13th March

Jack Russell building site in Marston is a 'death trap'

RESIDENTS fear that ‘kids could die’ on the building site of a once-thriving boozer.

The Jack Russell pub in Marston once had punters spilling out of its doors, but in 2016 became unused and a ‘derelict eyesore’.

Despite a public campaign to save the pub from becoming a block of flats, the plans for the pub to be knocked down and replaced with 16 new homes across three storeys were given the go-ahead by Oxford City Council.

Now, years later, the contractors doing the work – H&S Construction Stoke – have left the site as it is, handed in their week's notice and walked away.

Project manager Javaid Iqbal told the Oxford Mail that they had completed work up to the first floor, but added: “We have given them our notice, about a week ago, we will not longer be working on the site.”

He said the tower was not being finished by them for ‘financial reasons’.

City councillor for Marston Mick Haines said the site had been left in a bad way and the dangerous trench alongside the rubble could have a fatal outcome.

He said: “I worked in buildings in my life and if we left anything or any buildings in that state then we would be down the road.

“Its easy as anything for somebody to get in there and get injured, i’s really dangerous.

“The thing is, it's the kiddies which have been getting in there. There is a big trench which runs alongside the building site.

“The trench is really dangerous. And it could kill them [if they fell in], or injure them quite badly.”

However, Mr Iqbal said the safety of the site is down to the owner, and not how the contractors had left it.

He said if anything happened than the ‘client would be liable’.

A list of last week's planning applications

When plans were submitted for the mix of one, two and three-bed flats and maisonettes, the well-loved pub had already become an eyesore.

Soon after closing its doors indefinitely it was torn apart by vandals, the inside tarnished with graffiti and gutted of its copper fittings.

At the time, Old Marston parish councillor and Tony Greenfield told the Oxford Mail that security fencing should be installed around the site to prevent further damage.

Now, a secure fence could be the only solution to keep people away from danger.

Mr Haines explained: “There is hoarding, but they can easily remove that hoarding that is there and anyone could get in.

“It was wide open at one point and it really needs checking right out as it's really dangerous."

He added that the dangers were not the only reason residents were uneasy, adding: “It’s really ugly as well, it’s just stood there now.”

15th February

Worries that Oxford's rural fringe could be lost with thousands of new homes

The current availability of housing is part of what makes Oxford one of the country’s most expensive cities to live in, and so the Government has agreed to give £215m in the Oxfordshire Growth Deal to support the building of 100,000 new homes by 2031.

A key driver in implementing that is the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which is led by district, city and county council leaders.

But Mr Tyce said the Growth Board was acting like a 'dictatorship', pushing through development regardless of its cost to the character of Oxford and Oxfordshire.

He added: “It is like the Soviet Union…the Politburo is the Growth Board and they get on with it.”

South Oxfordshire District Council’s consultation on its Local Plan closes on Monday, and residents and councillors spoke at a meeting on Wednesday about their desire to ‘save Barton’s green spaces’.

Campaigners were infuriated in December when it emerged the authority wants to build six major sites in the Oxford Green Belt, with just one outside it.

ut Oxford City Council has been encouraged, not least by SODC’s willingness to finally build on land off Grenoble Road – which the city council has wanted used for homes for more than 20 years.

In consultation documents to SODC, opponents to the development have called for projects like Bayswater Brook to be scrapped.

David J Rogers, a retired Oxford University professor of ecology, said: “The public of Oxfordshire deserve better than this. It is time for councils to preserve what we have, rather than destroy what previous generations created with care and forethought.”

But the city council remains in favour of urban extensions like Bayswater Brook and Grenoble Road. It has regularly said it is easier to accommodate its housing need close to Oxford than building developments miles outside the city.

A city spokesman said yesterday: “The city council’s evidence shows that properly planned urban extensions are an efficient and sustainable solution to housing need.

“They provide opportunity to extend existing public transport and cycle networks as part of an integrated transport strategy and reduce the need to travel longer distances.”

Hearings over development in the Kidlington Gap – accepted by Cherwell district councillors last years but opposed by thousands – have taken place over the past fortnight.

If approved by a planning inspector, 4,400 homes would be built close to the village and in Begbroke and Yarnton.

But the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance, which is resolutely against that scheme, commissioned consultants who said the city council’s proposal to build 1,400 homes a year to met current needs was ‘flawed’ and that the prediction is ‘without precedent across the country’.

That figure is way in excess of the homes the city council has built in recent years. It completed just over 250 in 2017/ 18 and slightly more this year.

The Government has said it wants one million new homes to be built between Oxford and Cambridge before 2050.

City councillor Mick Haines and county councillors Glynis Phillips and Tim Bearder attended a meeting over building at Bayswater Brook on Wednesday.

Mr Haines said: “We are all fighting against it. Marston is on marsh land and I just want to make sure we are secure despite the 1,100 homes they want to put up.”

To comment on the South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan, visit

5th January

Rat run streets in Oxford: Readers name the worst affected areas

RAT running down residential streets is causing road rage and risks causing a serious accident, according to residents who have been naming the worst affected areas.

Following news that commuters may face fines for cutting down the access-only Elms Drive in Marston, Oxford Mail readers have been naming more streets in the city where they feel action needs to be taken.

Old Road in Wood Farm, Bagley Wood Road in Kennington and Saxon Way in Northway were some of the roads put forward.

Jennifer Tait, who lives in Old Road, said the section between Quarry Road and Titup Hall drive was most affected with drivers coming off the Eastern Bypass and cutting through to avoid the Old Road and Windmill Road junction.

She said: “Cars literally screech in both directions along this section of road.

“Not only does the traffic well exceed the 20mph limit but often cars take the corner at speed directly into Titup Hall Drive in front of the primary school.

“There is often a lot of illegal parking at the drop off and pick up times making the rat running even more hazardous.

“It’s only a matter of time before there is a serious incident here and I have witnessed several minor accidents where cars have hit each other and on one occasion a car knocked a cyclist off her bike.”

Ms Tait said she would welcome ‘limitations’ introduced on this ‘hellish’ section of road.

She added: “There are many incidents of road rage outside our house and neighbours cars are frequently damaged with wing mirrors being broken and doors scraped as the cars race around the corner.”

On Facebook, readers named Lime Walk in Headington as another rat run, with drivers coming off the London Road and heading towards the Churchill Hospital or Oxford University’s Old Road Campus.

Villagers living in areas such as Wheatley, Horspath and Combe also complained that these places are often subjected to vast numbers of vehicles coming off nearby major roads and cutting through, often at speed.

The likelihood of accidents is made worse in these rural areas because of a lack of street lights, according to readers.

The local neighbourhood police team in Marston held a two day operation in Elms Drive after receiving complaints from residents.

Anyone using the road as a cut-through was given a warning.

Councillor for the area Mick Haines wants the force to look at other problem streets in his ward.

20th March

Mystery after Marston Post Office closed

A POST office which closed without warning will reopen, the Oxford Mail can confirm – but there are still question marks over the missing details.

Marston Post Office closed its kiosk at Coscutter on Old Marston Road, apparently for the final time, in February – but did not tell any locals about the plans.

See also: Old Marston pub's building site is a 'death trap'

One month on, there is still no sign of the post office reopening, but a spokesperson at the nationwide delivery service has now told the Oxford Mail that it is only ‘temporary’.

They said: “We sincerely apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused by the temporary closure of Old Marston Road Post Office since 19 February.

“We understand and appreciate how much communities rely on our services. We would like to reassure customers that the decision to suspend services at any of our branches is never taken lightly.

“We take very seriously any decision to temporarily close a branch, and will only do so when it is warranted.”

The company refused to elaborate on the statement or give any indication on whether it would take days, months or years to reopen the Old Marston Road branch.

In 2017 the Marston post office announced it was expanding its services and opening for an extra 43.5 hours a week following a major makeover.

Look inside the Headington pub after it had a swish makeover

The re-launched facilities were given the thumbs-up by Mick Haines, the local councillor, who said it had a particular significance to him as it came more than a decade after he took a petition to save the post office, singed by 1,200, to Downing Street.

It was in 2009 that he vowed to take his battle to keep the much-loved post office in the Costcutter all the way to the top, explaining: “At the time I wanted to make sure that this branch was on the safe side.”

He went on: “People count on it, the old people that live on Mill Lane count on it too.

Everyone needs it, it is really well used.”

ALSO READ: Headington pub gets makeover - but is this the worst pub sign ever?

He said that the site had become something of an unofficial community centre for residents to come together and socialise as well as conduct their day-to-day postal services.

Mr Haines also said that it had come as a relief to hear that the office was not closed indefinitely and that it was just a temporary measure.

On Twitter one concerned residents wanted answers.

Sebastian said: “Hello @PostOffice can you tell me what’s happened to our local post office in Marston, Oxford OX3 which has closed? Nobody seems to know when or if it is reopening.”

See the 7 new building projects planned for Oxford

The Post Office replied, urging him to keep an eye on the ‘run a post office’ section on their website to see when it was likely to open.

At the time of print the office was not advertised.

However a similar branch in a kiosk style at Underhill Circus in Headington is listed at the estimated cost of £5,000 to £10,000 a year.

The nearest branch is on Westlands Drive.

8th March

Somerset pub 'should keep old name' says councillor as work begins

WORK has begun to transform and reopen a rundown pub - but some are 'up in arms' about changing its traditional name.

The Somerset in Marston is undergoing a revamp in the hands of the Dodo Pub Company who are gearing up to open it again after four years.

But the company - who also run the Rusty Bicycle in east Oxford and Rickety Press in Jericho - want to change the three decades old name of the pub to the Up in Arms, as a tribute to the community's long-running campaign to save it.

READ MORE: New owners take over at historic George Street pub

But independent councillor for the area Mick Haines, who started the petition to rescue the pub, said he wanted The Somerset to stay The Somerset.

He said: "I am very pleased we are going to get the pub back but I have heard from a lot of people that they want to keep its old name.

"It has always been the Somerset - everyone knows it as that.

"When you get off the bus, you know to get off at the Somerset.

"It is a good traditional name."

Mr Haines said he was happy with all the other plans for the building and was 'over the moon' it would be re-opened.

But he has called on the new managers to reconsider the name change.

Workers were seen on the site this week as the renovation gets under way.

Mason's Arms wins Oxford pub of the year award

The pubs interior is set to be changed to a look similar to the chain's other sites.

A statement from Dodo said: "The Dodo Pub Co. was drawn to the local residents’ passion for resurrecting their pub and understands just how much it means to this community.

"This is why they wanted create a name that the community could have ownership over.

"Dodo pubs also have a reputation for reinventing pubs that have seen better days and always choose to start fresh with a new identity.

"Also, they love a pun… and what could be better than going down 'The Up’."

February 2019

3rd January

Oxford councillor's 'saucy' novel rakes in the cash for charity

A CITY councillor’s foray into the literary world has raised hundreds of pounds for charity.

Mick Haines' first self-published novel, The Merry Go Round of Life, was released in September to raise funds for Cancer Research.

His wife Janice and other friends have died after suffering from the disease and Mr Haines said he felt digging out the story was a perfect way of raising money.

Mr Haines, who has represented Marston on the council since 2012, documents the lives of two Oxford men, Roy and Tony, who live in the city during the 1960s.

Roy, based on Mr Haines, is a bit of a ‘Jack the lad’ and has several casual flings with women, while Tony is married with children.

Independent councillor Mr Haines said: “It was done from my own life. I’m Roy…I had a good run.”

Mr Haines worked as a scaffolder on building sites across Oxford; Roy does too.

The councillor’s project has now raised £300, all of which was donated to Cancer Research in Headington before Christmas.

The Merry Go Round of Life was first written in Fritwell, near Bicester, where Mr Haines lived for part of the 1960s, before moving back to Oxford.

He took the hopeful book to the publishers all those years ago but was told although it was ‘above average’ they would be unable to print it.

Mr Haines said the popularity of the BBC sitcom The Likely Lads and the saucy Confessions films was a reason his story wasn’t published.

But he has now sold 100 copies of the book – printed in Oxford – with some of his readers including Labour city councillors Mary Clarkson, who also represents Marston, deputy leader Linda Smith and former director of the BBC World Service, Nigel Chapman.

Another Oxfordshire councillor will have their debut novel published later this year.

Merilyn Davies represents Freeland and Hanborough on West Oxfordshire District Council as a Labour Co-Operative councillor.

Her first novel, When I Lost You, will be published by Arrow, one of the most successful commercial publishers in the UK.

It is already available to pre-order, ahead of planned publication on August 22.

Arrow has previously published E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, the fastest selling paperback in UK history.

Its other leading authors include James Patterson, Robert Harris and Harlan Coben.


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