A CASH boost of almost £4m to regenerate Oxford’s Barton estate is set to transform shops, homes and facilities.

The investment comes after the first 237 homes to be built in the new Barton Park development were approved last night.

Members of the 5,000-strong community in Barton, first built in 1946, said they hoped the investment in the existing estate would strengthen links with the new one, which will see 885 homes built with the first residents moving in during the summer of 2017.

The project could see Underhill Circus transformed, along with improvements to the Neighbourhood Centre, an expansion of the GP surgery and refurbishments to several homes and gardens over the next four years.

Barton city councillor Mike Rowley said plans were in the early stages and that they wanted the community to have their say on where the rest of the money would be best spent.

The council board member for housing added: “It’s very much up to the community. “We’ve had lots of input from the Barton Community Association (BCA), and council officers met with all Neighbourhood Centre user groups recently to find out what they would like to see.

“We’ve drawn up plans together with the community that will improve the quality of life in Barton with improvements to council housing, the neighbourhood centre and Underhill Circus.

“The area will look more attractive and have better community facilities. This is great news and it will help improve the quality of life in Barton for all residents.”

The bulk of the money, £1.72m, will be spent on Underhill Circus, but Mr Rowley said they hadn’t decided whether the area would be rebuilt or refurbished. He added the focal point of the estate would be included in the later stages of the regeneration project.

He said: “It depends what turns out to be practical. Ideally we’d like to rebuild to improve housing provision and public realm in Underhill Circus.

“A number of outline schemes have been commissioned from architects, some involving complete rebuilding and some just refurbishment of the existing buildings and remodelling of the public space. But as yet there is no worked-out plan of exactly what’s possible.”

The health centre in the Neighbourhood Centre will receive £200,000 for its planned expansion, and a further £150,000 will be available for the rest of the centre, with £40,000 being earmarked to transform its entrance and outside seating area.

There will also be improvements to all the blocks of flats, starting with Stowford Road and Bayswater Road, and then rolling out similar works to the remaining blocks in the estate.

“Welcome to Barton” signs will also be installed along with screened areas for bin storage.

Chaka Artwell, who lives in Cranley Road, welcomed the funding, and said he would like to see some of the money spent on facilities for teenagers and young adults to socialise in.

He added: “ It’s a fantastic amount of money, but the community has to be consulted.”

BCA trustee Rod Shepherd said: “There’s no doubt if Underhill Circus was to be redeveloped it would be a massive lift for the community. It could bring in retail life to the area and would be very positive.

“It’s important that the community has an input, and it would be great if it could happen. My only concern is that sometimes big statements get made and nothing happens.”

The housing scheme has provoked concerns with residents that the original Barton could be “left behind”.

  • Mike Rowley

But Barton city councillor Van Coulter said the council was looking to “take advantage of the opportunities” presented by the new housing estate to redevelop the existing one to create one community.

Martin Scarrott, 50, who has lived in Northway for 12 years with wife Debbie, said: “I’m pleased with the investment and I hope it’s used all around the estate.

“With Barton Park being built, people are worried that will be the posh bit and this will be the slums. It’s important this area is regenerated as well.”

Sharon Keene, 49, of Aldebarton Drive, said she thought the investment was “fantastic”.

The mother-of-three added: “It would help integrate the two communities if Underhill Circus was refurbished.”

Where the £3.7m will be spent in Barton:

* £1.72m will be spent on improving Underhill Circus. Plans could see the entire area rebuilt, but they have not been finalised and the city council has said it will consult the public on the final designs.
* £200,000 on expanding the health centre which will include more parking spaces.
* £150,000 on improving the rest of the Neighbourhood Centre building. The council said the BCA is keen on using £40,000 of the £150,000 to revamp the entrance and make outside seating area more attractive with landscaping.
* The remaining £1.63m will be used to improve homes on the estate along with gardens and other community areas.