I WAS first elected as a Vale District councillor in 2011. The outgoing Lib Dem administration were selling the buildings on the corner of West Way and Westminster Way, planning to use some of the sale proceeds to refurbish the shopping centre. The Tories took over in May that year. They formed a relationship with Doric Properties and decided to sell the whole shopping centre for 'regeneration'.

That was a body blow to the community. Doric planned to demolish the centre, with its local cafes and independent shops, and replace it with several hundred student rooms, plus restaurants and a cinema to support student night life.

Objectors argued repeatedly that the land sales price was too high for the planned development to be viable, and that planning permission should be refused. In 2014, Doric's planning application was refused as 'not good enough', but nothing was mentioned about viability.

In spring 2016, Mace (who had bought Doric) brought forward their next scheme. They claimed their profitability was so low that they couldn't provide any affordable housing. Vale policy required 40 pre cent; Mace proposed zero. In late 2017, when the sale was ready to complete, Mace claimed the price was too high for their planned development to be viable, so a lower sales price was negotiated. Mace and Vale admitted, twice, to what objectors had been claiming all along; the project wasn't viable.

If a development cannot comply with policy and still be profitable, then it is unviable and permission should be refused.

Cllr Debby Hallett

Sycamore Road


I AM writing with regard to an article written by your Arts Editor (Oxford Times, May 31) about The Bat & Ball, Cuddesdon.

Firstly, Amy And Margaret Wing (the twins) were never the landladies. The Pub was handed down by Mr and Mrs Wing to the twins' younger sister Winifred Mable, who ran it with her husband Edgar Sellar for 50 years. As did her parents prior to her. This wasn't mentioned in the article.

And Margaret was Martin Smith's grandmother not great-grandmother.

Karon Sellar


I HAVE been wondering whether it is really worth replying to Dr Emlyn-Jones on the question of the 'Life in the UK Test' (Letters, May 17).

However, I have decided that this correspondence gives an opportunity to open a more general discussion on the role of Islam in Britain.

The question of "Britishness" goes far further and deeper than whether your main religious festivals are Christmas and Easter or Ramadan and Eid.

Nor is it a question of numbers as Dr Emlyn-Jones insists. Yes, there are maybe five per cent Muslims counted in the British population figures and we know that this percentage is increasing rapidly.

However, we also know that Muslims have a whole different culture from other ethnic groups in the UK. Islam is not just a set of religious beliefs; it is a total way of life dictated by the Quran and its interpretation by Islamic scholars and by imams in the mosques.

What do readers of the Oxford Times really know about the laws and practices of Islam? Have they really ever thought about them, studied them, researched their application in Islamic countries and in the UK? I doubt very much if readers know even how many mosques and madrasas there are in the UK; how many of them are financed from abroad; what they actually teach, especially as the teaching is often not in English; indeed how many Muslims, especially women, actually speak English. I am sure most readers only have a very vague knowledge of Islamic Sharia law, of its extent and practice in the UK and of how this might be extended as the percentage number of Muslims increases.

I think it is high time that we all began to educate ourselves in all matters concerning Islam and to see if in fact it is compatible with our British democracy, our human rights of freedom of association, free speech, freedom of belief, equality of all and protection of all before the law, our criminal law, our laws concerning domestic matters such as marriage and divorce; and much more.

This is an essential discussion and should involve us all in thorough investigation of all matters pertaining to Muslims in Britain and not just a quibble over questions in the 'Life in the UK Test',

Penelope Newsome


AFTER presenting us with a drawing of a huge upturned shoebox, accompanied no doubt by a costly brochure explaining that Oxford's dreaming spires must be brought into the 21st century or some such twaddle, can we rely on Jesus College to treat the Covered Market with respect and sensitivity? Whatever has come over that college?

Richard Wilson

Stanley Road


Although Tim Brighouse and Ian Thompson are by no means the first to write letters to the Oxford Times with questions and concerns over so-called economic growth, Margaret Eynon (Letters, May 24) is right to welcome their contributions.

Add in recent letters from retired city and county planners David Young, Roger Williams, and Noel Newsom, it should become clear that the great American sociologist, Daniel Bell's warning from more than 40 years ago must be heeded: "Economic growth has become the secular religion of industrial economic societies."

But how are the effects this religion "measured"? Since 1945 this has been for the most part linked to Gross Domestic Product(GDP), which as both Amartya Sen and Josepth Stiglitz (1909) have reflected, is deeply flawed. For example, the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, if built, will be presumed to create so-called "brain belt" economic growth, but this can only be measured on the basis of factoring in its negative environmental and human impacts.

GDP could be replaced by GPI, Genuine Progress Indicator, which does factor in the negative aspects of economic activity: crime, ozone depletion, cultural and social inequalities. More recently the LSE and Goldsmiths social anthropologist Jason Hinkel has concluded that growth measurements of whatever kind are destructive and can only lead to greater, often devastating levels of poverty and deprivation (26.5 per cent of Oxford children live in extreme poverty and pensioner poverty is rising daily), in the UK and globally.

As for the Ox-Cam Expressway, the announcement from Michael Gove that new national parks could be created should be judged with caution, as the cultural environmentalist, Tom Greeves, has pointed out in a letter to the Guardian (May 29) on the vital but fragile (life-giving-and- enhancing) relationship between nature and culture. So a modest proposal for a new national park: beginning in the Kidlington Gap and neighbouring villages north of Oxford on to Bicester and environs, including the seven towns of Otmoor and the whole of Otmoor itself, then on to Elsfied and Barton, taking in Stanton St John and Forest Hill and over to Shotover and to Garsington. This could be named The Shire National Park, to the "eternal" memory of JRR Tolkien, who over many decades took creative and spiritual energy and delight, sometimes solace, from his walks on Shotover and beyond.

Bruce Ross-Smith

Bowness Avenue


WHERE are the thousands wanting an Expressway between Oxford and Cambridge, and why is Oxford City Council happy to allow our wonderful Green Belt to be built on by Christ Church and other developers, with accompanying urban sprawl, particularly when there is no road or amenity infrastructure to support it?

Surely it's not beyond the city council to compulsorily purchase land to the south of the Botley Road (leaving green spaces untouched) where all the soon to be redundant super stores are situated, and to build really sustainable and affordable housing there, within easy reach of schools and amenities. Or why were offices allowed to be built to the east of Between Towns Road and towards the flyover, when that could have provided housing within the city?

Charlotte Ritchie


SOUTH Oxfordshire is the most rotten borough in the county.

In the 2015 local elections the Conservatives won fewer than 51 per cent of the votes, but our undemocratic electoral system inflated this to 92 per cent of seats. Opposition is reduced to three councillors: one Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one Henley Residents' Group.

Had another nation an electoral system so distorted, we would call it vote-rigging. But most Conservative and Labour party members pretend it is democracy.

South Oxfordshire holds district elections every four years. Its Conservatives thus have an extreme majority until 2019.

In 2011 Conservatives won 69 per cent of South Oxfordshire seats with fewer than 54 per cent of votes cast. That was undemocratic enough.

But then ward boundaries were revised and the number of seats cut from 48 to 33. The Boundary Commission is neutral. But first-past-the-post is so rigged that commissioners cannot make it fair.

Vale of White Horse also has elections every four years, and its ward boundaries were revised after 2011. In 2015 Conservatives in Vale of White Horse won fewer than 46 per cent of votes, but our rigged voting system gave them absolute power with 76 per cent of seats.

Council election systems vary, but none is fair.

South Oxfordshire, VoWH and Oxfordshire County Council elect all councillors every four years. Oxford city elects half every two years. Cherwell and West Oxfordshire holds elections three years out of four, electing a third of councillors each year.

But we have never been asked to choose our local election system. The 2011 referendum was only about Parliamentary elections, and it offered us only the “Alternative Vote” system, which is only halfway to proportional representation.

Roger Jenking (Letters, 17 May) suggests letting voters choose the electoral system for their district and county. We deserve that right. And councillors should have no right to prevent it.

Park Close


I WAS sorry to see that Ken Messer had died (Oxford Times, June 7).

For many years Ken had donated paintings to Sobell Hospice to be used to produce exclusive Christmas cards. I joined him, as a painter, a few years later and thought I knew him well but, in fact, I only met him once, and that at a Sobell meeting.

Because he donated to Sobell before me I assumed that he was my senior only to see that he was many years my junior. I sometimes wonder if those who buy Christmas cards ever look to see who the painter was.

Derrick Holt


SURELY it is high time we were spared the intolerable actions of hitherto trusted celebrities and well known actors, in offering us so called free gifts to take up a funeral plan. Everybody should realise that this “gift” is paid for by investors, so in effect these companies are acting dishonestly. The practice should therefore be stopped.

Alex Dempsey