Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Will car park plan heal or stifle heart of Summertown?
12:00pm Friday 16th August 2013 in News
THE Summertown parade of shops might not be the most attractive part of the handsome Victorian suburb of North Oxford – but it is very much the heart of the area.
So local people could be excused for being alarmed at proposals for a large development in the area that could put the bustling retail hub of Summertown at risk.
Oxford City Council is considering the option of building on a four-acre site at Diamond Place that is currently home to a public car park and offices.
A public consultation is set to begin into the scheme.
And while the city council is insisting it has the best interests of North Oxford people at heart, and that some car parking will be retained whatever gets built, there are concerns about what will happen next and how this will affect the vitality of the area.
Proposals for the development of Diamond Place and Ewert House will start to be drawn up next month.
They will be produced by the council and the local neighbourhood forum for Summertown and St Margaret’s.
Shirley McCready, secretary of the forum, which is helping to organise the consultation, said: “We are keen to work with the city council. We want to make sure this can be a good thing for Summertown.
“We don’t have a firm idea about what we want to see there yet and this will be very much an open-ended discussion for residents and interested parties.
“We want all ideas on the table and we want to see as many people as possible turn up.”
The consultation will help draw up a so-called supplementary planning document that will restrict what can go on the site and tell developers what it should look like.
The Oxford Mail has already reported calls for a new health centre to be included on the site because of the forthcoming closure of one of Summertown’s GP surgeries in November.
Frenchay Road resident Martin Roberts, who is the chairman of the Summertown and St Margaret’s forum, said: “I have spoken to a couple of GPs and they are very keen to exploit the opportunity and will be approaching Oxford City Council.
“North Oxford Medical Centre is closing and Summertown Health Centre is a Victorian house which is completely unfit for purpose.
“It seems the obvious thing to do.”
North Oxford Medical Centre has announced it will close on November 29 after its GPs decided that the practice is no longer viable because of retirement and what it would only describe as “other changes”.
Practice manager Sangeeta Bhal declined to comment on whether a new medical centre in Summertown was needed.
But Jessica Newman, the practice manager at the nearby Summertown Health Centre, said: “Obviously we would welcome some new facilities but it would depend on the financial arrangements.
“We are in an old building and it would be nice to have some purpose-built facilities to work in but there are a whole range of other issues we would have to take into account.”
City council spokesman Eva Oliver said that a new health centre could be included on the site.
The city council has already earmarked the site for development in its Sites and Housing Plan, which says the land can be turned into a “retail-led mixed use development”.
Other uses which can be put on the four-acre site are homes, student accommodation and employment space.
This is such a wide variety of possible uses that almost anything is possible, but one thing that the city council is very specific on is the retention of some element of parking.
In its Sites and Housing Plan, the council said: “The city and county council are seeking to reduce the use of the private car within Oxford and a reduction in car parking would discourage car use although the car park is important to local traders and its total loss would be detrimental.
“Sufficient car parking spaces should be retained at a level at which the city council considers is reasonable to serve and safeguard the vitality of the local area, bearing in mind the quality of public transport to the area and the current level of usage of the car park.”
Quite how this car parking will be retained, and how many car parking spaces is “sufficient” has not been made clear by the city council – and this concerns traders.
Priscilla Carter, owner of the Unique Creations art and gift store on Banbury Road, said: “Obviously we cannot afford to lose any car parking spaces.
“It is hard enough to park around here as it is so I would rather they didn’t build.
“If we lose all our car parking spaces where is everyone going to park? It is so ridiculous.
“And what do our customers do to park while the building work is going on?”
Hugh Howe, who runs Lyster Hair Design on BanburyRoad, said: “We cannot afford to lose six parking spaces, let alone all those parking spaces down there.
“Speaking as a trader who has been here for 20 years, you cannot have too much parking.
“You will never get grumbling from traders because there is too much parking.
“We need more spaces and reasonable prices because it is strangling small businesses.
“To me ‘sufficient’ is as long as a piece of string. The council has to define what it means by ‘sufficient’.”
- A consultation will be held on September 4 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the North Oxford Association Community Centre in Diamond Place.