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The Bulldozers are Rolling in Wolvercote

St John’s College, part of Oxford University have started tearing up green fields in Wolvercote, North Oxford, for their money making project dubbed Oxford North.

The people in the area are in shock at what is happening to their green spaces and the likely impact on everyone of this massive project.

This will comprise mostly business parks, shops, restaurants and hotels with some housing, most of which will not be affordable to the people in the area. It’s not only removing vital green infrastructure it’s also going to massively increase congestion on local roads as it creates another 4500 jobs that the city simply doesn’t need, without providing the houses that it does desperately need.

Oxford City Council claims it can’t meet its own affordable housing needs. The Oxford North development demonstrates the reason why. The City Council chooses not to meet that need and instead pushes it on to the surrounding districts such as Cherwell and South Oxfordshire.

I joined the protest as Wolvercote directly abuts my district council ward in Cherwell and is likely to impact heavily on Kidlington, especially on top of the extra development that is planned for the area around Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton, Yarnton and Begbroke, assuming that goes ahead.

I made a short video giving some of the context which you can watch using this link below.

The people of Wolvercote and North Oxford send a message to St Johns College Oxford University

We need to stand up against the same brazen greed that is motivating the concreting over of our precious green spaces before it’s too late. You’ll have a chance to send a message to those councillors who backed these projects in the election in May.

In Cherwell the plans were promoted and pushed through by the Conservative ruling group in the face of massive opposition from local residents which they completely disregarded and continue to ignore. In Oxford the Labour run City Council continues to apply pressure on other districts to deal with the housing need the city is making worse by using spaces like these to build more economic development rather than affordable housing,

Greens have always stood against this sort of opportunistic expansionism for profit and we always will.

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Greens Call for Credible Response to Flooding Threat in Oxfordshire

Flooding across the county is now a perennial and repeated problem, the North Oxfordshire Green Party are calling for a credible multi-agency response to flooding problems in Cherwell and beyond.

Flooding is now a regular occurrence across the district and in areas like, Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke district and parish councillors have been trying to deal with both the aftermath and the immediate threat posed by these challenging and distressing events.

Much of this is due to the impact of climate change, but there are also problems created by lack of proper maintenance of flood defences, culverts and swales.  Increased development on surrounding areas has also exacerbated the problem, and with huge amounts of additional houses planned for the green fields around villages in South Cherwell, there are now serious concerns amongst residents about what the future holds.

Run-off from areas like Spring Hill are sources of flood water which now regularly hit the villages of Yarnton and Begbroke below. These are areas due to be built on as part of Cherwell’s recently adopted partial plan review (site PR9).

I’m regularly being contacted, both as a district and parish councillor, by residents watching flood water approaching their homes, yet there are very few options open to me to help them. 

Flooding in Garden city Kidlington

These incidents often occur out of office hours. As a district councillor I have an emergency response number to call, but the last time I used that when I was trying to help residents facing flooding in Garden City Kidlington, I was told I should call the police and ask them to deal with it.  When I did so, the police operator seemed bemused that I was given that advice

Other agencies such as the fire service are quite understandably reluctant to tie up vital fire and rescue resources unless property has actually been inundated.  This is quite a distressing situation to have to explain to residents who are trying to prevent that from happening in the first place.

Thames water are usually difficult to reach and often do very little when they are finally contacted.  I hear regular complaints about blocked drains and flood channels as well as pumping stations either not working at all or being unable to cope with the level of flood water.  Again, the only emergency contact I have for Thames Water is the same number that any member of the public can call

The county council will deliver sandbags, but usually by that point the situation has reached crisis level and residents have to hope that they will hold back water which may already be at their thresholds

This just isn’t good enough.  We need to stop treating these incidents as one-off events and put together a credible, structured, multi-agency response that can swing into action when councillors and other local agencies need it. It’s very frustrating as a local councillor not being able to help when residents expect you to have levers to pull that just aren’t available to us

Advancing climate change means that we will now have to live with the escalating threat of flooding on a year-round basis.  Increased development on what are now relatively permeable green spaces, such as Spring Hill in Begbroke will only make matters worse.

This is not a criticism of individual agencies.  There just seems to be no credible protocol about what can and should be done and who should be doing it. We need a central control point that can co-ordinate a response to all levels of flooding whenever and wherever it happens, as well as a local flood task force to ensure flood defences are mapped and regularly maintained.

Advancing climate change means that we will now have to live with the escalating threat of flooding on a year-round basis.  Increased development on what are now relatively permeable green spaces, such as Spring Hill in Begbroke will only make matters worse.

Site promoters promise that they will put flood defences in place, but with the frequency and intensity of flooding increasing every year, most defences will eventually be overwhelmed. Developers are also usually more concerned with ensuring new properties don’t flood, with less consideration for the impact of new developments on existing residents.  Areas that may in the past have been flood free will soon find themselves in the firing line with little hope of holding those responsible to account. I made a video about this last year that you can see below

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Cherwell’s Conservatives Conflicted on Green Issues Yet Again

During Monday’s full council meeting, Cherwell District Council voted unanimously to support a motion calling on the doubling of tree cover in the district by 2045.

I introduced an amendment to the motion calling on the council to be more ambitious in its proposals and to achieve the doubling of tree numbers by 2030 in line with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.

Speaking during the debate, I disagreed with Conservative claims that the 2045 target was the only one that was achievable and that the council should only aim to double tree cover “as far as possible”.

We have declared a climate change emergency.  Emergency measures call for committed and ambitious actions, not vague aspirations and get-out clauses.  The climate takes no prisoners.  It doesn’t care what we think is possible, it only responds to what is needed.  We need to move faster and be more ambitious in our climate change mitigation measures and take into account the impact of all council policies on climate change

My amendment was supported by Labour and Independent members, but was blocked by the Conservatives (as usual).

As if to prove the point, in a later debate on the main modifications to the local plan partial review, campaigners from North Oxford Golf Club pleaded with the council to protect their 103-year-old club grounds from proposed development.  This would include the destruction of a large number of trees.  The Council’s proposals also call for the release of yet more green belt land and the virtual erasure of the previously sacrosanct ‘Kidlington Gap’.

Labour and Libdem councillors opposed the motion along with me for the Greens.  The proposals were agreed with all but one Conservative voting them through.

Yet again we see Cherwell’s Conservatives talking the talk on climate change, but when it comes to positive action they default to business as usual

It makes no sense to anyone other than Cherwell’s Tories to propose a measure to increase tree numbers in the district in one motion and then vote in the very same meeting to destroy hundreds of mature trees in the face of massive opposition from local residents and environmental campaigners.

It’s clear from this, and from the lack of any solid progress on the climate emergency proposals 6 months on from passing them, that Cherwell’s Conservatives simply want to box-tick the climate change issue, whilst pursuing broader policies on unnecessary growth that will be hugely damaging to the environment.