Housing development is not really ‘set to get a whole lot greener’ in spite of the upbeat article in In Business 23 January. It is admitted that delivering the enhanced 10 per cent Biodiversity Net Gain promised in the Environment Bill to be published in October would, in many cases, not be possible ‘within the original development’. That may be good news for local landowners unable to benefit directly from development but who could provide ‘biodiversity credits nearby’. ‘Nearby’, however, is often not near enough to mitigate the effects of the development locally let alone provide a local 10 per cent gain. Frequently hedges and trees on development sites are all swept away when development begins. The consequence is habitat fragmentation. It takes years to replace hedges and trees and that is why plans might have to extend over a ‘25- to 30-year period’. Insects, birds, reptiles and mammals cannot easily and successfully be relocated. One cannot give them a new address.

Rather than suggesting that ‘significant amounts of offsetting ‘will be needed ‘to mitigate the environmental impact’ because developments will create ‘new opportunities for landowners’, it would be more responsible to promote Nature Recovery Maps to provide local Nature Recovery Networks so that local habitats are preserved and linked before planning applications are submitted. Of course, this might not be so attractive to developers, landowners and their agents, but it would genuinely be ‘greener’.

Christopher Hardman


After reading your article last week, I wanted to sing the praises of a new experimental initiative in Oxford, the lift sharing Pick Me Up bus. It's been a godsend to many of us! To students, to patients, to parents with pushchairs, to people who can't walk easily and more.

As someone with a physical disability Pick Me Up has really made a massive difference to me getting around Oxford. While the service is for everybody, what many readers may not be aware of is that it is totally free for those with who register their senior or disabled bus pass on the app.

It is essentially a lift sharing service run by Oxford Bus Company that uses a smartphone app, where you put in your location and destination, and it finds you a lift on one of its minibuses, picking up and dropping off near to your request. It isn't restricted to bus stops, so for instance it picks me up me up a few meters from my house, saving me the 15-minute hike to my bus stop.

It's great as it takes me to all those other locations that I can find impossible to walk to, for example the trek across city centre from the High Street to St Giles. Or instead of a mammoth two journey affair from my home in Wood Farm to Abingdon Rd, I can just book the Pick Me Up, one journey, and off I go! It does demand a little patience, with understanding that the service has to match your request up with the nearest minibus. But I really believe that the more people use it, the better it will become and the more likely it will survive.

It's really been a lifeline for many passengers. I met a gym enthusiast, a wheelchair user who can now go to the gym every day, thanks to Pick Me Up.I hope it can continue, otherwise it will deprive people like myself of our new found freedom and independence and send us back to square one!

I am not saying that they are a replacement for taxis. We're lucky to have such good value, efficient taxi service in Oxford which can get you from A to B with speed.

Dalya Moss


Your correspondent Mike Gotch suggests that key public sector workers on modest incomes should be exempt from a workplace parking levy.

I don’t see how that would be fair unless there was also a similar exemption for workers on modest incomes in the wealth generating private sector. In fact, my personal view is that I think the workplace parking levy is a great idea and there shouldn’t be any exemptions at all, perhaps with the sole exception of disabled people, i.e. people who physically have no option but to use a car to get to and from work.

My reason for this viewpoint is that anyone who can afford to own and run a car can hardly claim to be on the breadline, and I believe it’s only fair that car owners should pay the full external costs of choosing the most polluting, least space-efficient form of personal transport. The alternative is for those external costs, e.g. the cost to the NHS of treating conditions caused by air pollution, the cost to the economy of delays from congestion, to be borne by all in society, i.e. through general taxation.

Personally, I don’t feel this is fair on people such as myself who’ve taken the decision to eschew car ownership in favour of more societally beneficial forms of transport, i.e. walking, cycling and public transport.

Chris Day

Marsh Baldon

Leaving the European Union has left everyone in Oxford much worse off. Readers are entitled to their different views about Europe. But we are all now less free, have less say and less control.

Boris Johnson, whose father worked for the European Commission, knows the truth. Britain was never told what to do by foreigners. EU laws and courts all had Brits playing a leading role. From clean beaches to workers’ rights and the single market, elected British politicians led the way.

Everyone in Oxford has been done down by this Tory Brexit. Britain will have no say because we have walked out of the club we once helped to lead. Life is already tougher for Oxford’s universities, our hospitals and the car factory.

Johnson has lost on the Irish border. Now watch him let down his supporters over fishing, immigration and public spending. Thankfully most Oxford residents will remain international and European whatever this disastrous Government does.

Cllr John Tanner (Labour)

Littlemore ward, Oxford City Council

I ADMIT being barely semi literate and not in the same league as Christoper Gray or Philip Pullman – giants of the Oxford literati set. I wonder if Pullman has read Lynn Truss’s book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” – a work all about punctuation. The title omitted the Oxford comma. She is obviously less pedantic on the matter.

I would refer him to pages 84 and 85 where she warns that one should not get between two people with differing views on the use or not of the Oxford comma after drink has been taken! She then goes on to say that one should not be too rigid about commas – she is right.

I am happy to come into Oxford and collect all his and other literate people’s boycotted 50p’s and spending them on improving my own semi literate state – or maybe buying a pint in Pullman’s local watering hole and starting an argument on Oxford commas.

Do they have such things in Cambridge, I wonder – or maybe they are less pedantic there?

But my main complaint (not the first time) is about Mr Gray - his column slagged off “Just a Minute” claiming the programme was a bit of a bore!

Is this a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black?

The sad loss of Nicholas Parsons and his masterful chairing of JAM is indeed a tragedy, but I have every confidence that the programme will carry on for many years to come, entertaining, as Nicholas was wont to say, many millions here and all over the world – that is why the programme IS still going strong after over 50 years on air – because even the suits at the BBC are astute enough to realise that JAM is a National Treasure with a key role in their light entertainment offering. It is massively popular, unlike Gray. He, in contrast, clearly lacks any sense of fun and humour nor appreciates the joy of words and the English language that JAM epitomises.

I was fortunate to hear Nicholas Parsons in conversation with Gyles Brandreth at Blenheim a couple of years ago – despite being well past 90, NP was brilliant and sharp as a razor. I don’t think I can recall a more hilarious hour of wit and general hysteria. To claim to be his friend and then slag off NP’s pride and joy in the same week of his death is an absolute outrage especially coming from a man of such meagre talent by comparison.

Harry St John

North Leigh

Philip Pullman’s crass, sneering response to the 50p Brexit coin (January 30) says more about the man than the message. The use of the Oxford (or serial) comma, i.e. before a conjunction in a list of three or more items, is by no means accepted practice by all writers and literary critics. The English master at my grammar school taught us the increasing trend is to minimize punctuation when the meaning is clear—as it is in this case.

I daresay Sir Philip belongs to that class of dinosaurs who insist it is unforgivable to ever split an infinitive and that a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with. If he wishes to boycott the Brexit coin, any he finds in his change he would be welcome to pass on to me and I will happily donate them to a suitable charity.

Tim Graham


Last week – which began with Holocaust Remembrance Day – saw the close of a short but excellent exhibition at Oxford Town Hall, called Lessons of the Holocaust, organised by Oxford Stand Up to Racism. It reminded us not only of the unspeakable inhumanity of Nazism but of the failure of decent people to oppose it.

For me one of the most striking items in the exhibition was a poster issued by the Iron Front, the military wing of the front of German Social Democrats and their trade union wing in about 1932. It shows three arrows – the symbol of the Iron Front – smashing the opposition forces. Its words say “Against Papen, Hitler and Thälmann”. Papen was the leader of the ultra-conservatives, Hitler as we all know was the leader of the Nazi Party and Thälmann the leader of the Communists. In other words, the German Social Democrats – the equivalent of our Labour Party – instead of unifying the progressive forces to attack the fascists and their allies, turned their fire on other anti-fascists.

Incredible in retrospect! And yet the same thing is happening again albeit on a smaller scale. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets took the decision to ban a meeting organised by the local counterpart organisation of Oxford Stand Up to Racism because the Board of Deputies of British Jews accused the meeting’s guest speaker – a Jewish speaker at that – of being an anti-Semite. You couldn’t make it up!

Here we are in Britain, constantly warned of the rising danger of various forms of racism including anti-Semitism, and the main representative body of British Jews wants to direct its fire against anti-racists as if they were the real enemy.

Evidently the Board of Deputies, for all its rightful remembrance of the Holocaust has forgotten its lessons.

The fact that the venue of the exhibition I visited was the Town Hall suggests that our City Council has not given in to such pressure. Let’s hope that other councils copy Oxford’s stand and not that of Tower Hamlets.

Andrew Hornung

Church Enstone

Chris Day's letter in the Oxford Times (Cycling is Not a Pain, January 30) was well entitled.

I am elderly, suffering seriously from arthritis, and awaiting a hip replacement.

It is very painful to climb stairs or to walk 300 yards to the bus stop.

But I have no pain on my bicycle, and several times a week cycle from Old Marston to the city centre and beyond – thus getting plenty of helpful exercise before my operation.

Hubert Allen

Old Marston

The Liberal Democrats are concerned about the rollout of automated facial recognition software without proper consultation or regulation. We have worries about the impact of this technology on human rights, the lack of a legal framework to govern its use, its inaccuracy, and its bias against women and BAME people.

It is wrong for any form of mass surveillance to be rolled out without safeguards to protect innocent people from being discriminated against or having their privacy invaded.

Liberal Democrats call for an immediate halt to the use of facial recognition surveillance by police forces across the country.

We believe that the technology is still inaccurate and will damage trust between the police and communities. The Biometrics Commissioner, the Information Commissioner and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner have all raised concerns about facial recognition software, and have argued that its impact on human rights must be resolved before a wider rollout. These are views we respect.

In the Metropolitan Police’s test data, many supposed matches during their trials were wrong. For instance, facial recognition technology can be less accurate in identifying women and ethnic minorities than white men. This means that women and BAME people are much more likely to be stopped without reason than white men. Given that a black person is already more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person, this is a major consideration.

To make our communities safer, Liberal Democrats would restore effective community policing, starting with the re-opening of local police stations across the Thames Valley.

John Howson

Oxfordshire County Councillor

Liz Wade

Tom Landell Mills

Oxford City Councillors

Last week’s The Oxford Times contained several column inches about climate change and pollution affecting Oxford city centre, including your front page lead story, your leader article, several letters and a First Person piece.

The Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ) proposals may be laudable, although not all contributors to your pages will agree.

The county council’s cabinet minister for environment is quoted as saying; “Tackling air pollution and climate change is a great priority for Oxfordshire County Council. This project (ZEZ) will make a huge difference to the quality of life of people living and working in the city centre.

“We can look forward to a city that will be a healthier and cleaner place for all.”

That begs the question that if county and city councillors feel so strongly about pollution, why do they back proposals for thousands of new homes to be built on the Green Belt? Won’t those new homes add to the number of vehicles circling the city, adding traffic chaos to the mix of polluted air?

More than 4,000 of those home are planned for the northern end of the city, including the gap between the village of Kidlington and north Oxford.

One of the areas earmarked for new homes is North Oxford Golf Course where thousands of people each year not only enjoy their game but walk about four-and-a-half miles while breathing in the fresh air and admiring the beautiful green space.

How tragic it is that what the city and the county wants does not fit in with the wishes of so many local people.

Building on the gap between Kidlington and the northern end of Oxford’s ring road will considerably multiply the area’s traffic problems, congestion and air pollution which the city and county councils are so keen to eradicate.

Building more homes on green space on the fringes of the city are not the answer.

David Wynne-Jones


Our culture is undoubtedly steeped in the poison of patriarchy, and woman are routinely and without a second thought disempowered, patronised and belittled. In some women however a siege mentality has developed which excludes and stereotypes men.

Oxford Professor Selina Todd is in hot water for even suggesting that trans women somehow threaten ‘real’ women. Do trans men then threaten ‘real’ men? In my humble opinion, the antidote to the toxin of patriarchy is not to retreat into our gender bunkers, but to do away with gender roles altogether. I differ from a woman in about 0.1% of my body mass. Why is this significant? Let women become men, let men become women if it makes them happy.

For my part, I have for many years longed to change my gender to ‘person’. Is this possible? As for trans men threatening women in shelters for victims of domestic abuse, if children weren’t suffocated into assuming gender roles in the first place, then men wouldn’t become violent emotionally retarded brutes, women wouldn’t become disempowered wallflowers, and there would be a drastic reduction in domestic abuse as a consequence.

Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones

Divinity Road