Issue 47— July 2000
Lucy's plan gated housing
More exclusive canalside buildings on the horizon
At the end of June, Lucy's signalled the closure of their manufacturing activities in Jericho, when the company put in a planning application for a development that covers the whole of their remaining site. One disturbing aspect is that, unlike the traditional open residential areas around it, this is intended as a 'gated community' designed to keep out casual strollers. There will, for example, be no route from Walton Well Road to Juxon Street.
To the east of the canal, Lucy's plan to retain some elements of the factory buildings, partly to retain permission to build to the same height. The factory site would have 112 new flats in three blocks, along with some offices and other commercial premises. Lucy's themselves would occupy some for their group headquarters and for managing their property business, while letting out the rest. The canalside building looks interesting, combining bricks and glass curtain walls. There could also be a small conference centre, new leisure facilities, and even a swimming pool, though this is unlikely to have public access.
The land on the other side of the canal, most of which is now a car park, would have 22 houses and 33 flats in four blocks along a winding road. Regrettably, these look as though they will conform to the same dreary mock-Georgian pattern we have suffered elsewhere along the canal. It also packs in a lot of housing-more perhaps than the Council planners would like to see. The land here is contaminated from years of industrial use, so will need cleaning up. East and west sites will be linked by a new bridge.
Lucy's have occupied this site, the Eagle Ironworks, since the 1820s, originally making iron castings, and more lately electrical switchgear. The foundry activities have since moved to Thame. Managing director, Richard Dick, said at a meeting organized for local residents' groups in June that the net effect of this development would be to cut employment on this site from around 400 to 200.
The development marks a further step in the expansion of Lucy's property empire. They already own much of Walton Well Road and Juxon Street, as well as Castle Mill House, and their new canalside building, Wharf House. They plan to rent out most of the new property, but will have to sell some to finance the development.
The City Council is organizing a public meeting on the development in September, after which it will go to the Planning Committee. Construction, starting on the east side, is likely to extend over two years.
On the other side of Juxon Street, the company received a setback at the beginning of July when the City Council planning committee rejected yet another housing scheme for the garages site between Venables Close and Juxon Street-on the grounds that it was still too large and too close to existing residences.
The new development will further widen the split between old and new housing in this part of Oxford-one that is creating a sense of 'them and us'. Philip Turner of Merrifields says that the new buildings tend to appeal in particular to overseas buyers, who want to be able to move straight in. The people who buy older property in Jericho would probably not be attracted by the style of many of the new houses.
Even so, anyone buying in Jericho needs to be fairly well-heeled, or have the support of parents prepared to chip in with a hefty deposit. Per square metre, Jericho is one of most expensive places in Oxford, with a basic two-up, two-down terraced house in good order now fetching around £200,000.
These high prices may also have a knock-on effect on rented property. Although the large landlords, such as Lucy's and OUP, are long term investors, people buying to let will find it less profitable, especially since most of the houses are too small to pack in large numbers of students. Jericho is also an area where well-heeled parents buy properties to house their student offspring.
Rents have been rising steadily, though they have stabilized in the last twelve months. Lucy's were advertising Wharf House as a 'luxury' development. They have also been renovating many of their houses in Juxon Street so as to charge higher rents. In the last Echo we reported on Lucy's efforts to evict long-term tenants at the top of Juxon Street who seemed unlikely to be able to pay higher rents-a case that is still pending.