Support for a diverse community, on land and on water

<p>Jericho has its ducks in a row. But we are still waiting for  the Wharf developer SIAHAF</p>

Jericho has its ducks in a row. But we are still waiting for the Wharf developer SIAHAF

Posted - Aug 30, 2017

JWT submission on Oxford’s Local Plan

The Jericho Wharf Trust has responded to Oxford City Council’s consultation on its Preferred Options for the new Local Plan which will govern development in the city. Extracts below show our principal comments.

The Jericho Wharf Trust agrees that a current strength of Oxford is the existence of ‘a series of communities with clear and distinct identities and character that bind those that live there’. Jericho is often cited as an exemplar of such a community. However, development and developer pressures mean that the ongoing success of these communities cannot be taken for granted. Jericho is a particular example of a diverse local community – whose cohesion is increasingly threatened by the lack of ‘spaces and opportunities for social interaction, bringing people together’.

The JWT’s efforts are focused on securing the community facilities that are essential to the future of Jericho’s rich diversity of land and water residents. The Canalside Land site has been derelict for more than ten years. Detailed planning permission for a satisfactory scheme was granted in April 2016 but it has not been actioned. In cases like this the City Council should act to bring all possible pressure on the developer to implement the approved scheme, or to pass ownership to someone who will do so. This site is crucial to the future of Jericho, and represents a very significant potential asset for Oxford as a whole. The current impasse calls into question the effectiveness of the planning system.

On the issue of affordable housing provision within planning applications, it is essential that the Council maintains its current policies on viability transparency: if a developer uses a financial viability report to challenge the required level of affordable housing, that report must be published in full - its methodology and assumptions as well as resulting analysis; the Council’s own analysis of the report must also be published. Maintaining full transparency is essential to continuing public confidence - and to discouraging developers who wish to evade affordable housing requirements.

JWT supports the proposals for creating new public open spaces, but comments that the developed policy will need to address the rules that will govern resulting privately-owned-public-spaces (as for the proposed square in Jericho Wharf).

On ‘Homes for Boat Dwellers’ the City’s Preferred Option is stated as: “Assess need for residential boat moorings and include a criteria criteria-based policy for determining planning applications for residential moorings, covering access for emergency services and an assessment of the availability and distance between facilities.” JWT considers this to be a wholly inadequate response to a festering sore. Oxford for many years has had a substantial population of residential boaters, who have felt increasingly marginalised by the inadequate provision of moorings and by the closure ten years ago of the Castlemill boatyard in Jericho which was their ‘community space’ as well as the facility that provided for maintenance of their homes.

A 2012 survey by the JWT showed how residential boats were providing affordable housing for low-income families and key workers, and highlighted the severe shortage of moorings. The JWT survey report was submitted to the Inspector’s 2012 examination of the City’s Sites and Housing policies. The draft Homes for Boat Dwellers policy was subsequently amended to include the statement ‘The City Council recognises that there is demand for new residential moorings in Oxford, and will work with boaters, landowners, navigation authorities and other interested parties to increase the supply of residential moorings in the City’ Regrettably, it is difficult to see that any progress has since been made.

The JWT therefore supports the listed Alternative Option which would require the City to ‘seek to meet the need for residential moorings by allocating sites’. Successful delivery of this option will bring a number of benefits: a contribution, however small, to Oxford’s need for affordable housing for those on low incomes; an alternative housing option for key workers; a reduction in petty crime and increase in social cohesion as more of the city’s waterway space is self-policed by resident boaters. Crucial first steps will be professional assessments of the extent of unmet need for moorings, and of the true potential for new mooring sites along Oxford’s waterways.