Residents fear Northway and Marston flood scheme could worsen sewage leak problems

3 June 2016/ Sophie Mogridge

Oxford City Councillor Mick Haines

RESIDENTS fear a £2.2m flood prevention scheme could flood their homes with sewage.

The Northway and Marston Flood Alleviation Scheme, created by Oxford City Council following severe floods in 2005, 2007 and 2012, is intended to protect 110 properties in the area.

But residents in Old Marston have had problems with sewage flooding their gardens in the past and said they are worried massive groundworks could worsen the problem.

City councillor for the area Mick Haines said one constituent's garden was flooded with sewage this year and he feared it was to do with nearby groundworks for the new Barton Park housing estate.

Mr Haines said: "Having spoken to residents, it is really worrying people that their land could be flooded with sewage as a result of the scheme.

"In 2014 people had raw sewage in their front gardens and I've had someone in Cherwell Drive tell me their garden was flooded with raw sewage only the other week and we think it's because of the Barton Park work.

"Even when you drive through the area you can smell the sewage and we don't want it to be made worse."

The flood alleviation scheme has long been in the pipeline but £600,000 from Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and more than £1.5m government funding now mean work is set to start in September.

Council contractors will create moats, small walls and a wetland reserve to contain floodwater in the adventure playground behind Borrowmead Road, in Peasmoor Brook behind Stockley Road and the community centre field next to Copse Lane in Northway.

Residents are being consulted on their views until June 16 and Mr Haines said he hoped the city council would listen to people's fears.

He said: "I think overall, the scheme is a good one and hopefully it'll work well but the council needs to thoroughly investigate the sewage system before beginning work.

"I have no doubt that the scheme will benefit people in Northway, it's just Marston that we need to think about."

Residents in the area have already raised fears that the plans may affect their parks and green spaces.

Louise Payne, 45, from Copse Lane in Northway, said she was worried about construction work taking over the recreation ground by the Northway Community Centre which she said was the "centre of the community".

Oxford City Council did not comment on Marston residents' sewage flooding fears.

The council's planning committee is aiming to make a final decision on whether the flood alleviation scheme should go ahead by August 11.

Disabled pensioner urges county council to make Old Marston more wheelchair-friendly

31 May 2016 / Sophie Mogridge

A DISABLED pensioner, who is struggling to cross the road to reach his local pub, is urging local authorities to make his neighbourhood more wheelchair-friendly.

Michael Bruton, of Old Marston, said The Red Lion pub in Oxford Road was almost impossible to return home from in a wheelchair due to the street's high kerbs and pavements.

The 78-year-old said he hoped Oxfordshire County Council would "sit-up and listen" to his struggle and lower the kerb.

Mr Bruton said he had contacted the council about the issue several times this year but so far nothing has been done.

He said: "The Red Lion pub is on the corner of Oxford Road, on the bend and at some parts of the road you can see cars coming but from other places you can't see anything.

"I'm usually okay getting there myself but it's getting back by myself which is tricky, as I can barely see anything and it's hard to get down from the kerb.

"I often have to just sit there and listen in the silence to see if there might be something coming round the corner, but sometimes I don't want to risk it."

Mr Bruton, a retired British Airways computer consultant, said he often had to visit the pub with friends or family in order to ensure a safe journey.

He said: "I've started to take someone with me because that way I can get them to go out into the middle of the road quite quickly and see if there is any traffic coming but I shouldn't have to always do that.

"I'm not asking for much, I don't necessarily want a crossing put in, I just want them to lower the kerbs to make it more wheelchair-friendly for people like me."

Independent city councillor for Marston Mick Haines said he thought it would be a good idea for Mr Bruton to have a safe place to cross.

He said: "I know he's had quite a lot of trouble in the past year with crossing to and from the pub and along that road and I think it would be really great if he could get out and about safely in his wheelchair."

Martin Crabtree from Oxfordshire County Council said the council was not aware of this "particular issue" but added it would be happy to see whether adjustments to the pavement could be made to assist Mr Bruton.

Planned demolition of one of Marston's last pubs leaves residents with few places to go for a drink

21 MAY 2016 / Sophie Mogridge

THE planned demolition of one of Marston's last pubs has sparked outrage with the community who say they have very few places left to go for a drink.

The Jack Russell pub in Salford Road has been empty for seven months and in the past week the inside of the building has been tarnished with graffiti and gutted of its copper fittings.

The demolition of the pub, which was sold by brewery Greene King in October last year, is expected to take place next week and, if it does, it will leave only two pubs in the Marston area.

City Councillor for Marston Mark Clarkson said: "From what I've been told, the Jack Russell pub is planned to be demolished next week and I know it's causing quite a lot of uproar in the area.

"It is a real shame to see another one of the area's pubs go."

Although a date has not yet been set, the site is expected to be turned into a three-storey building, containing 16 flats and 19 parking spaces, but Arlington Drive resident Chris Watkins said he was sad to see the pub go.

He said: "I met my wife in that pub and I think it's a real shame that we're losing places left right and centre.

"I wish a lot of the pubs we've lost could have been kept and hope we won't lose any more in the future."

Marston has already seen pubs such as The Friar, on the corner of Marston Road and Old Marston Road, demolished in 2013 and turned into flats, which are set to be named Friar Court later this year.

The Bricklayers pub in Church Lane also closed in 2010 and subsequently became a housing development and the Cavalier pub in Copse Lane followed suit by becoming a block of flats after the original building was demolished in 2012.

Councillor Mick Haines said: "We barely have anything left in Marston and quite frankly the social scene has gone downhill because, apart from the Red Lion and Victoria Arms, we don't have anywhere left to go for a drink.

"Most of them have been demolished or turned into flats, which is a real shame, because Marston used to be quite lively at times.

"A lot of the pubs used to offer you the chance to play darts, live musicians would play great music and you could go for a dance and a good time with your friends but now it's not like that at all."

Councillor Haines added he hoped the area could retain its last two pubs for the sake of the community.

He said: "It's a real shame to have seen fundamental parts of the community torn down or changed and I really hope that we can keep the pubs we've got now because otherwise people really will have nowhere to go."

"My fingers are crossed that we can get things back on track one day."

Election roundup- Labour makes Oxford gains but good news for Tories across Oxfordshire

6 May 2016 / Luke Sproule

Labour snatched two seats from the Green Party in an unexpected turn of events on Oxford City Council following yesterday's election.

It was good news for the Conservative Party as well, as they held onto Cherwell District Council with the loss of just one seat and kept their majority on West Oxfordshire District Council.

The Tories also had cause to celebrate after Anthony Stansfeld was elected to serve a second term as police and crime comissioner after second preference votes handed him victory.

One of the big upsets was the election of Stephen Curran in Oxford City Council's Iffley Fields ward at the expense of veteran Green councillor Elise Benjamin.

Veteran Green councillor Elise Benjamin has spoken to local government reporter Matt Oliver about her shock defeat today at the hands of Labour.

The result at Iffley Fields - one of the most dramatic of this year - came after heavy canvassing from the rival parties.

Although Ms  Benjamin secured 961 votes, her Labour opponent Steve Curran narrowly won with 1,015 votes.

Speaking after the result, Ms Benjamin – who has sat on the council since 1999 – said she had been "inundated with support from residents" but claimed she was "outvoted by people thinking about national issues".

The mum-of-one added: "It was a surprise and I still haven't got used to it yet. I had a feeling it would be close, but I still hoped I would keep my seat based on support from residents."

She hopes to be back on city council soon and says she will remain "a strong voice" in local politics.

Independent Mick Haines also held onto his Marston seat.

Mr Stansfeld did not manage to secure victory on the first count but gained enough second-reference transfers to see off Mrs Carter's Challenge.

He said: "The campaign has went very well and I'm pleased there was a bigger turnout than last time. It gives the role greater legitimacy.

"There was a considerably majority and I will do my best for the people of Thames Valley."

There was relief for the Conservatives in Cherwell on a day of "uncertainty" as the local authority saw elections for all its seats for the first time following a boundary commission review.

But the Tories won 28 seats as Labour took eight and two independents were also elected.

The Lib Dems lost their only seat.

Deputy leader of Cherwell District Council George Reynolds said:

“It was not only an all-out election but three candidates for each wards which meant there was an enormous amount of split votes and strange combinations which would not usually happen.

“So for all parties that did have an affect this year.

“But we have all had to weather it out and the Conservatives still got a good hold on the majority.”

In West Oxfordshire the Tories took home 12 seats with Labour picking up three and the Lib Dems two.

Mr Enright said: "I'm absolutely delighted and proud.

"It's an indication of the work we have been doing locally for the past four years."

There was a moment of concern that Mr Enright had lost the seat to Conservative rival Suzanne Bartington, until a new pile of votes was discovered.

The councillor prematurely tweeted a thanks to everyone who had voted for him, but announced he had lost by 70 or so votes.

But then just an hour later he sent out another tweet, to say there had been a miscount.

ELECTION: What today's polls mean for Oxfordshire

Ballot boxes arriving at the General Election counts in Abingdon last year

5 May 2016 / Luke Sproule

TODAY voters across Oxfordshire will go to the polls to choose a new police and crime commissioner and, in some areas, to elect councillors.

In Oxford 24 councillors- half the council- will be elected while voters in West Oxfordshire will elect one third of their district councillors.

Every seat on Cherwell District Council is up for grabs and there are also a number of parish and town council elections all over the county.

All of the elections give voters a huge say in how their part of the county will be run in the coming years.

The district and city councils take responsibility for areas such as planning, refuge collection, leisure facilities and environmental issues.

The candidate elected to serve as the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner for the next four years is responsible for securing and maintaining an efficient and effective police force.

They also hold the chief constable to account.

Voters therefore have their chance to influence how decisions are made over all of these areas, but the elections are part of a wider picture nationally as well.

There are council elections across England as well as for the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly for Wales.

One year after the General Election the results will inevitably be seen as a test of how well the parties have been deemed to have performed since then by voters.

Incumbent parties often lose seats at such elections, but this time polling suggests the Labour Party will see a decline across England, as well as facing a testing time in Scotland.

Voters are therefore not just casting a ballot for how they thing their council should be run, but are making a statement about what they think of David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Nick Farron, Natalie Bennett and other party leaders.

None of Oxfordshire's councils where elections are being held are expected to change hands, with the Conservative Party set to remain in control of Cherwell and West Oxfordshire and Labour Oxford City.

But the Green Party has been vocal about how it would like to become the official opposition on Oxford City Council, something it could do if it took two seats off the Lib Dems.

For their part the Lib Dems are determined to show they are still a force in the city after a testing time nationally last year when they were decimated at the General Election.

Independent candidate Mick Haines is also hoping he can hold on to the seat he won in 2012 in a historic result.

UKIP is looking for its own piece of history as it aims to claim its first seats on the city council and there are three other independent candidates vying to represent their communities.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm and anyone eligible to vote will have been sent a polling card telling them where their nearest station is.

Results in all the elections will be announced by the end of Friday, letting voters know what exactly the outcome of their ballot has been.

Marston councillor hopes County Council will take heed of safety petition

31 May 2016 / Sophie Mogridge

A COUNCILLOR for Marston has said he is hopeful the authorities will take heed of his recent safety campaign.

Oxford City Councillor Mick Haines submitted a petition to Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford University, who are understood to own part of the land, to introduce street lighting and CCTV cameras for a footpath just off Edgeway Road after a newborn baby was discovered dead on a footpath just off Edgeway Road.

More than 500 people signed the petition before it was submitted on May 10 and Thames Valley Police says it is still attempting to trace the mother of the baby girl, whose body was dumped near to the path on the morning of Monday, February 29.

Councillor Haines said: "I'm still waiting to hear back from the County Council on the petition but I really hope that they listen to our views and see how many people are worried about safety in the area.

"I think more lighting would really help people to feel safe."

South Central Ambulance Service spokesman David Gallagher said the baby was pronounced dead on arrival with experts saying she had been lying in the bushes between one and three days before she was found.

The mother of the baby can still come forward by calling a midwife on 01865 740429 or police on 101.

Marston's Jack Russell pub becomes "derelict eyesore" after being torn apart by vandals

18 May 2016 / Sophie Mogridge

A WELL-LOVED pub has become a "derelict eyesore" after being torn apart by vandals.

The Jack Russell pub in Salford Road, Marston, has been empty for seven months and in the past week the inside of the building has been tarnished with graffiti and gutted of its copper fittings.

Old Marston parish councillor and local resident Tony Greenfield said he thought security fencing should be installed around the site to prevent further damage.

He said: "There has been no security fencing placed around the site and it is now a dangerous place for the local youngsters who play in and around it.

"Any items of value have been stripped including copper piping and fittings, with glass strewn everywhere both inside and out.

"This once fine hostelry is turning into a derelict eyesore and a sad place - it's an ideal drug den in the making."

The future of the site is still hanging in the balance after an application to build flats was submitted at the end of last year.

This came after the pub was sold by brewery Greene King in October.

The proposed development would bring a three-storey building containing 16 flats to the site, plus 19 parking spaces.

But residents belonging to the Save the Jack Russell pub campaign still say the development would be "devastating" for local people and want to see a community building installed instead.

City councillor Mick Haines, who started the campaign, said: "I want to know what's being done and what steps are going to be taken to stop it from happening again.

"It's such a shame that this has happened because it was once a wonderful pub and a big part of the local community.

I'd like to see it be a pub again but if it can't be I want to see something for the community - even if it's just one room for them to go and enjoy and use to their leisure.

"We have barely anything around here for people to use as part of the community and putting up 16 or so flats won't help anything.

"It's just not the right place for yet more housing."

Spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police Connie Primmer said the force had received reports of antisocial behaviour at the building on May 11, 12 and 13.

She said: "An officer has spoken to the owner of the property about the problem and to give advice about making the building secure.

"The Neighbourhood Policing Team is monitoring the situation and we would ask residents to continue reporting incidents of antisocial behaviour to us via the 101 number so that we can review and take appropriate action."

It is believed workmen visited the site yesterday with a large amount of wooden sheeting to secure the safety of the site.

Marston footpath safety petition handed to authorities

12 May 2016 / Sophie Mogridge

A SAFETY petition for Marston was taken to the authorities yesterday after a newborn baby was discovered dead on a footpath in the estate.

More than 500 people have signed the petition to introduce street lighting and CCTV cameras for the footpath just off Edgeway Road.

Thames Valley Police says it is still attempting to trace the mother of the baby girl, whose body was dumped near to the path on the morning of Monday, February 29.

Oxford City Councillor for Marston Mick Haines, who drew up the petition, has handed it over to Oxford University, who are understood to own part of the land, and to Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

He said: "Hopefully it won't take them too long to look at it - maybe a week - and we can think about improving the safety in the area.

"I think it's so important after what happened and hopefully it would go some way in changing things."

Marston mum-of-one Yvonne Kimber-Gunn agreed that more lighting would make residents feel safer in their community.

She said: "I support any attempt of having outdoor lighting along the footpath if it means an improvement in safety."

South Central Ambulance Service spokesman David Gallagher said the baby was pronounced dead on arrival with experts saying she had been lying in the bushes between one and three days before she was found.

The mother of the baby can still come forward by calling a midwife on 01865 740429 or police on 101.

Independent candidates vying to shake up Oxford City Council elections

7 May 2016 / Luke Sproule


I HAVE lived in Marston for 43 years. I love it here, it’s a great place to live with a wonderful community spirit. For the past 12 years I’ve worked hard to make it an even better place and put it on the map. I soon realised that I would be more effective as a councillor, so I stood in every city and county election from 2005 until I finally got over the line in 2012.

I became Oxford’s first independent councillor for many years. It’s harder to work as an independent (especially at election times) but I feel I can serve Marston better this way. At council meetings I’ve voted on an issue-by-issue basis rather than have to toe the party line. Some of my campaigns have been:

  • Getting lights for Croft Road rec after a seven-year battle.
  • Fighting to lessen the problems of traffic, congestion and parking.
  • Retaining the post office in the Costcutter store.
  • Trying to get a sewage pumping station at nearby Barton Park.

Marston has terrible sewage and flooding problems. But for all this I’m probably still best known for trying to save Headington shops subway. I’ve been proved right on that. Filling in the subway has added to the congestion there.

I’m nicknamed “Petition King Mick” and have taken several of my petitions to 10 Downing Street. Many people urged me to go for the Marston and Northway county council seat in 2013. I believe I could have won but I am totally opposed to the idea of dual councillors. I am very proud and content to represent Marston as a city councillor. I thank people for electing me and supporting me and ask that they give me another four years in this role. I am still up for the fight.

Elections 2016: Labour triumphs in Oxford again at Green Party's expense

6 May 2016 / Matt Oliver

LOUD cheers broke out in Town Hall as Labour bucked national predictions and strengthened its hold again on Oxford City Council.

A triumphant win in this year's elections saw it snatch two seats from the Green Party in closely fought battles for Iffley Fields and Holywell, with the results announced yesterday.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats safely held all their seats, increasing majorities in their North Oxford strongholds, but the Conservatives and UK Independence Party failed once more to make a breakthrough.

It cemented Labour’s commanding presence on the city council at a time when fears were raised nationally that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership would dent support.

The party now controls 35 out of 48 seats, with the Lib Dems staying at eight and the Greens reduced to four.

Marston’s independent councillor Mick Haines also comfortably held his seat, fending off a Labour challenge from Nick Walker.

One of the most dramatic results was at Iffley Fields, a ward heavily canvassed by the Green Party and Labour.

Veteran Green candidate Elise Benjamin secured 961 votes, but there were shocked faces and roars of approval from Labour supporters when their candidate Steve Curran narrowly won with 1,015 votes.

Speaking after the result, Ms Benjamin – who has been on the council since 1999 – said she had been "inundated with support from residents" but claimed she was "outvoted by people thinking about national issues".

The mum-of-one added: "I had a feeling it would be close, but I still hoped I would keep my seat."

Labour's other gain in Holywell also saw Dan Iley-Williamson secure 451 votes, with Green candidate Fiona Joines pushed into third with 265 votes behind Lib Dem Andy McKay with 283.

Labour group deputy leader Ed Turner, who said his own victory in Rose Hill and Iffley brought tears to his eyes, said his party’s resounding victory was “beyond our wildest expectations”.

He added: "It is confirmation that we are fantastic, diverse, liberal city and people want to help make it a fairer and more equal place."

Liberal Democrat leader Jean Fooks said: "The results were very encouraging for us and showed the threat from the Green Party was wildly exaggerated."


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