting for any additional residential accommodation.’

If the two universities aren’t interested, how will they find any students at all, let alone post-grad students?


Drop the Doric Deal petition presented to Vale

Emily at Big FeteEmily Smith gave a confident maiden speech at Vale Council meeting on 15 Oct 14.

Emily, pictured on the right with me and Layla Moran at Botley’s Big Fete in Sep 2014, presented a petition to Drop the Doric Deal.

The petition says:

I/we, the undersigned, demand that the Vale of White Horse District Council drops the current proposals for the redevelopment of West Way. The scheme does not have the support of the community and the views of local residents have been ignored.

Emily had this to say on the night:

I am here this evening on behalf of my neighbours in Botley to present the District Council, and specifically the Cabinet, with a petition asking you to pull out of the deal with Doric Properties.

The petition was initiated by [the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate] Layla Moran three weeks ago and has already been signed by 650 people.

As you will be aware from the one thousand plus objections to the planning application, Doric’s proposal for the demolition and replacement of the west way shopping area is incredibly unpopular. It is now clear that the overwhelming view of the local community is strong opposition to the size, scale and design of the current plan.

For the past two years residents of Botley and the surrounding villages have had this planning application hanging over their heads. The stress, uncertainty and anxiety this has caused has been immense.

From our elderly neighbours at Field House who live in fear of losing their homes, to the local businesses that risk losing their livelihoods and letting their staff go. From families worried about the health, safety and practicality of their children getting to school in the mornings, to professionals wondering whether they should move away from the area before congestion on the Botley Road and A34 becomes unbearable.

The primary responsibility of elected members should be to work for and with local residents to ensure that local communities develop with full public support and involvement.

Yet in this case the Vale and Doric have failed to listen to or act upon any of the substantive concerns of local residents – leaving people feeling ignored.

But you, Councillors, have the power to put an end to all this anxiety right now.

You can chose to listen to the people who have signed this petition and withdraw from the deal with Doric before their application even gets to planning committee.

And yes, I understand (even without having seen the contract you have signed) that there may be a heavy financial penalty if you decide to pull out.

But you have to ask yourselves what would be the cost of letting the Doric proposal go ahead?

If the development were to bring in the additional consumers required and managed to be financially viable, it would clearly lead to massive congestion, addition pollution and the disintegration of a safe and well-functioning community.

That would be bad enough, but there is also a very real risk that Doric’s scheme could prove to be a huge white elephant – resulting in a loss of local services and great financial cost to the Vale, and therefore the tax payer.

It is not easy to admit that you have got something wrong but I urge you to think about the devastating impact this scheme will have on our community and ask you to withdraw from the deal with Doric before it is too late.

Members of the Council, it is time to pull out of the land deal with Doric and start working with local people to provide a new shopping area that is both economically viable and meets the needs of our growing community.