Amended planning policies for the canalside site

The government inspector has now reported on the City’s Sites and Housing policy

Posted - Jan 06, 2013

A government-appointed inspector, Shelagh Bussey, has now made recommendations for amendments to Oxford’s Sites and Housing Policy -- responding in part to proposals made by various interested groups at a public hearing in September 2012. The Jericho Wharf Trust and the Jericho Community Association, along with a member of the Jericho Community Boatyard, contributed to the hearing, aiming to ensure that the City’s policies best support community needs and provide a good framework for developing the Jericho canalside site. Some of our representations were supportive of the existing draft. Other interested parties had proposed, for example, that the words “sustainably sized” be removed in reference to the community centre. In the event, the inspector agreed that this stipulation should be retained. Other JWT proposals were designed to ensure that the new boatyard included facilities for DIY maintenance – proposals which were also accepted. One issue not fully resolved is the provision of a new bridge which would add new life to this part of Jericho by providing more immediate access to the station. The inspector has created a degree of ambiguity. She concluded in her report that the requirement for a new bridge “is not clearly justified and could stall the delivery of this site, which has had a chequered planning history.” In support of this, the inspector pointed out that there is an existing footbridge (at Whitworth Place). She also believed that a new footbridge would require “agreement with a third party landowner on the far side of the canal. In addition, no assessment has been made as to whether a new bridge could be accommodated within the width of the canal bank.” This view can be challenged. The owner of the other side of the canal is the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) which has never objected to a proposal for a new bridge – which would be another amenity for the canal. And to fit the new bridge within the available space there have been a number of proposals including a lift bridge. The inspector’s solution is that the policy for this site simply require an “improved crossing” though it is difficult to see how this could be achieved on the site without a new bridge. The inspector’s full statement for the Jericho canalside site is: “A replacement boatyard is required to be provided to offset the loss of the boatyard previously on this site and to meet local need. Given the historic uses of the site, a replacement boatyard would be appropriate. The boatyard should be of a size to include a wet dock, and allow craneage for narrowboats with possible supporting chandlery and associated workshop and DIY maintenance facilities. Other uses that should be provided on the site are residential, a sustainably sized community centre, a public open space or square and an improved crossing over the canal for pedestrians and cyclists. The canal hire base at the northern part of the site should be retained.” The next stage of the process is that the policies will be considered for adoption by the City Council.