Further details of each issue are available by clicking the following links or browsing down the page.
Conserve Green Spaces, and increase biodiversity and public access.
Headington’s public access spaces (or green spaces) are widely used and loved amenities: we play in them, walk and cycle through them, enjoy looking at them and cultivate them. The mental and physical benefits to local people (and their dogs!) are incalculable. They are our Green Capital whose economic worth is just beginning to be recognised. Yet these green spaces – from formal parks (Bury Knowle) to playparks, from recreation grounds to grass verges, from wooded footpaths (Cuckoo Lane) to an Ice Age SSSI (Lye Valley fen), from flower meadows (Rock Edge and Warneford Meadow) to snippets of green space (next to the former Quarry School), from allotments to patches of woodland (Staunton Road) which contribute so much to our quality of life – may not be as safeguarded as we think. The Amenities and Green Spaces Policy Group is working to suggest policies to strengthen the protection of what we have, increase public access to currently inaccessible green space and to increase the biodiversity, especially of pollinators on which we depend. The first step is to compile a Natural Capital Asset Inventory for Headington so that we know what we have and where it is before it is lost (as was green space at the Windmill Road/Old Road junction). The Council’s Core Strategy recommends an area of 5.75ha of green space per 1,000 population. With Headington’s recent, on-going and future developments (The Old Road Campus, Brookes and The Churchill Hospital site) as well as many in-fill housing developments, Headington may well fall far short of this target, both now and in the future. But it is a ratio we think we should work towards.
The Neighbourhood Forum invites comments from residents and people who work or study here. If you feel public access green space is important please give your views through the Consultation questionnaire. If you know a green space we may have forgotten or a green space/biodiversity issue which we could incorporate in the Neighbourhood Plan, do, please, let us know.
Increase access to cultural and sports facilities in private and public ownership.
Headington has a wide range of sports and cultural facilities ranging from all weather sports areas to state of the art performance centres to numerous halls and meeting rooms. These are in both public and private ownership, within local schools, churches, universities, health institutions, community centres and the like. The Neighbourhood Plan will seek to ensure that these valuable resources are made as widely available as possible to local people. In the case of new developments this may be achieved through planning controls and for already existing facilities through negotiation with the owners.
Provide a community and cultural centre in central Headington.
During the preparation of the Neighbourhood Plan we will prepare an inventory of the existing facilities and, taking account of the consultation responses, assess whether new facilities are required to meet the present and future needs of local people. For example in contrast to many of our neighbouring areas (Barton, Rosehill and others) Headington lacks a meeting place right in the centre where local people can come together for community and cultural activities. The provision of such a centre would strengthen Headington’s distinctive identity and encourage a sense of community. This would not take away from the need to maintain and improve the existing community centres in other parts of Headington. The Neighbourhood Plan could contain policies and project proposals for the provision of a community and cultural centre in central Headington if residents tell us this is what they want. Knowing what issues are important to Headington residents will help Headington Forum take advantage of opportunities which may arise for the location and financing of a centre.
Strengthen Headington’s distinctive identity to foster a sense of community.
We know that many people like living in Headington. They feel that Headington has an overall sense of community, and that it is a good place to ‘belong’ to. But how important is it that this sense of identity is strengthened? How can we make Headington a better place for the whole community?
Identify and develop the special characteristics of different districts.
Undertake a ‘character assessment’ across the whole area to identify the special characteristics of different districts within Headington which the community wants to sustain. It is not only the conservation areas that have character. Headington comprises about twenty different districts, all with distinctive characteristics of their own. We want to know what you specially value about your immediate vicinity. This could be specific buildings, gardens, trees, spaces or views – anything which makes a positive contribution to the quality of the environment in which you live and/or work.
Balance conservation and innovation within planning and development.
There is often a conflict between conserving what is there and building new homes, offices, transport routes etc. We want to know to what extent you think planning controls should limit developments in the area in which you live/work. Or should developers, home owners, and businesses have a free hand to largely do what they wish.
Increase number of places in schools.
The plan area contains two state primaries (4-11) and a secondary school (11-18), and two independent girls schools (each covering 3-18). Families use schools just outside the plan area, including a Catholic primary school and a new free school. In recent years the primary schools in the plan area have been heavily over-subscribed, with one school being expanded to a 90 intake, as well as other nearby schools. Soon places at secondary level will come under increased pressure. Increased provision at primary and secondary should be a priority in Headington.
Bring providers together in order to raise educational attainment.
Average educational attainment is poorer than might be expected from demographic data – matching an issue for the City as a whole. There are City and County initiatives and established partnership working between schools in Headington, but these should be co-ordinated. There are further opportunities for the schools to work with each other, in different sectors and age groups, and with other organisations in Headington.
Enhance provision of training and development, and apprenticeships.
Although employment rates are high in Headington, there are concerns about pathways into employment for parts of the community, particularly those not proceeding to higher education. Pathways for 16-19 education and adult learning are not as available as they could be, and opportunities for apprenticeships are limited.
Provide housing mix and tenures to meet specific social needs.
Owing to high demand and insufficient supply, Headington, like the rest of Oxford, suffers from high home purchase and rental costs. The mix of housing being constructed or renovated and the types of tenure provided (for both ownership and renting) should meet the specific needs of the area. Additional housing for the growing number of those working in Headington would also have a beneficial effect on congestion.
In order to address this issue the Headington Plan should:
– Establish whether the specific needs of Headington are the same as the aggregate housing needs of the city as a whole. Factors such as rising local employment may mean that this area needs a different balance of family houses and flats.
– Encourage projects such as Community Land Trusts and Co-housing which can ease the cost of home ownership.
– Ensure that all new building and renovations meet high standards of sustainability. In the building process and in use, all developments in Headington should aim towards Zero Carbon standards. Residential developments should also be sustainable in that they are adaptable to life-time needs such as ease of access.
Ensure that Houses in Multiple Occupation comply with regulations.
Oxford City Council has some of the most stringent regulations concerning the licensing and management of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) which are intended to safeguard the interests of both the tenants and the community as a whole. Where these regulations are not complied with, considerable problems for tenants and surrounding properties may occur. Headington’s large student and young professional population creates its own demand for HMOs but house prices and high rents mean that many young people on low wages must also share a dwelling. Some aspects of these properties, such as property condition, household waste and noise, cause concern, especially to residents in areas with a high proportion of HMOs. Overall, the HNF area has 7.5% of properties licensed as HMOs. While 35% of streets in the area currently have no HMOs, an area adjacent to Oxford Brookes University has 23%. In a few small streets the proportion is about 50%.
The Census reveals that from 2001 to 2011 the number of ‘multiple households’ (not necessarily HMOs) in the area occupied by students increased by 13% to 288 while those occupied by non-students increased by 6% to 436.
In order to address this issue the Headington Plan should:
– Tighten up licensing in order to ensure that all HMOs comply with regulations about the condition and maintenance of such properties.
– Mobilise community pressure to maintain all street-facing aspects of HMOs to an acceptable standard. Litter, over-flowing bins and over-grown front gardens are a significant factor in antagonism to HMOs. Encouraging property owners and tenants to take more care of the appearance of their residence can improve community well-being.
Build housing appropriate to the local character.
Like most cities, towns and large urban districts Headington’s housing stock has a varied character.
In order to address this issue the Headington Plan should:
– Expect all new building on whatever scale across the whole area to be neighbourly, pleasing to the eye, appropriate to the character of its immediate surroundings, with low maintenance costs and low carbon emissions. The Oxford Core Strategy affirms that ‘quality of life is greatly dependent on the home environment’ and this principle is as relevant to the suburbs as it is to the historic centre.
– Protect the neighbourhood as a whole against inappropriate development. The Localism Bill 2011 requires provision ‘for neighbourhood development orders to allow communities to approve development without requiring normal planning consent.’ Whilst an opportunity to make our own planning decisions might be welcome, Headington should be ready to defend itself against any development detrimental to its inhabitants’ living-standards.
Improve provision of parking to encourage shopping.
The most common problem identified by respondents to our questionnaire is Parking. Typical comments were that there are too few parking spaces and where there are spaces, these are expensive with the minimum parking charge at £1.40 for two hours. The effect is that many potential customers are put off coming to the Headington shopping area. This particularly applies to independent businesses and the farmers’ market, which have no parking to offer customers. Allied to parking, many felt that traffic flow was a major problem. This affects deliveries; London Road and Windmill Road were particularly singled out in this context.
Strengthen the local shopping identity.
A frequent comment was that the Headington shopping area is unattractive and lacks cohesion and an identity. At least two respondents used the words: ‘it needs a clean-up’. The state of London Road, leading up to the shopping area, was felt to be especially detrimental to a positive visitors’ perception of Headington as a shopping area. It was suggested that more could be done if retailers and businesses worked together to project a better image for Headington.
Encourage retail variety
There were many complaints from retailers and business people themselves about the increasing trend towards duplication of the retail offer in Headington. In particular it was felt that there are too many charity shops, chain supermarkets, estate agents, coffee houses and banks. There is a lack of ‘real’ shops. It is felt that variety contributes to a better shopping experience, which in turn leads to a virtuous circle of enhanced attractiveness of the shopping area as a place to visit. Reasons given for the decline in the number of independent retailers included fierce competition from the chain retailers, coupled with high rents and business rates.
Reduce congestion by facilitating cycling, walking and car sharing.
Tackling congestion is not about widening roads and adding parking spaces: it is principally about reducing the need to travel by car. This means improving the safety and convenience of cycle and pedestrian travel; ensuring that, where these are not feasible, public transport provides a better alternative than single-occupant cars; reducing the number of commuters by allowing residential accommodation to move in step with the growth of jobs; reducing shopping trips by car through having a retail sector that meets the needs of local residents; and reducing the number of idle parked cars by promoting car clubs. Employers and schools have an important role to play in providing information about, and facilities for, non-car access.
Reduce through traffic and speeds in residential streets.
Through traffic vastly reduces the quality of life for residents, and particularly those with children. It can be tackled only in two ways – by making transit on through routes (some of which are also residential) quicker, and by making transit on residential streets slower. There is little scope for the former, but a number of affected areas within Headington have drawn up, or are in the process of drawing up, plans for the second approach, by means of chicanes, speed bumps and the like. Rigorously enforced speed limits also play a key role.
Strive to reduce noise and improve air quality.
At present there is inadequate monitoring of air quality in Headington, but there is reason to believe that concentrations of PM 2.5s and PM 10s (small particles emitted by diesel engines) may be above acceptable limits, particularly close to roundabouts and through routes. The first step is to install equipment capable of identifying the scale of the problem. Proper road maintenance and enforced speed limits are needed to tackle traffic noise.