Here comes the crowd
Posted - November 01, 2010
Large developments ahead
Many new developments are being planned or proposed in or near Jericho – from the huge Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) to the boatyard site. These will have a substantial impact on the local community.
Residents, schools and other places of education, shops, restaurants and other businesses will all experience change.
- Radcliffe Observatory Quarter – A ten-acre development with floor space in excess of 120,000 square metres. There could be around 10,000 daily visits to the site. The development will itself be almost car free.
- Acland Hospital Site – Keble College will have 240 student bedrooms, accommodation for fellows, a café, library, and teaching and research buildings.
- Somerville College – The college will have three new buildings including two accommodation blocks for 68 students.
- 123 to 127 Walton Street –- and in Little Clarendon Street – 35 student study rooms and six retail units.
- Grantham House – The City Council intends selling the site for new housing development.
- Jericho Health Centre – The centre will move to the north-west corner of the ROQ site, making its present accommodation available for other uses.
- Boatyard site – A new planning application can be expected. This may involve more housing and a new canal bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
Walton Street, one of the city’s key north-south routes, is likely to become more congested, with many more cyclists and pedestrians. People already often have to step into the street to pass each other on the narrow pavements. One option might be to close the street to through traffic.
All these developments will intensify the use of local facilities, bringing new residents and more visitors. This will increase many of the problems already experienced, unless steps are taken to prepare for the changes.
There will be more daily visitors. The University and college plans will involve a huge new community of academic and support staff. Ten thousand or more people will want to come on a normal day. The ROQ site has 3,000 cycle parking places. Others will arrive on public transport. While many people will come by bicycle or on foot some may want to park in local streets.
But there will also be more residents. The student accommodation for Keble and Somerville Colleges will bring more than 340 newcomers – and their rooms may also be rented to short-stay visitors. While most students have no car, they will need to shop, eat, and park their cycles. Moreover, they will receive visitors who will need to use local streets, and perhaps park cars. There will also be more residents at the boatyard and Grantham House sites. The arrival of new residents could also increase the pressure to convert street space to extra car parking.
In addition, there are ongoing concerns about family homes being occupied by young people living temporarily in an area with which they have no association. Noise is part of the problem, probably related to the plentiful availability of alcohol.
These large increases in numbers of people will create considerable burdens for local residential and shopping streets. Jericho will be busier with a variety of activities, not only at daytimes during the week, but during evenings and at weekends.
Many university students and staff will no doubt return to their colleges for meals, but there will also be many non-academic personnel seeking to shop or eat locally. There will also be greater demand for local cafes, restaurants, bars and entertainment in Walton Street, Little Clarendon Street, and Woodstock Road.
In addition to the initial effects of construction, there will also be more vehicles making deliveries and servicing the area. In the early stages of development of the ROQ site, most demand will be on the Woodstock Road side, but as more buildings are created closer to Walton Street, there will be a tendency for delivery drivers to park there.
There would also be more demand for places at local schools. A growing population is already producing children who need to travel to school and accompany their parents on other journeys.
The development of the night-time economy in Walton Street has already created considerable problems in terms of noise and disturbance. Late night revellers seem unable to comprehend that raised voices disturb those who merely wish to sleep. Many pedestrians spill into the road at night creating a seemingly hostile environment for those simply wishing to go on their way, as well as causing risk to themselves and others. There is also litter from the discarded packaging, and possibly the contents, of fast meals purchased late at night.
The area has already witnessed considerable problems related to congestion and the effects of motor vehicles. Walton Street connects with Worcester Street, offering drivers an alternative route between Woodstock Road and Hythe Bridge Street, avoiding the traffic signals at St. Giles and Beaumont Street.
Rail patronage is also expected to grow at Oxford station, and some of this growth will be from the new developments north of the city centre. This will require better bus routes and also a convenient pedestrian and cycle link. While the boatyard site should include a new bridge adjacent to St Barnabas Church, the intervening link to Rewley Road would need replacing in order to exploit the full potential.
To get planning permission, developers are required to contribute financially to better local facilities. But the combined impact of these developments will be too great for individual contributions. Should there be an area plan for Jericho and Walton Manor? Among the questions are:
- What facilities should be provided for lunchtime recreation and exercise?
- Should Walton Street be closed to through traffic?
- How can we deter visitors from cruising through Jericho for parking?
- How can Walton Street be redesigned to cope with more pedestrians and cyclists?
- How can we get better bus services?
- Should there be an improved lightly trafficked link between north Oxford, Jericho and the rail station?
- Should new residential developments be car free?
To answer these and other questions, there needs to be a dialogue between the local community, developers, and the planning and highway authorities. For this purpose the JCA will be arranging a special public meeting early in 2011.
This article is based on a paper prepared for the JCA by Paul Cullen of Richmond Road. The full version is available in the JCA documents section.