Sunday, 10 March 2013

Save Port Meadow

Let's get very local for a minute.  For those of you unfamiliar with Oxford, Port Meadow is an area of common land to the north west of the city centre, which runs from the village of Wolvercote down the Woodstock road to the suburb of Jericho.  Horses and cattle graze on it, the Thames runs through it, and there are a host of small things to go and look at - the Treacle Well at Binsey, for example, or the nunnery at Godstow, from where Rosamund Clifford sallied out to be courted by Henry II.

It's a green lung for the north of the city.  When I lived in Jericho it was basically my back garden - we picnicked on it, swam in the river on hot summer evenings after work, or drifted up to the Trout at Wolvercote or the Perch at Binsey to spend the day with the newspapers.

But one of the chief attractions has always been the views of Oxford.  They're not as spectacular as those from South Park, or Boar's Hill, but there was a panorama of the dreaming spires - the Tower of the Winds, PhilJim, St Barnabas, St Mary the Virgin, the Rad Cam, the Engineering Science Building (the last one may be a joke).

Jericho, however, is full.  What had once been a small densely populated district of workers in the prinitng house of the OUP decayed to the extent that it was nearly demolished in the 1960s.  Students brought it back to life, and then refugees from London arrived to raise their children.  It's all got a bit glitzy, and pricey.  The City Council, wanting to reduce some of the pressure on the housing stock in Oxford, has mandated both Oxford University and Brookes to reduce the numbers of their students living in private rented accommodation in the city.

Which brings us to Roger Dudman Way.  The university has erected a number of accommodation blocks along the railway line and canal from the west end of Walton Well Road.  In some ways, this is exactly what is needed - getting large numbers of students out of the private sector and freeing up housing for local people.  Unfortunately it's also obliterated the views from Port Meadow, and raidcally changed the character of that end of Oxford.  Debate rages in the local press (this is Oxford, city of lost causes and green ink), about how far what has been built reflects accurately what the city council was shown in the drawings, but the fact remains that somewhere along the line someone has got it wrong.

There's a petition live now to call the whole thing in and get it altered.  No one wants the blocks demolished, but the top two stories could, and arguably ought, to be removed.

you can sign it here:

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