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Our Green Spaces are Worth Fighting For!

I’ve spoken to hundreds of people during this short election campaign and probably the most important issue on most people’s minds right now is the threat to our local green belt.

I made a video about it last week which has received quite a bit of attention since it was released. You can watch it here.

Of course in Yarnton, Begbroke and Gosford (where I’m standing to become the new local County Councillor) it’s in the forefront of everyone’s minds because, if it goes ahead, we’ll be the ones living in the middle of a building site for possibly the next 10 years. We’ll also see our small rural communities destroyed and replaced with a single medium sized town, one that will probably also double up as a university campus for the Begbroke Science Park.

But even in Kidlington, (which comprises a large part of the County division) it’s going to have a huge impact. There may not be as many houses built in the area, but the additional strain on our local resources, such as health services, education and leisure facilities will be very detrimental. We’ll also see a noticeable reduction in air quality which is likely to have health impacts on the most vulnerable, as well as increased risks of flooding. The A44 will probably become a car park during busy times, giving us all the chance to sit and admire the 4 storey apartment blocks that will tower over the edge of the dual carriageway.

There’s also a good chance that Kidlington will finally lose the argument about hanging on to it’s status as a village. In 10 years time, when the population has possibly tripled, there’s likely to be a much greater push to establish the whole area as a suburb of a Greater Oxford City. Not a prospect I, or anyone else in the area, relishes but something we may have little choice over.

I for one won’t stop fighting for that until the last blade of grass has fallen under the bulldozer’s tracks.

All this might be acceptable to a greater degree if these houses were going to provide affordable accommodation for local families, many of whom are crammed into a single house with perhaps 3 generations under one roof. But these aren’t for the likes of them. These will be expensive luxury executive houses built for investment purposes, with the so-called ‘affordable’ houses reserved for people in Oxford City. The District Council saw to that when they handed control of those houses over to the City Council in a closed meeting at the beginning of the first lockdown. None of these houses will be within reach of local residents.

A lot of people have told me that all this is inevitable and that the 4400 houses are a ‘done deal’. Well that isn’t the case until we know the outcome of the legal challenge being brought to the high court next month. Until that’s over we have no idea if these proposals will stand up or collapse. There have been reports in other areas recently where challenges have been upheld, and if we get the same result Cherwell District Council will have to think again. In those circumstances we’ll need as much support on the District Council as possible which is why I’m supporting Fiona Mawson to become our second Green Party Councillor on CDC.

But even if we fail to stop these devastating plans though the courts, we can at least do our best to limit some of that devastation by having engaged and active councillors at all levels of local government. On the County Council fighting for infrastructure and other important considerations like flood protection, and of course at District and Parish level scrutinising the individual planning proposals themselves. We also have to be vigilant in opposing ‘infilling’ which may become more of an issue as the amount of development space in the area is snapped up by the bigger developers.

So I hope I and Fiona can count on the support of our local residents in the elections on Thursday. We’ve seen how our current crop of Conservative councillors have let us down on these issues, and let’s not forget that this whole idea was the brainchild of the Conservatives on Cherwell District Council in the first place, in cahoots with Oxford University, the City Council, the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Local Enterprise Partnership. After Thursday we may have more leverage to defend our small rural communities against these faceless, unelected and anti-democratic quangos and take back control of our green heritage.

I for one won’t stop fighting for that until the last blade of grass has fallen under the bulldozer’s tracks. I hope you’ll all support me as your Green Councillor in that long battle.

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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