Optimistic estate agents often stretch their notion of Jericho to cover much of North Oxford. And Jericho residents are usually happy to consider our friends and neighbours in Walton Manor, and across the canal in Rewley Park, as part of ‘greater Jericho’. But the latest proposals for changes in the city’s electoral ward boundaries would have Jericho extending to include much of the Carfax and the city centre.
At present, for electoral purposes Jericho is paired with the Botley Road area to make up the ward of Jericho and Osney. This makes sense in that these are similar residential areas. Osney Island in particular is a lot like Jericho.
Because of changes in population distribution around the City, the Local Government Boundaries Commission is proposing to alter ward boundaries to better balance the numbers of voters in each ward. They have issued draft proposals for Oxford, largely based on submissions by the City Council. Instead of being paired with Osney, Jericho would now expand east as far as Parks Road and south to New Road and Queen Street, thus incorporating Carfax and half a dozen or so university colleges.
In making its choices, one of the Boundary Commission’s statutory requirements is that wards should reflect “shared community interests and identities”. But we have little in common with the largely student accommodation to the east of St Giles and Cornmarket.
The trustees of the Jericho Community Association have therefore challenged the proposed ward boundary. They argue that Jericho should be combined with St Thomas – another primarily residential Victorian area. Indeed, the parish councils of St Barnabas and St Thomas have recently merged (see map below). It should also be noted that the new Jericho Wharf development will also have a new bridge to bring us closer to our neighbours across the canal in Rewley Park.
Another alternative would have been to link Jericho with part of what is the new Walton Manor ward to the north.
Clearly, it is difficult to accommodate the interests and identity of all areas of the city while balancing ward population sizes, but the current draft is a poor solution for Jericho.
Finally, there is the question of the name. Any proposal is likely to pair Jericho with a neighbouring area. But whichever area that is, Jericho should certainly be distinguished in the name of the ward – for example, “Jericho and St Thomas”.
To see the proposed boundaries in detail, please follow THIS LINK.
To see the draft report, please follow THIS LINK.
The Commission emphasizes that it gives “equal weight to all submissions, regardless of whom they are from”. So, the JCA’s is just one submission. It would need to be supported by those of individual residents. The consultation on the draft proposals is open until August 13.
Former MD of Radio 4, Master of St Peters College