More restaurants/bars on George Street – what about the bins?

I’ve noticed this week that another two planning applications for change to so-called A3 use have been made for George Street in the City Centre.  Some will oppose more bars/restaurants completely but I feel that the balanced view across my constituents is that restaurants/cafés are better than emtpy units so long as they do not contribute to late night drunkeness and/or noise and safety nuisance.  As these things can be controlled by licensing policy I think there is no reason to oppose the planning applications outright.


One thing that is a worry is that this sort of use generates a lot of waste and lots of that is food waste.  This can be a real problem if it is left out on the street for hours or even days as it often is.  Large bins look awful and obstruct the street and food waste can attract vermin and smell bad in warmer weather.

The two planning applications are:

14/01050/FUL for 6-12 George Street:
Change of use of ground floor and basement from Shop (Use Class A1) to Restaurants and Cafés (Use Class A3)


14/01091/FUL for 25-27 George Street
Change of use of ground floor from Use Class A2 (Financial and Professional Services) to Use Class A3 (Restaurants and cafés).

You can click either to see the detail.  I have made identical comments on both:

Commenter Type: Ward Councillor
Stance: Customer made comments neither objecting to or supporting the Planning Application
Reasons for comment: – Effect on pollution
– Information missing from plans
– Other – give details
Comments: In principle it is good to see units being put into use on George Street and I have no objection to Cafés/Restaurants. If permission is granted, I request that a rigorous and enforceable condition is included requiring the operators of the A3 use to store waste/bins on the premises at all times except immediately before and after waste collection. I request that the condition is precise as possible (as required by Government guidance on conditions) so that it is enforceable and effective.

Do feel free to do the same yourself or comment differently if you prefer.  Neither deadline has passed as I write this.

Presenting a NACE award to Horspath C of E Primary School

I had the pleasure today of attending a celebration assembly at Horspath C of E Primary School as the Lord Mayor of Oxford is just off on some town-twinning business in Bonn then Leiden for the next few days.  I was really thrilled to be sharing in celebrating the fact that School has achieved the prestigious NACE Challenge Award for excellence in provision for able, gifted and talented pupils (on the 12th of February this year).

Emma Coleman, Munaza Dogar and me with the award

The assembly was attended by a large number of children, many teachers and the Head teacher, Emma Coleman. Proud parents, grandparents, relatives and carers were there as well as governors and Karen Burnham from NACE.  The children played some music, read some poems in French, demonstrated some karate and showed some art, among other things.  There was also a band that played at the start and finish of the assembly.

It was an honour to present the award to Munaza Dogar, the Chair of Governors and I felt we had to have the Headteacher in the picture too!  Munaza also did a great speech and presented the Headteacher with a nice bouquet of flowers as a thank you for all her hard work.

The Challenge Award for Excellence is rigorous and takes years to achieve and is awarded by NACE, the National Association for Able Children in Education, a leading national education organisation and registered charity established for over 30 years. NACE provides advice, training and support for teachers, including The NACE Challenge Award Self-Evaluation Framework which Horspath C of E Primary has used to audit and plan what it provides for all pupils in the school.

Horspath C of E Primary is the 303rd school in the UK to achieve the Award, which puts it on the national stage for excellence. With about 16,500 in total that puts it in the top 2%.  The Challenge Award is given for High Quality work by the whole school, teachers and governors in challenging all students, including those with high abilities, to achieve their best and for students to rise to that challenge.

Thousands of primary and secondary schools today are using The Challenge Award Framework to develop their work. Assessors scrutinised the school’s portfolio of evidence against criteria and spent a day in school, observing lessons and interviewing pupils, teachers, parents and governors.

Assessors were impressed by the school leadership which has embedded the robust systems to meet the needs of able learners and to challenge all abilities throughout the school. Assessors said:

A commitment to and passion for challenging all learners permeates Horspath Primary School.
..all children ….. are challenged and inspired to achieve their full potential.

Pupil behaviour is exemplary and conducive to developing learning; they are engaged in lessons whether working in groups or independently; they understand themselves as leaners and have exceptional work ethics.

Lessons are well planned against high level learning outcomes, which are continually shared with pupils. Challenge for all was embedded within the lesson content

As Chair of Governors at Oxford Spires Academy I am delighted to see this excellent work going on and really do congratulate all involved on behalf of Oxford City Council and the whole City. It couldn’t have happened without hard work by pupils, teachers, parents and governors and is a fantastic team achievement. I hope that this process, the Assessors comments and the Award will encourage all involved in the  to continue to do well and that it will go from strength to strength a a leaders in primary education.  It’s a great example to primary schools everywhere!

(Photo by kind permission of Richard Hughes)

Oxford University Student Hustings

coveredWell we’re in election time again!  I had the pleasure of attending the OUSU-organised student hustings last night at Magdalen College where I got to speak for LibDems on student and other City issues.  Here’s what I said:

Hello and thanks for coming to this City Council election hustings tonight. I am Councillor Tony Brett and I’m speaking for all LibDem candidates standing for election to the City Council in the student wards. I’ve been in Oxford over 20 years, since coming as a fresher undergrad, and have served as a councillor for nine years. I’m Oxford’s Deputy Lord Mayor this year.

Let’s get the LibDem thing done first – yes, I am proud to be a LibDem and am proud of Lib Dem policy. No, I am not proud of some things the coalition has done but yes I am proud of the many things LibDems have achieved in government, despite having less than 10% of commons seats and 15% of government seats. No income tax for those earning less than £10k, ending detention of asylum-seeking children, delivering £2.5bn of pupil premium, and protecting freedom of speech are just some of those achievements. I should say also that Oxford LibDems are not in coalition with Tories. There are no Tories on Oxford City Council. It is run by Labour with a LibDem opposition.

So what have we LibDems done and what do we care most about in Oxford? Who has or will live out in a shared house? While we support the council’s attempts to raise standards with the licensing scheme we totally oppose its cap on the numbers of shared houses and its financial penalties on Colleges/University building purpose-built student accommodation. Both these things just make your rents higher and I believe damage the City for everyone. We believe students, as residents just as much as anyone else, have every right to equal housing access as fellow human beings who are a valued and essential part of Oxford’s life and economy.

On homelessness, an issue I know many of you care deeply about, I believe Labour missed a huge opportunity by rejecting a LibDem City Council budget amendment recently to give its support more money following the Tory County Council’s swingeing cuts to this vital social care. I am proud that two of our LibDem candidates, Jean and Conor, nominated the Chair of Oxford Homeless pathways for a Lord Mayor’s Certificate of Honour – which she indeed got! I also volunteer as a Street Pastor – supporting the homelessness and others out on the street in the small hours.

The Covered Market is a jewel in Oxford’s crown and I’ve been appalled at how The Council has tried to bleed it dry with incredibly high rent rises and has reneged on its promise to set the rent an independent arbitrator recommended. It has totally neglected maintenance there too. We LibDems think the covered Market is much more important than that and support it fully.

Who cycles in this room? LibDems have a good track record of pushing hard for safer cycling in Oxford – we want more cycle safety boxes and much better road surfaces and cycle lanes for cyclists. We campaign tirelessly to the Council for improved cycle safety and have had some success.

In full council meetings I have proposed and had cross-party support for motions both on preserving Oxford’s pubs and on human rights for LGBT Russians in our Twin Town of Perm. I was a principal organiser of the first Oxford Pride back in 2003 and I chair of the University’s LGBT Advisory Group, encompassing both staff and students.

Are any of you here student volunteers? We are impressed to see how much support Oxford students give our City, particularly working with lonely, and often elderly, people living right in the City Centre. LibDems fully support that too.

This week saw good news that Oxford University it taking the Living Wage further so everyone working for the University, whether as contractors or staff, will be paid a living wage. This is great news and testament to work the whole City Council, enthusiastically supported by the Lib Dems, in pushing for this.

I hope you’ll agree we’re good for Oxford and give a LibDem your vote in the City Council elections in just over three weeks’ time!

There were some good questions too, about action against violence for women, detention of LGBT asylum seekers, identifying as a feminist, and the immigration bill.

I am pleased to say that I will fully support anything that can be done to help end violence to women and this includes providing more services (like rape crisis and domestic abuse coordinators); better sex and relationship education in schools; more safety initiatives in the community; and more strategic planning by partnership working of bodies like Thames Valley Police and the Oxford Safer Communities Partnership.  I pledge City LibDem support for them all.

On detention of LGBTQ asylum seekers, and indeed detention of any asylum seeker, I think my views are clear that human rights really are being abused by doing that and that asylum seekers come to the UK because they are running for their lives, they are NOT spongers or lazy!  It is just not acceptable to send an LGBTQ person back to a country where their liberty or even the life would be at risk because of the sexuality or gender identity.

I think all candidates agreed that we were feminists and I made a slightly clumsy point say all prostitutes are victims and should not be called girls, as they are vulnerable women (and men).  I was appropriately corrected by Annie Teriba (OUSU Access officer) by being reminded that some women, and men, take a positive choice to work in the sex trade and that if they do then they should be empowered to do that and not criminalised.  The victims I was talking about are those that are enslaved, perhaps by drug dealers, who are being used as a commodity to make money rather than working of their own free will.  Annie and I had a good chat about this afterwards and I was happy to be corrected.

On immigration, again, I see diverse groups of people and people coming to work in the UK as a really good thing.  It boost our economy and gives much better world-vision and harmony to our country.  I abhor the sense that some people are more valid or welcome than others just because of their nationality – that’s absolutely wrong!  I noted that LibDems are the only party that have pinned our flag clearly to the mast on EU membership too.  Labour and the Tories are still dithering and running scared of UKIP.



A lovely memorial planter for Gloucester Street

tony_planter_gloucester_streetLate last year I had an enquiry from a resident in Carfax Ward.  She was a little upset that an area of Gloucester Street that she and few others had been looking after as a memorial garden had been covered over with tarmac.  The memorial was in the area where there had been a tree that had sadly fallen in high winds back in 2002 and tragically had caused a fatality by hitting an occupied vehicle.

I had enquired with the City Council Street Scene team about what could be done and had a very helpful and constructive meeting with a member of staff, and my resident from Carfax ward. The final result is now in place and I am delighted with how it looks, as is my resident.  A big thank you to The City Council Street Scene team for excellent work!

World Literacy Summit

I had the great pleasure of being part of the opening ceremony of the World Literacy Summit 2014 today. The ceremony was at the Sheldonian Theatre with a lunch afterwards in the famous Divinity School of the Bodleian Library.  Speakers included Dr Anthony Cree, the Chairman of the Summit;  Mr Nigel Portwood, the CEO of Oxford Unviersity Press; Professor Sally Mapstone, the Pro-vice chancellor for Education of Oxford University; Mr David Perrin, the CEO of the Summit, Linda Bakkum, a Youth Ambassador and Ms Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, the Founder-Chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum.  We also had a recorded message from HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, the patron of the event and a strong advocate of literacy.

world literacy

The theme of the summit was Literacies: the Power to Change. The aims were impressive:

  • Exploring the key issues impacting literacy around the world;
  • Analysing the latest literacy delivery methods and teaching approaches;
  • Increasing awareness of the global literacy crisis;
  • Creating opportunities for each other to collaborate in supporting literacy;
  • Revisiting and updating the Oxford Declaration.

775 million people worldwide are illiterate so it is quite some achievement to bring together more than 70 literacy experts, politicians, civil servants, teachers, business leaders and charities to take some positive action about this.  These events are a great opportunity to hear inspiring insights from world leaders in the field and to enjoy some high-powered debating that will help to shape policy into the future.

Although the conference is global, I am extremely pleased to know that it also shows great local commitment.  Many are engaged in the vital work of supporting literacy in Oxford itself and it’s great that the summit involves Oxford students at University level and below.  It’s good to know there is an ongoing programme of advocacy after the summit, that it sponsors.

Oxford has some of the best education in the world, but sadly it is also home to many children experiencing quite severe deprivation.  Many come to education with extremely low levels of literacy and a significant number do not have English their first language.  As a governor at Oxford Spires Academy I have first-hand knowledge of just how important literacy is to our young students as the gateway and enabler to successful learning. At Oxford Spires we are very proud to ensure that every teacher is a teacher of literacy so I was delighted to be able to take Debbie Clark, our literacy coordinator, along with me to see the life-changing work summits like this encourage.  I know Debbie caught up with some old friends and had some good conversations after the speeches.

I hope the rest of the Summit is a huge success – it certainly deserves to be, as literacy is so important to everyone as a vital enabler to future success.



Committee meeting of St John Street Area Residents Association

800px-StJohnStOxfordI attended the committee meeting of the St John Street Area Residents association today largely to give advice and support on the upcoming appeal concerning the St Cross Planning application.  Last summer St Cross College put in a planning application for a rather large and inappropriate building on the corner of Pusey Street and Pusey Lane.  Planning officers recommended approval to the West Area Planning Committee but the member of that committee (I think wisely) decided that the development was not appropriate so turned down the application.  For a while before Christmas I had thought progress was being made on getting the College to get round a table with the Residents’ Association and see if common ground could be reached so an appeal could be avoided.  Sadly this was not to be and an appeal has now started.  We talked through the process and I made clear that it is now the residents helping the council to resist the appeal rather than the resident opposing the council.  Some excellent pooint were made and many residents are extremely well-informed about the issues so I do hope the planning inspector will refuse the appeal when it is heard sometime later this year.

We also talked about the Christmas light night celebrations that has happened last November – while they were very nice and enjoyed by many they did cause traffic chaos in the run up to Christmas, serious losses to City Centre Traders and serious disturbance to the working lives of University students and staff that live, work and sleep in the immediate vicinity of St. Giles.  The message seems to have got across to the Council and it has already been decided that next year’s event will be somewhat re-thought and there will be far fewer road closures.  It will probably centre on Gloucester Green instead.

A walk around Carfax Ward

walkaboutI spent a couple of hours this morning walking around Carfax Ward with officers from Street Scene, Housing, and Highways.  The map to the right shows the rough route we took.  You can click it to see a bigger verion.

We encountered quite a few issues and I will certainly be following them up in the coming days and weeks.  To list a few:


pb graffiti


Lots of graffiti in the Southern part of the ward, near Rose Place.  I will get this reported and hopefully removed if building owners can be found so they can give permission



IMG_20140405_174030Neglected communal garden at Albert House – I’ve written to residents about this and housing officers have said they will see if they can get community payback to do some work there.  As the landlord, the City Council should have been maintaining it.






Lots of Cigarette Butts on the pavement outside the Castle Pub.  This was dealt with very quickly but I will ask the owners/managers if they can fit some ashtrays to the railings outside the pub.




IMG_20140402_105336Flytipping on Woodin’s Way near the old Lion Brewery.  I’ll get this reported so it is quickly removed.





IMG_20140402_111751Unsightly gatherings of commercial waste bins around Gloucester Green.  Officers said they would look at installing some fencing to contain these bins so they don’t look quite as awful.




IMG_20140402_113748Graffiti on the railings around Wellington Square – I’ll get this reported so it can be removed and see if some money can be found to repaint the railings as they are looking rather tatty.




Screenshot_2014-04-05-15-23-39Very dangerous road surface on Banbury Road by St Gile’s church.  This is just outside the ward boundary but I wanted to mention it because I work so close to there and see it causing cyclists to wobble into the path of (often quite fast) traffic coming north from St. Giles. I’m disappointed with this one that I have previously been told by highways officers that it requires no work.  There seemed no harm in asking again.



The morning’s walkabout was useful as a ward walk and I am grateful to officers for the time they gave to do this.  I hope all the issues I will follow up on are dealt with effectively and I will certainly be keeping an eye out!


Rip-off parking charges at the ice rink

Parking info at Oxford

I received an email today from someone who lives away from Oxford and normally takes her daughter to Milton Keynes ice rink for regular skating practice.  That rink is currently closed for refurbishment so she brings her to Oxford.  Her email was about the fact that the City Council appears to have changed the parking arrangements such that there is no longer a free hour concession for those who pay the overnight midnight to 8am charge so charges don’t stack up and make things unfair on early, regular and dedicated skaters and/or their parents.  It appears the concession was dropped silently and when challenged (point 3 on the sign below clearly says it was there) the sign was also removed silently.  This means that although the normal parking charge during the day is £4.10 for two hours, if someone parks between 7.30am and 8.30am, for example, they have to pay a £2.50 night charge for the first half hour of that slot and then another £2.50 charge for the second half hour as it is in daytime.  This is £5 for one hour as against £4.10 for two hours if they had arrived after 8am.

This hardly seems fair and hardly seems a sensible way for the City Council to be attracting more use of its sports facilities.  I have asked the service manager to look into this but have not had an answer after nearly a week so I am also asking the portfolio holder for City Leisure a question at full council next week.  Watch this space!

Traffic problems from 7th-21st April in Frideswide Square area

I’ve received notification that there are to be major works on Hollybush Row from 7th April that will probably cause traffic chaos for a couple of weeks.  Thank goodness it’s the school holidays!


The issue is that there is a collapsed sewer with a fat-berg in it so the whole road is going to have to be excavated to sort it out.  Please let me know if there are any specific problems that I can help with.  You can click the picture above for a larger version.

50th anniversary of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre League of Friends

LOF 50I attended this event today to thank all the League of Friends volunteers, on behalf of the City, for all their work.  Sir Jonathan Michael, the Chief Executive of the OUH/NHS Trust also gave a speech and who will be unveiled a commemorative plaque for this event.

LOF at the NOC started with  a small tea bar and has grown magnificently to the present shop with its excellent range and a trolley service to wards with newspapers and confectionery etc.  I know it is a great comfort to patients and plays a very real role in their positive experience here and their recovery.  Some patients have no other visitors so a friendly LOF visit can have really positive effects on clinical outcomes.  The total of the excellent work this League of Friends has done since 1964 is incredible.  In 50 years its volunteers have:

  • Gifted £1,126,200 to the hospital
  • Buttered and filled 3 million rolls
  • Served over 5 million drinks
  • Given 500,000 man-hours of time (worth over £3,000,000 at minimum wage!)

These are great achievements and a real credit to the generosity and kindness of LOF volunteers at the hospital.