Critics urge Swan School bosses to go back to the drawing board

LONG-anticipated plans for Oxford’s new Swan School have been lambasted with criticism about its ‘dangerous’ location.

Residents have railed against the proposed site in Marston for the 1,260-pupil free school, currently occupied by the Harlow Centre in Raymund Road.

Three weeks since the River Learning Trust’s planning application went live on Oxford City Council’s website, a stream of responses have warned of ‘intolerable’ traffic chaos.

Though many agreed there is a desperate need for the delayed secondary school, which is due to open in temporary buildings in September 2019, they said it should not be ‘shoe-horned in’ near busy Marston Ferry Road.

Marston city councillor Mick Haines said: "We are already overrun with traffic: we are swamped with cars left right and centre.

"I think they need to go back to the drawing board."

Mr Haines said he acknowledged the need for school places, particularly as his own granddaughter was unsuccessful at getting into oversubscribed Cherwell School nearby.

But he said Marston could not cope with more traffic or pollution, regardless of the Swan School’s plan to open and close later than surrounding schools.

He also raised concerns about potential flood risk.

The Environment Agency has not objected to the plan, however, nor has Historic England or Sport England.

Natural England has objected pending more information, warning of 'potential significant effects on New Marston Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest'.

Old Marston Parish Council unanimously agreed at a meeting on Monday to lodge an objection, which would join those of about 20 residents.

Many raised concerns about the planned access road, which would cut across a busy cycle lane.

Old Marston resident Jane Wilson wrote in response to the plans: “It is plain dangerous.

“Raymund Road becomes a scene of car chaos twice a day, playing dodgems with children in pushchairs, on bikes or scooters or on their feet.”

Also commenting online, Timothy Wilson added: “The intensely-used and precious cycle route would be disastrously compromised and unsafe for cyclists, including hundreds of children going to Cherwell School.

“Traffic through Marston would become intolerable.”

Robert Fletcher wrote in his response: “Trying to shoehorn 1,200 children into the cramped space at the Harlow Centre is in no-one's best interest.

“I have two children currently at St Nicholas' School and am as concerned as any about the availability of places for my children, but…this application is not the right one.”

In another strong-worded objection, Claire Evans wrote: “The surrounding roads will be infested by even larger numbers of reckless drivers desperate to get to work on time.”

Some Marston residents, however, wrote in favour of the school.

Simon Wenham said it would be ‘a great benefit to everyone in the community’.

Laura Epton wrote: “As a member of the Marston community with primary aged children, I support the location.

“The new secondary school will significantly improve the existing community facilities and character of the area.

“I hope opposition to the potential impact on travel won't derail this application.”

The controversial site was decided by the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency after a lengthy delay, which pushed the school opening back by two years.

Last year just 62 per cent of Marston children gained their preferred secondary school, compared to 91 per cent countywide. 

September 2019 is expected to be crunch time for the school place crisis, with a shortfall if the Swan School does not open in time.

The River Learning Trust’s chief executive Paul James said: "We appreciate people living close to the proposed school have genuine concerns about traffic, but we hope it would actually have relatively little impact on car journeys and congestion.”

He said this was because most students will walk or cycle, and because their day will start and end later.

He added: "Some people say the school should be built at Barton Park, where new homes are being built. But building there would be addressing future need that is uncertain.

“The Swan School is addressing a demand that is with us right now.”

He warned pressure on places will only increase, with an estimated 4,000 more secondary school age children in Oxfordshire in 2019 than in 2017.

Traffic hell next month as £16m Access to Headington set to finally begin

MOTORISTS will face another round of delays from May 14 as a delayed £16m road project finally gets underway.

The third and final stage of Access to Headington was meant to start in January – but was delayed so the county council could apply for extra funding. That £3.5m was agreed in March.

County councillor Roz Smith said all work starting would have a ‘grim’ impact on the road network from next month. It is anticipated to run until the end of the year.

She said: “It will be a problem for people, especially on Tuesday and Thursday because that’s when the hospital consultants have their outpatient appointments so I am really feeling for them.”

Ahead of the anticipated work in January, the John Radcliffe Hospital warned it could take up to two hours for visitors to park there. The county council said preparatory work will reduce anticipated delays.

Other work for a new cycle lane began on Thursday. Some residents and councillors were upset trees on Cherwell Drive and Marsh Lane had been cut down.

The county council said information on the felling of 24 trees had been given out in 2015 and 2016.

The removal of the trees had been ‘pretty devastating’ for residents, Ms Smith said, but the council had promised to plant others elsewhere.

Kate Vaughan-Fowler, the owner of Deli-licious, on Cherwell Drive, said: “It saddens me so much. The trees were taken down in full bloom. It seems a complete waste. They were part of the parade and contributed to the whole ambience of the place. It’s awful.”

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said the trees had been cut down to make way for a new cycle path and junction improvements.

He said: “Information about the trees was included in the plans and meetings dating back to 2015 and have been raised in meetings with the local councillors as well as email updates.”

Mick Haines, independent city councillor, said the trees’ removal was ‘scandalous’.

If it ain’t broke then don’t bother fixing it

I CANNOT believe that the county council still intends to take away the roundabouts at the junction of Marsh Lane and Cherwell Drive shops. They have worked well and kept the traffic successfully moving for years.

It has been proved that traffic lights cause traffic to stop and start, whereas roundabouts keeping the traffic moving. 

When they took out the traffic lights at St Frideswide’s Square and replaced them with roundabouts, the flow of traffic improved and also the pollution rate dropped quite considerably.

Remember the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

COUNCILLOR MICK HAINES
Marston Ward
Oxford City Counil

13th May

Still shunning the party line for benefit of his community

Access to Headington to restart after £3.5m boost - but roadworks will continue until Christmas 

THE final stage of a delayed major roads project will restart next month and roll on until the end of the year with new funds set to be agreed.

Access to Headington was scheduled to cost £12.5m but an extra £3.5m will be ploughed in over the next five years to pay for 'enhancements' to the project’s third phase.

Disruptive work on Headley Way was supposed to start in January but was delayed after uncertainty over whether the work would come in on budget.

Weeks before, residents said they were worried about the traffic ‘nightmare’ awaiting them, with the John Radcliffe Hospital issuing warnings that parking could take up to two hours.

The project seeks to improve roads, roundabouts and traffic lights across Headington and surrounding areas, reduce congestion and encourage more cycling.

Another set of works, which will include tricky spots outside the hospital and on the Marsh Lane junction, are set to begin in April, along with others at Cherwell Drive and Headley Way. They will last until December.

Oxfordshire County Council said it needed to seek ‘additional sources’ of funding but work would resume with one now secured.

A £3.5m slice from the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal is expected to be approved by the Oxfordshire Growth Board at a meeting on Tuesday.

Other improvements include a pedestrian crossing in Osler Road and other work along Windmill Road and Old Road.

But final details on what work will be done remain incomplete and will only be revealed once they are finalised over the next few months.

Headington county councillor Roz Smith said her colleagues told the project manager of the scheme of the extra money at a meeting on Tuesday, as a press release containing the information from the Growth Board was sent out to media outlets.

She added: “[The project manager, Isaac Webb] said: ‘thanks for the heads up’ because they hadn’t been told. That is ridiculous. They hadn’t told the people leading the project.”

A long-standing critic of part of the project to replace mini-roundabouts in Cherwell Drive with traffic lights, Marston councillor Mick Haines said he was upset by the plan’s resumption.

He said: “It’s really disappointing. I thought they would have more sense.”

The date for work in April is yet to be finalised.

 

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