Issue 54 — January 2004
Flooded with fancy flats
Hundreds of new homes line up for planning permission.
Jericho’s two large developments are wending their way, somewhat slowly, through the planning process. First to appear was the proposal for the land owned by British Waterways behind St. Barnabas Church. British Waterways chose as their developer Bellway Homes, who at the end of July in a display at the Community Centre presented their proposals for 46 residential units plus a new restaurant.
Most people who saw this were aghast at the scale and character of what was being planned – and angry that it made no provision for a new Community Centre. The Council has offered for the Centre the land currently occupied by the garages in Dawson Place. British Waterways and Bellway were also asked to contribute just one-tenth of an acre to allow the construction of a Centre of a viable size. So far, they have refused.
Around 300 people wrote to the City Council objecting to this plan – something of a record for a site of this size. These criticisms were repeated in September at a useful meeting in the school which was supposed to ‘mediate’ between the developer and the community, except that the developer did not appear.
As it stood, this plan clearly stood no chance of obtaining planning permission. Bellway have therefore been trying to make it more acceptable, but it seems that nothing much is likely to happen until early January, if then. The Community Association has discussed this for years with British Waterways and has also shown how the land we need could be provided without any impact on their profits, but so far to no avail.
The second large development is from Lucy’s, for the site of its factory, as well as the ‘island site’ across the canal, which is currently its car park. Lucy’s has already obtained planning permission once for this site, promising to retain the framework of the old building, which would entitle them to build to the same height as the factory.
All developers are now required to make a proportion of their buildings available as affordable housing. In the past this was 30% but the emerging Local Plan for the city now specifies 50%. For this purpose Lucy’s, to the alarm of current tenants, was contemplating offering the Castle Mill House flats in Mount Street.
Lucy’s developer, Berkeley Homes, has, however, now come up with a new plan which was presented to a well attended public meeting at the Town Hall in December. This will now mean more flats – 200 on the factory site, along with 36 flats and 30 houses on the island site. This time, they propose demolishing the factory completely – though pressing home their advantage by again keeping to the height of the factory. This time all the affordable houses would be newly built.
Residents of both Jericho and Walton Manor expressed their dismay at yet another identikit set of buildings. No one doubts that this ‘brownfield’ site is ripe for redevelopment, but what is being proposed is very unimaginative. These supposedly ‘sustainable’ new buildings, for example, make no provision for using renewable energy, and retain none of the character of the current site. Nor do they build any new public amenities. With all these new residents in Jericho, it will be even more important to have a new Community Centre and Lucy’s proposes to contribute financially to this.
Another serious problem is that there is no provision for relocating Walton Street Cycles whose workshop is currently on the site. John Wilson, the owner, made an impassioned plea, pointing out the incoherence of policies that encourage the use of cycles without ensuring facilities for repair. In future it looks as though cyclists will have to push broken bikes into the city centre or all the way to Cowley Road.