THREE months after she was elected Oxford city councillor for the Headington ward Stef Garden reflects on what her area means to her and what are some of the challenges and issues facing her ward.

When I first came to Headington I stayed in Windmill Road next door to a lady in her 80s, who was born and bred here.

In fact she was proud to say she had only left Headington three times in her life: twice to go to Cowley and once into Oxford, but that she didn’t really like it.

I guess for most people, Headington is just the first suburb as you drive into Oxford from London. A place where, if you are looking, there is a shark sticking out of the roof of a house. Yet, Headington is so much more than a dormitory suburb for people working or living elsewhere.

It is a fascinating and lovely place in its own right.

Headington has an internationally diverse community. You may think that receiving so many people from elsewhere would have caused high levels of friction between residents old and new, yet nothing could be further from the truth: there is general mutual respect, trust and tolerance and a recognition that each one of us (friend or neighbour) is just trying to get through life as best we can.

So many people are dedicated to keeping Headington a vibrant and welcoming place, and the Headington Forum has been instrumental in translating that vision into our neighbourhood plan. The Headington Action group, as a result, has amongst many things started up the Headington Market – something that has continued to grow so it’s now hard to imagine that it has not always been part of our thriving business district.

Headington is a great place for the whole family, with excellent schools, and the wonderful Bury Knowle Park. The amazing play area offers an environment for children to explore and develop their imaginations with its swings and slides, pirate scenes, woodcarvings of Narnia and a beautiful library. Well-laid paths connect these features with two of our more famous residents, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.

For health-related matters, we couldn’t do better - five hospitals with world-renowned expertise and experience on our doorstep.

However, finding affordable homes or land to build on to accommodate staff is a difficult matter, and the reason why the OUH trust is exploring increasing the number of key worker dwellings across three hospital sites. This should have the added benefit of reducing commuter journeys.

In addition, our roads are crowded, and the endless queuing and circling to find parking is a major problem, and a significant contributor to pollution. While improved cycling and park-and-ride facilities can help mitigate some of our congestion, for many of the patients attending our hospitals this is not a feasible expectation. There will always be a requirement for car parking to service the needs of very ill and elderly patients.

Most of these aspects of daily living are underpinned by our relationship with the European Union, and the uncertainty of Brexit is a great cause of concern for all. For the NHS, the threat of staff shortages is already becoming a reality as they struggle to recruit and retain staff. Research collaborations and funding is being compromised and opportunities, for growth and innovation, are slowing down as a result. Leaving the EU will have a significant knock-on effect on our community, businesses and institutions.

Headington is fragile to all these economic and political challenges but we are a hardy bunch, up-on-the-hill, so whatever the challenge, I am sure that Headington will continue to flourish.

I’d like to dedicate this to my dear friend Joan, a community champion in her own right, who sadly passed away earlier this month.