5th September

Residents say Harlequins is better Swan School location

Oxford City Council’s planning committee will consider River Learning Trust’s application for the new Marston secondary school tonight, and officers have recommended they give approval.

But some residents have now pointed to another parcel of land for the school, which they claim would be more suitable than the proposed site of the Harlow Centre off Marston Ferry Road.

They believe a pitch next to The Cherwell School, formerly used by Oxford Harlequins Rugby Football Club, would be a better home for the 1,260-pupil Swan School.

One Marston resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s a bit of a no-brainer really - how could they miss this?"

Tony Greenfield, a member of Old Marston Parish Council, agreed that the rugby fields would be 'more convenient'.

He added: "I really hope the planning committee looks at this. It's got to be worth considering."

He claimed residents were told by a Swan School representative that the Harlequins site was unsuitable because it is too small.

But calculations carried out by the unnamed resident suggest it is of equal size to the proposed site, if not slightly bigger.

The resident said the Harlequins base, which the team vacated earlier this year for Horspath Sport Ground, would be more sensible as it is already next to an established school, has an underpass for cyclists, and will be less disruptive for residents.

He noted there is already a 30mph speed limit in place, nearby bus stops, and a junction.

Councillor Mick Haines has also called for a rethink on the free school's location, raising concerns that the drainage scheme could fuel flooding issues in Marston.

Paul James, chief executive of the River Learning Trust, has dismissed the former Harlequins site as ‘completely inappropriate'.

He said: “The Harlequins RFC site playing fields is not owned by Harlequins RFC but is The Cherwell School’s playing fields.

“I do not think we have ever said that these sports fields are not big enough to build a new secondary school, but I know we have said at meetings with local residents that they are the playing fields for students at The Cherwell School."

He said the loss of playing fields for pupils at Cherwell is ‘just one reason’ not to build there.

A government agency called the ESFA is responsible for finding sites for free schools.

Its struggle to find one suitable for the Swan School resulted in its opening being pushed back from September 2017 to September 2019.

Oxfordshire County Council sold the government the proposed Swan School site for £1, after the ESFA said it was the best option.

Mr James said: "All possible options were carefully looked at for dealing with the looming secondary school places crisis in the city.

"An extensive site search was conducted, taking into account the shortage of school places.

"This is a significant issue in Marston and is only predicted to get worse there, and across the city if the school is not built.

"We recognise concerns of residents, are addressing these, and are determined that the school will benefit Marston families, the community and the city."

The meeting starts at 6pm tonight at Oxford Town Hall.

29th August

Marston playground win for councillor Mick Haines

Mick Haines, the independent councillor for Marston, said the city council had agreed that £30,000 would be spent on refurbishing the children’s play area at the Croft Recreation Ground.

The money will also go on improving surfaces and climbing frames.

Work is understood to be starting next month and continuing into October.

Mr Haines said: “I am very pleased that after I have campaigned for a long time for more play apparatus for Croft Recreation Ground, we have been allocated £30,000.”

He added: “I will continue to fight for more recreation apparatus in our area.

“I would like to thank councillors Linda Smith and Louise Upton for their support in this matter.”

How can Oxford's parks be improved? City council asks for residents' ideas

Ms Smith is the city council’s deputy leader and Dr Upton is the city council’s 'board member for healthy Oxford'.

Mr Haines had campaigned for a zip wire at the recreation ground and was the first person to take a trip on it when it was installed in May 2017.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth celebrated in the same way when a zip wire was installed in Woodstock in September 2014 after Woodstock Town Council paid for it.

1st September

City councillor launches raunchy book to raise charity funds

Mick Haines has released a second book, The Merry Go Round of Life, which he claims is ‘naughty’ in places as it follows two imagined Oxford men, Tony and Roy, and their wives and girlfriends.

It is Mr Haines’ second foray into the literary world, following his memoir, Up and Down the Greasy Pole.

The independent councillor for Marston first worked on the book in the 1960s but said any prospect of publication was stymied by the popularity of The Likely Lads, which was first broadcast in 1964.

The Merry Go Round of Life explores the lives of Tony and Roy, who frequently meet up in pubs around Oxford.

Tony’s life is settled and revolves around his wife, children and his factory job, while Roy’s life is more chaotic.

A scaffolder, he is, according to Mr Haines, ‘a bit of a Jack the lad’ and based on the writer himself, who worked on building sites across the city.

In his book, Mr Haines’ characters visit The Greyhound pub, in Gloucester Green, and the former Nag’s Head, in Hythe Bridge Road.

They take other trips to the Red Lion, which is still in Gloucester Green, and the Britannia pub in London Road, Headington.

Most of the money made by the book will go to Cancer Research after Mr Haines’ late wife Janice died in October from the disease.

He said he decided to look again at the book following Mrs Haines’ death and other friends suffering from long-term illnesses.

He said: “I already had [the book] worked out.

“I took it to publishers in the 1960s and they said it was above average but The Likely Lads came out at about the same time – and then the Confessions films came out.”

The British sex comedy films, including Confessions of a Window Cleaner, Confessions from a Holiday Camp and Confessions of a Pop Performer, were released in the 1970s.

Other well-known Oxford sites included in the book are Milham Ford School, the former girls’ school in New Marston, and the former Mike’s Café, in Cowley Road, which Mr Haines said he frequented as a Teddy Boy in the 1960s.

Mr Haines was educated at St Andrew’s School, Headington and Cowley Road Technical College.

He initially worked for the Post Office and then later on scaffolding sites.

The books are priced at £5 each and £3 of the money from those will be donated to Cancer Research. To buy a book, which are being printed in Headington, contact Mr Haines’ daughter Cheryl on Facebook or email him on mickhaines003@yahoo.co.uk


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