Canalside saga —2000-2005
In 2000 Bellway Homes secured an option on the site, subject to them receiving planning permission. This seems strange since they had scarcely followed the British Waterays (BW) brief at all.
One of the JCA's concerns was that Bellway were not offering sufficient land for a new community centre. We had secured a commitment from the City Council to use the land currently occupied by the garages in Dawson Place. But this would not be sufficient, so in May 2002, we sought additional land and made a proposal to BW suggesting they provide an extra 0.1 acres. Despite much lobbying, including a meeting between our MP and BW and the discussion of the matter at full BW board level, BW still declined to offer land. BW's Chairman wrote on 5th February 2003: "We are confident that the local planning process will confirm that our proposals easily meet the local authorities' requirements in respect of public benefit and contribution from the redevelopment."
In May 2004, however, the City Council resoundingly rejected this view - and Bellway's planning application, one of the grounds being the lack of adequate provision for a new centre. British Waterways and Bellways appealed against the decision. A planning inquiry on the appeal was held in March and May 2005, and in August the Inspector dismissed their appeal.
He dismissed it on two main grounds. One was this part of the canal needed facilities for lifting out boats and for repair and maintenance. He said that British Waterways had to provide these on this site or in another “equally accessible and suitable location”.
The second reason why the appeal failed, indeed the main one, was that Bellway had contributed no land for a new Community Centre. He pointed out that the new ‘local plan’ for Oxford requires that a new Centre be built on the site. He noted that for this purpose the Council had offered to contribute adjacent land in Dawson Place but agreed with the JCA that this would not be enough. Bellway had argued that they could not give any land as this would mean they would not make enough profit from the development. But the Inspector said: “I see no reason why need for a land contribution would unduly inhibit development on the appeal site nor why a suitable and viable scheme accommodating the Community Centre requirement would not be forthcoming.” The complete decision of the Planning Inspector is available as a 0.2 Mb Acrobat pdf file by clicking here
Bellway had bought the land from British Waterways subject to planning permission. So when permission was refused the site again came onto the market. In May 2006, when it looked as though a sale was about to go through British Waterways forcibly evicted a group of boaters who had occupied the site for a community boatyard. BW also constructed a large ugly fence.