A jewel in a sea of green. June Blog.

A jewel in a sea of green. June Blog.

Oxford Preservation Trust are passionate about protecting Oxford’s extraordinary and wonderful past and guiding its exciting future. Since 1927 we’ve been the custodians of land and buildings with its fingers of green running into and through the City, where ‘town meets country’. Every year we work hard to make Oxford more accessible so that this ‘jewel in a sea of green’ can be shared and enjoyed by all. We are grateful to our members and volunteers for their time and donations which allows us to carry out this important work.

We wanted the opportunity to tell you about some of the causes and projects close to our hearts, so here we report on what’s happening behind the scenes in the busy OPT offices in June. We hope you find this informative. If you’d like any further details on what we do, or would like to become a member and help support us in our causes - please visit our website www.oxfordpreservation.org.uk

The flood alleviation scheme (FAS) at Hinksey Meadow

Hinksey Meadow is an important piece of meadow land, not just as an open green space that is open for all to enjoy but also for its special flora and fauna.

OPT carefully manage the meadow using traditional methods such as aftermath grazing after a summer hay cut. In recent years we have seen a great increase in the variety and number of wild flowers and in 2017 we recorded our highest ever number of those iconic Oxford plants the Snake’s Head Fritillary.

Oxford’s flooding is a well known issue, and the Environment Agency (EA) is proposing a large channel down the west side of Oxford known as the Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS). OPT acknowledges that flooding is a problem which needs to be solved, but are concerned to understand more about how such a scheme is to work, and to try to balance the benefits against the very considerable harm it will do to the environment and character of the area both on Hinksey Meadow, and to the adjoining Willow Walk, with talk of it being upgraded to highway standard. The EA will need to install a number of very large bridges with lots of rules about the clearance above water, the height of parapets etc.

Willow Walk and Hinksey Meadow are important amenities for local people and are a crucial part of the rural backdrop of the city enjoyed by many every day. Oxford is special in having these ‘villages within the town’ such as North Hinksey so close to the bustling city though this is not by chance. OPT has made a deliberate effort to own and maintain Hinksey Meadow which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for people to access and enjoy, and it hurts to think it may be spoilt.

This is a huge project and OPT are working hard to find out as much as we can about the effect of FAS on the immediate area and along its full length. We regret that the area has not been well managed for the floods over the years with ditches, streams and tree work not always happening. We will want to know that if this or any scheme happen that the EA has thought about and costed the future management too.

Planning for the future

The need for more housing to meet Oxford’s needs is well known. Recent Local Plans for the Vale of the White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Council have both included substantial development sites in the Green Belt which previously was protected from development. Cherwell District Council and Oxford City Council are about to publish their plans and are likely to follow suit, with Oxford City suggesting going upwards too.

New housing has to go somewhere and this means expanding outwards, upwards or creating new settlements. With central and local government both committed to economic development in the Oxford – Cambridge Arc OPT it is not likely that the pressure will stop. OPT is working hard to find a way to influence the outcomes and ensure that Oxford and its setting are not ruined forever. We examine each of the sites suggested to see how they might work and are also thinking about the cumulative effect of all this development on transport and infrastructure around our glorious City.

Trustees meet this month when they will debate the subject.

The official City Council’s draft local plan is released for consultation on 30 June. Patsy Dell, Head of Planning at Oxford City Council spoke at OPT’s AGM and gave a frank overview of development pressures encouraging everyone to take part in the consultation. OPT are particularly concerned about that the City wants to develop upwards, and a 15 storey tower at Cowley Shopping Centre has already come forward. It is difficult to build high at Oxford with its tall towers and 360 degree views from the hills around the City and we will be making our comments in due course.

Members and volunteers

We couldn’t achieve what we do each year without our incredible volunteers. Recently, we’ve been focusing on Heyford Meadow and Wolvercote Lakes and have made great improvements so that everyone can enjoy OPT land.

Our members have been enjoying our monthly meet up in Oxford Castle’s Courtyard café. Stephen, our Membership Officer has been answering questions about this year’s Oxford Open Doors, upcoming events, transport within Oxford, planning and the effect on our views and OPT’s approach to guiding change, not stopping it. Stephen was surprised to find that some members weren’t aware of the fantastic range of discounts they can receive. As a reminder to us all, as an OPT member you can enjoy:

  • Free, unlimited entry into Oxford Castle Unlocked and the mound.
  • 10% discount in Oxford Castle’s Gift Shop.
  • 10% discount in Oxford Castle’s Courtyard Café.
  • 10% discount on all OPT publications.
  • 15% discount at The Victoria Arms in Old Marston.
  • Full lecture programme – with discounts.
  • Access to members only events.
  • Twice yearly informative Newsletters.
  • Oxford Open Doors brochure delivered to your door.

We wish you all a happy June.

The team at OPT