Councillor backs East Oxford neighbourhood forums but others aren’t so sure

Oxford Mail: City councillor Graham Jones City councillor Graham Jones

DISCUSSIONS have been launched to investigate establishing Neighbourhood Forums in East Oxford.

At last month’s East Area Forum, members heard from Richard Bradley at the Oxford Civic Society about the idea.

A forum needs a minimum of 21 people, including a city councillor, for it to go ahead.

Mr Bradley does not think Oxford City Council would accept a forum for the whole of East Oxford.

City councillor Graham Jones has suggested three forums made up of the wards of St Clements, St Mary’s, and Iffley Fields.

He said the three wards in East Oxford could work as a starting point for the forum.

Mr Bradley, of Headington, said: “The whole point of a forum is to create a neighbourhood plan.

“They have to agree a geographical area to be cleared by the city council and they have to set up a cross-section of people to represent that area. There are rules about who can be on that forum.

“Forums may not work for East Oxford – it depends on the needs of that area, which varies enormously from area to area.”

Dr Jones said: “I’m convinced East Oxford can benefit from its own local plan.

“After the Labour administration abolished area committees, local opinion has counted for less with planning applications being decided centrally.

“It’s true that the city’s plans are very detailed, and a neighbourhood plan must respect them, but I’m assured by the Department of Communities and Local Government that we can have as broad or narrow a plan as people locally think fit.

“For example, we could have a plan which just said that all new building had to meet higher environmental benchmarks than the city currently sets as a minimum.

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“However, we could probably achieve things like more affordable housing, improved open spaces, and protection for trade on Cowley Road.

“I hope to learn more when the Oxford group meets Jo Hawkins, who led the successful Exeter St James Forum.

“That’s a part of Exeter which is very like East Oxford – same sort of housing, same sort of cultural vibrancy, same sort of population mix with high level of students.

“In the meantime, I’m anxious to hear what people in East Oxford think.”

Iffley Fields councillor Elise Benjamin is not sure whether it would be something the East Oxford community would go for.

She said: “We already have well established residents’ associations who work in the way a forum would.

“I am not sure if it is something they would want on top of that.”

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