Questions and answers

Key information about the Jericho Wharf project

The Jericho Wharf Trust is a registered charity formed by four local groups.

  • The Jericho Community Association - which runs the current community centre;
  • The Jericho Community Boatyard - which represents the boaters;
  • The Jericho Living Heritage Trust - which campaigns on issues relating to Jericho’s distinctive heritage and legacy;
  • The St Barnabas Parochial Church Council - which represents the interests of the Church.

Most of the Trust’s Board members live in and around Jericho, or are boat-dwellers. They have a wide range of experience and expertise, and have the vision, passion and skills to deliver what is needed in this unique location.

The Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF). This is an international property company, managed in the UK by entrepreneur Johnny Sandelson. However, the planning application was submitted by a company associated with SIAHAF, Cheer Team Corporation Ltd, which is registered in Hong Kong.

SIAHAF is required by the City to pay for and construct the boatyard and then transfer this, and the covenanted land needed for the community centre, over to the Jericho Wharf Trust for £1. SIAHAF would finance this from the sale of private housing on the rest of the site. The Jericho Wharf Trust would then raise the funds needed to build the community centre.

The JWT will have the freehold for the boatyard and the community centre. SIAHAF will sell or lease the commercial houses and the restaurant, and appoint a management company to provide services to the commercial houses and maintain the bridges. The management company can also work with the JWT for organizing events in the public space.

This is the land to the north of the square which currently comprises three adjoining plots.

  1. The Dawson Place garages site owned by the City Council – around 680 square metres.
  2. Land covenanted by the Canal and River Trust to the Jericho Community Association – around 450 square metres. Now that planning permission has been agreed, SIAHAF now have to sell this to the JCA for £1.
  3. Land owned by SIAHAF which it can use to fulfill the planning obligation of space for a boatyard – around 540 square metres.

The Jericho Wharf Trust will combine these three plots to create an integrated community-owned development. Other land on the site which would form part of the square is owned by St Barnabas Church.

The community facilities will be owned and administered by the JWT. The Trust will lease the boatyard to the Jericho Community Boatyard which will employ an experienced manager. The Trust will lease the community centre to the Jericho Community Association which has successfully run the existing community centre for many years. These organizations will manage day-to-day operations. The JWT itself will manage events and activities in the square.

The community in and around Jericho, the people of Oxford, and the boating community across the country.

SIAHAF. In February 2015 Mr Sandelson said to the City Council’s PlanningCommittee: “I will build a boatyard and chandlery and gift it to the community,together with the rest of the land needed for the community centre,unencumbered for a pound”. We thought that this was the solution and that the project would soon be completed.

A few months later SIAHAF made a U-turn, saying that it wanted to retain ownership of the boatyard and lease it to a commercial operator. The JWT pointed out that a profit-driven boatyard of this kind would run counter to the whole ethos of this project – which is based on boat and land-based residents working together on a joint community venture.

In January 2016 the West Area Planning Committee meeting also rejected SIAHAF’s new demands. Committee members instructed the City Solicitor to draft a legal agreement that enshrined the principle of community ownership. SIAHAF has signed this agreement. Now it needs to prepare an agreement to transfer community facilities to the JWT

This is the last opportunity in Oxford for a public space by the canal. This innovative development will include a public square, a community centre and cafe, a business hub and a community boatyard, along with affordable housing.

Jericho Wharf will bring much-needed facilities to the area. This part of Oxford is socially diverse. As indicated in the 2011 census, more than 70 per cent of land-based households are renting, and around one-third of children, and one quarter of older people, are considered to live in income-deprived families. This development will support the physical and mental well-being of the community in Jericho and the rest of Oxford.

It is also an opportunity to avoid further over-development. Over recent decades, developers have stacked hundreds of houses along the canal but have built scarcely any supporting facilities – private or public.

Living on the canal allows low-waged people, such as teachers or social workers, to stay in the city. Among those living on canal boats, more than two-thirds have an annual income of less than £20,000, and one-fifth have less than £5,000. At present there are no boatyards within five miles of Oxford. The boatyard in this development will allow people to maintain their boats in an affordable DIY environment, helping to sustain Oxford’s boating community.

Jericho Wharf will thus bring together different groups of people who are currently geographically close but often socially distant. It will provide them with much-needed opportunities for practical, educational and creative activities of all kinds.

Jericho Wharf will be a truly exceptional place where everyone from within and beyond the diverse community that is Jericho can come and find interest, enjoyment and learning.

The plans encompass a new, affordable boatyard and a purpose-built community building – with a public space/piazza leading from the beautiful St Barnabas Church to the Oxford Canal. Surveys of our land- and water-based residents have identified the proposed facilities as important. The City Council has also established them as essential requirements in its planning policies for the site.

Two commercial developers have already tried but failed because they put profit before community. The previous owner of the land went bust. In 2012 the JWT offered to buy the site for £2 million – a realistic market price for mixed commercial and community usage. Instead in 2013 the administrators accepted a bid of £2.6 million from Mr Sandelson.

After his bid was accepted Mr Sandelson asked to meet the JWT. At this first meeting, he acknowledged that he had to work with the community, said that we could have the northern part of the site, and that he was determined to bring the development to fruition. He talked about his vision for the site and said he want to avoid doing anything that his children in Oxford would not like. The JWT is keen to work with Mr Sandelson to achieve his – and our – vision for the site for the good of all.

Jericho Wharf will have a:

Boatyard – This will have one wet-dock and two dry-docks, together with one workshop for professional use and another for DIY shared use. There will also be a chandlery and storeroom for the supply of essential boating paraphernalia such as mooring pins, ropes, sealants and paints. Other facilities will include a launderette for use by boaters and others.

Community Centre – This will be a community focal point with a ground-floor café that can spill out onto the public square. The centre will have multi-purpose halls for community gatherings, and sports and fitness activities, and exhibitions. These halls can also be hired out for private events such as wedding parties. Smaller rooms can be used for adult learning classes, for meetings and for art and music activities. There will also be a pre-school with an outdoor play area, as well as an exhibition space to showcase Jericho’s rich history and heritage. On the top floor there will be an office hub for local small businesses. The new building will replace the ageing, three-storey Victorian Church Institute building which is used for the current community centre and cannot viably be adapted to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Public square – In a beautiful setting between the canal and the Grade-1 listed St Barnabas Church, the square will be the heart of the development – a focal point that will host a wide range of community activities such as markets and open-air concerts. The square will also have a commercial restaurant on the south side.

Housing – The development will have 22 new homes ranging from one-bedroom flats above the restaurant to four-bedroom townhouses with roof terraces overlooking the canal. Nine of the units will be affordable - for ‘social rent’.

Two bridges – To allow easy access for wheelchairs, cycles and buggies there will be a lifting bridge at the southern end of the site. To help ensure that the square remains a lively public space there will also be a fixed pedestrian bridge across the canal directly into the square.

The JWT will continue to work hard to ensure that the community facilities are built. When the plans have been finalized the Trust will raise the necessary funds. Then when the development is complete the JWT will manage the community facilities by leasing the boatyard to the Jericho Community Boatyard, and the community centre to the Jericho Community Association. The JWT will also organize activities and events in the public square.

The Council must ensure that this development meets community needs and aspirations. It needs to ensure that the transfer agreement for community facilities between SIAHAF and the JWT is on fair and reasonable terms.

The developer needs to fulfil the commitments it made to Councillors at the planning meeting when they granted conditional planning permission. SIAHAF is required by the City to fulfil its community and social housing commitments before it builds the commercial houses. It can do so by preparing an agreement for transferring the community facilities to the JWT. This will need to be approved by the City.

For developments of this kind The City Council’s policy is for 50 per cent of the houses to be affordable. Mr Sandelson asked for a smaller proportion in order for him to be able to provide the community assets he had initially promised. Based on this promise, the City agreed to reduce the requirement to 39 per cent.

The Jericho Wharf site is close to Isis Lock, where the Oxford Canal meets the River Thames – a location of huge significance within the national waterways network. The canal was built as a route from the Midlands to London, and was one of Britain’s first four trunk canals

After great initial success, for 150 or so years the canal suffered a long, slow decline, but is now being revitalized. This development is a chance to ensure the future of this site as the place in Oxford where the land- and water-based communities meet.

Jericho and the canal have many artistic associations. They have featured in works by Thomas Hardy, John Betjeman, John Wain, Colin Dexter and Philip Pullman. Jericho was also home to the first gigs of Radiohead and Supergrass.

The developer needs to fulfil the commitments it made to Councillors at the planning meeting when they granted conditional planning permission. SIAHAF is required by the City to fulfil its community and social housing commitments before it builds the commercial houses. It can do so by signing the Section 106 agreement drafted by the City Solicitor. When it has done so everyone can get moving.

In the February 2015, the West Area Planning Committee granted approval-in-principle, providing the developer met a series of conditions. However, by early 2016 it was clear that SIAHAF did not intend to fulfil these conditions, particularly those relating to the ownership and operation of the community facilities. It also proposed to impose stringent conditions on timing and
ownership that no responsible community organization could accept.

At its January 2016 meeting, therefore the Committee reiterated its requirements. In February 2016 these were enshrined in a draft ‘Section 106’ agreement which the developer will have to sign before he gets full planning permission. The Planning Committee is concerned about previous delays and has asked for a progress report in March.

This depends on Mr Sandelson. He now has to sign agreements with the Canal & River Trust, the Parochial Church Council and the JWT. The JWT would welcome the chance to meet with Mr Sandelson and work towards a conclusion which satisfies everyone.

The JWT will control the community facilities and take overall responsibility for operations and their long-term maintenance. For this purpose it will issue operating leases for the boatyard and community centre. These leases will include terms that ensure that the operators deliver community objectives.

Jericho Wharf will provide a vibrant new focal point where people of all ages can meet — through sports or classes at the community centre, perhaps, or just a cup of coffee in the cafe. It will allow people to see a working boatyard in action and understand Jericho’s canal heritage. It will create opportunities for new businesses. It will offer a new outdoor pace for concerts and public events. Above all it will demonstrate that new developments in Oxford can be exciting, innovative and community driven.