West Way consultation through 29 June

Mace have submitted plans for changes of use to support their re-phasing.

The application is for: Temporary planning consent for a period of 3 years for the change of use, relocation and addition of units at Botley Local Centre. Works also include alterations to access and egress arrangements, provision of 41 car parking spaces, partial demolition of Grant Thornton House, amendments to the phasing plan and installation of a portacabin (A1 use).

You can see the plans and Comment here:   http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/java/support/Main.jsp?MODULE=ApplicationDetails&REF=P17/V1507/FUL

Deadline for comments is 29 June, 5pm.

Missed bin pickup

Last week Biffa didn’t pick up textiles I’d put out for recycling. 

This week they missed my road for grey bins and food bins. 

I contacted them and actually complained. So here they are on a Saturday, picking up two days late. 

Unlike Theresa May, I think a bad deal is better than no deal. But the best thing is a good deal. 

A balanced approach

So in fairness (considering earlier today I criticised his Local Plan for failing to plan for solving our most serious problems — http://cllrdebbyhallett.com/2017/04/24/vale-local-plan-pt-2/) here’s a kind thank you. 

Cllr Roger Cox, Cabinet member for Planning, was the one who approved £2500 for the cleanup of, and making secure, the vacant and derelict property 82 Westminster Way. 

Thank you Cllr Cox. Botley is appreciative. 

So do you think you might be able to help us get this house back in use? 

Vale Local Plan Pt 2 – housing people can afford

I’m working on my review of Vale’s Local Plan Pt2. Consultation closes the 4th of May, but we’ll be away so I want to get my comments in early this week. 

We’ve heard the Vale’s leading Tories repeatedly tell us lack of genuinely affordable housing and over-congested highways (esp A34) are the two main obstacles to growth in the Vale. 

At a recent Scrutiny meeting, I asked the Cabinet member for planning, Cllr Roger Cox of Faringdon, a few questions. 

The main thing I wanted to know was how his Local Plan will help ordinary working people on ordinary wages (UK average is about £27,000 per year) to have a decent home. 

Cllr Cox is the Cabinet member responsible for the Local Plan. I had to repeat my question more than once: “What does your Local Plan do to provide more housing that ordinary people can afford?” Finally his shoulders dropped and he said, “Nothing.”

Well there we are. 

Vote the Tories out. 

To change the course of our country

Tomorrow we expect Parliament to overrule the Fixed Parliament Act and call an early general election for 8 June. Mrs May’s speech today was breathtakingly self-centred, showing how much she values her own status and her own party over our country. 

Do you trust anything she says?


I’m committed to doing what I can to help turn out the Tory Government. 

I’ll actively support the Liberal Democrats, the party that supports Remain, the NHS, our schools, and improving our transport infrastucture. I support freedom of movement in Europe and recognise the real contributions of immigrants.  We oppose the snoopers charter, the rape clause for child benefits, the cuts to our most vulnerable disabled residents. We oppose the policy for more grammar schools, which leaves more children behind. The hurtful, intolerant, inhumane polices show us the Tory mind at work. 

So I’ll be rearranging my commitments for the next 7 weeks. If it’s not urgent, I’ll take it on after the GE. 

It’s a Brexit election! Game on. 

West Way Place – new phasing plans

Mace announced they have a new phasing plan for West Way Place development. Their new plan means 2 years less construction time overall, but it also means Botley loses some of our local services for the whole period.

At the Community Liaison Group meeting on the 10th of April, we heard officially about the new plans for phasing. Tesco, Co-op and Lloyds will be among the tenants temporarily housed in modified quarters in Elms Court and the old Grant Thornton building. This is to help with continuity of services to the local community during construction.

To see the plans, check out Mace’s West Way site, here: http://westwayconsultation.co.uk/ Use the contact tab on that site to ask about anything not already there. (They aren’t all there at the time of writing this, but I’ve asked that they be put up.) Particularly see this 2 page update.

It’s been upsetting to learn that community favourites, local independent businesses such as Cafe Aloha and Hair Therapy and the chain Iceland, which so many rely on, are closing down. Everyone had hoped they would continue during construction and be part of the new centre. Some discussions are still ongoing and are therefore sensitive and private. But the traders make their own decisions about what’s best for them and their circumstances.

Who approves the change to phasing plans?

Ultimately, the Vale planners do.

The developers obligations are set out in the Section 106 agreement, which is a legally binding contract about what the developers and other parties will do.

I’ve downloaded a copy of the s106 agreements to Dropbox , so you can see it here. Sadly it’s not searchable, so you have to browse it to find what you’re looking for. (I did ask Vale to fix this but they said they couldn’t. I’ll see what I can do.)

Para 5.5 (approx pg 10)  there gives authority to the Vale planners to agree any changes to the phasing plan (approx page 52). Our planning officer said he wanted the public to have sight of the proposed changes and to be able to comment on them. So he asked Mace to include the phasing changes in their imminent planning application for a temporary change of use, and they agreed to do that. Mace have said there will be public exhibitions and a chance to raise concerns and get your questions answered.

So we’re about to embark on another period of significant change here.

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory)

 

Local Plan consultation thru 4 May

I’m proud of my work over the past few years with some of our local parish councils, residents and other groups. We sought to protect our open spaces in the northeast area of Vale.

We’ve taken our share of housing here, and we do all we can to support appropriate development. 

Under Local Plan Part 1, we have about 1300 new houses to come in the Tilsley Park area, in land Vale removed from the Green Belt. There are other former Green Belt sites in Radley and Kennington. But we managed to save more than 20 sites that Vale Tories wanted to remove from the Green Belt, including many local playing fields. 

Now the Vale’s Local Plan 2031 Part 2 defines the sites for the rest of our housing need, plus our share of Oxford’s housing need that they aren’t able to meet for themselves. Sites over 50 houses are included; smaller sites are not. 

So there will be no further incursion into the Green Belt in the north east area through 2031. At least, that’s the proposal. 

You can read the Local Plan 2031 Part 2, and comment via this link: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-plan-2031-part-2 

The 2016 Housing Act: no action in Vale so far

Here’s the question I asked at the Feb 2017 Vale full council meeting. 

E. Question from Councillor Debby Hallett to Councillor Roger Cox, Cabinet member for planning.

In December 2015, Council passed a motion in support of the Housing Bill, which would build starter homes, grant automatic planning permission to build on brownfield sites, sell off high value vacant council assets and use the money to build more affordable homes in the same area, and extend right to buy to housing association tenants. How many starter homes have been sold in the year since? How many automatic permissions have been given for brownfield development? How many council assets have been sold off, and how many new affordable houses have those sales funded? How many housing association tenants have exercised their right to buy?

Answer

Councillor Cox responded that the Bill became the Housing and Planning Act 2016 in May last year. We are waiting for the relevant Regulations to come into force so we can implement or act on the proposed changes.