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.

A victory for Gloucester Green residents and their right to sleep at night

roostersI attended a licensing hearing yesterday as ward councillor as I had made a representation against an application for yet another late night takeaway on Gloucester Green. The application was by a food outlet very similar to the other two that are already there with late night licences.

Although I like to see businesses thrive in my ward, there always must be a balance between the needs of business and the needs of residents. The problem with having lots of late night food outlets on Gloucester Green is that it is more-or-less en route to taxis and buses for people leaving the bars and clubs.   Many of these now shut at 3am and do so for most nights of the week what with different themed nights for students, locals, and other groups etc.  The effect of the takeaways is to make the (often drunk and aggressive) people gather and it makes it very hard for the Police to encourage them to go home.  As Thames Valley Police said at the hearing there has been a marked increase in crime and disorder or Gloucester Green since the later food outlets have been open and this is in direct contravention to the licensing objective of reducing crime and disorder.  Although CCTV and SIA-registered door supervisors were requested, these still won’t stop drunk people making a lot of noise and causing much public nuisance for the residents of Gloucester Green – the flats called the Chilterns and the Heyes.  Prevention of public nuisance is another licensing objective that the licensing act says licences should encourage.  It seemed clear to me that this one would not do that.

In my speech I did suggest it might be just about bearable to allow this new business to trade until 2am and that would mean it closed before most of the club but unfortunately the applicant was not able or willing to pay for door supervisors so in the end the panel made what I think was the right decision and rejected the application in its entirety.  This means the outlet will not be allowed to trade past 11pm, as is the current situation.

I have written to all residents of Gloucester Green today to tell them this good news and hope it might well be the start of a move to cut back the hours of some of the other food outlets in the area so that they don’t attract the crime and disorder and public nuisance that is currently blighting Gloucester Green in the small hours at a totally unacceptable level.

This blog post has no official status as a record of the licensing hearing and I can’t guarantee it’s error free so please don’t rely on it. Written notification of the decision is available from the Council.

A problem with a taxi rank location in the new Westgate Development?


I had a meeting with a council officer today to discuss concerns about a proposed taxi rank as part of the new Westgate Development that looks to me like it will be incredibly close to residential accommodation on Pike Terrace and Faulkner Street in my ward.  My concern is that in the small hours it will attract a lot of noise and antisocial behaviour from people leaving clubs and bars and that this will disturb a lot of residents in the area.

There is a very good consultation site about the west gate development and I recommend you have a look and give any feedback you want to give via that.

See and follow the navigation in the top right.

Licensing hearing for Christmas Light Festival

I attended this evening’s licensing hearing and spoke on behalf of a St. Giles college that had concerns about the disruption the three day Christmas Light event on 22-24 would cause to it, particularly in terms of noise disturbance to those living on St. Giles with windows directly out to it, and such extensive road closures and parking suspensions, over a whole weekend in full Oxford University Term.  An extremely different proposition to St. Giles’ Fair which happens after most tourists have left Oxford post-summer and before most students have arrived back.  The City Council has a web page with more information about Christmas Light Festival.

The license application has reference 13/02305/PREM and you can see some extremely rudimentary information about it online.  I’m not sure why the council has not put adequate information there – I have asked!   The outcome was that the license was granted but with some changes. It is a perpetual license but there is a robust review process in place so if there are problems this year (I fear there may well be) then I will request a review of the license as soon as reasonably practical after the event. A future licensing panel can amend or revoke a license just as easily as it grants it!

Following discussion the applicant volunteered that there will be no licensable activities on Beaumont Street and the provision of late night food has also been removed from the application. That means the kebab vans will stay on St. Giles (and will be allowed to trade as normal as they have their own licenses). I am told that alcohol sales from some stands will be licensed by Temporary Event Notice.  These can only be objected to by the Police so I have asked Thames Valley Police to watch out for them and consider the effect they will have on a city that will already be full of drunk people on Friday and Saturday evening.

Regulated entertainment (live or recorded music, performance of dance and exhibition of films) hours have been cut back a little to:

Friday noon-10pm
Saturday 10am-10pm
Sunday 10am-7pm

The following conditions were imposed:

1. Notification of dates of future events to be at least 12 months in advance to all stakeholders and this will include all stakeholders fronting St. Giles.

2. There must be a stakeholder meeting six months in advance of each annual event.

3. During the event a 24 hour control room will operate to allow anyone with complaint or grievance to address them with an appropriate person.

4. A draft event plan will be submitted to the Safety Advisory Group at least 60 days before the event.

5. A noise management plan will be prepared and submitted to the licensing authority for approval.

6. No amplified live entertainment on Sunday between 10am and 12.15pm

And some informatives about keeping noise down while the event is being built on Thursday night and taken down on Sunday night.

I am unimpressed by this but I think it is probably realistically all that was going to be conceded at this stage.  I just hope those that come to the festival stop and think about how they would fee about three days of their own road being closed and lots of noise outside their bedroom windows for three nights.

This blog post has no official status and I can’t guarantee it’s error free so please don’t rely on it. Written notification of the decision is available from the Council.

A meeting about Christmas light night

consultationJean Fooks and I met today with two council officers and a contractor about the events planned for 22-24 November in the City Centre to Celebrate Christmas light night.

We made quite a few points but the main one was about our fears that such a long closure of so many City Centre roads would cause utter havoc for the thousands of City Centre residents who had not been consulted about the event.  I also had not been consulted as a ward councillor which I find frankly staggering for an event of such size and disruption.  There are many disabled and inform people extremely worried that they will not be able to get to their regular places of worship on the Sunday too.

I am not very sure our points were taken very seriously and it does increasingly like councillors who are not part of the Labour administration really are not taken seriously by the paid staff and that the need to consult us as ward councillors doesn’t really seem to register.

I wish the City Council would understand that Oxford University is not just an historic backdrop against which it can do what it likes, but rather a busy and active world-leading centre of excellence in education and research.  I don’t think it is reasonable to disrupt that so comprehensively in what is the height of University term.  Without the University there would be very little of Oxford – it is one of the main wealth-creators of the City and certainly one of the biggest employers.  The City Council would do well to remember that before it tramples all over its activities with such massive disruption.


Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel

image tweeted by @biloddy

I attended this meeting today because I am the opposition shadow for crime and community safety on the council. Oxford’s member on the panel is Cllr Pat Kennedy, the Oxford City Executive Board member with that portfolio.  The panel’s job is to hold the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley to account.  This Commissioner’s area covers Oxon, Berks and Bucks so is rather large – it has one member from every principal local authority in the area, giving a membership of:

Councillor Bill Bendyshe-Brown (Wycombe District Council), Councillor Mark Booty (West Oxfordshire District Council), Councillor Noel Brown (Chiltern District Council), Terry Burke (Independent Co-opted Member), Councillor Anita Cranmer (South Buckinghamshire District Council), Councillor Trevor Egleton (Buckinghamshire County Council), Councillor Jesse Grey (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead), Councillor Bill Jones (Vale of White Horse District Council), Councillor Pat Kennedy (Oxford City Council), Councillor Kieron Mallon (Oxfordshire County Council) (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Iain McCracken (Bracknell Forest Council), Councillor Tony Page (Reading Borough Council), Councillor Barrie Patman (Wokingham Borough Council), Councillor Pam Pearce (Aylesbury Vale District Council), Councillor George Reynolds (Cherwell District Council), Councillor Bill Service (South Oxfordshire District Council), Councillor Mohammed Sharif (Slough Borough Council), Rajinder Sohpal (Independent Co-opted Member), Councillor Cec Tallack (Milton Keynes Council) and Councillor Quentin Webb (West Berkshire Council)

It elected a chair and vice chair today for the year, and we heard the Police and Crime Panel Annual report as well as the annual report from the commissioner himself.  There was a bit of a silly debate about the Commissioner’s expenses where the panel decided it was not its remit to decide if the Commissioner should have a driver or not.  There was a report from the Oxford Safer Communities Partnership, which I think does great work in our City an update on issues particularly of importance to Oxford as a City.  There was an update on operation Bullfinch from Chief Constable Sara Thornton and Superintendent Christian Bunt and they also gave an excellent overview of the work Thames Valley Police is doing to develop multi-agency approaches to child sexual exploitation.

At the end of the meeting Cllr Kennedy and I asked about the closure of the custody suite at St. Aldate’s police station meaning that all prisoners would now have to be taken to Abingdon.  I felt assured by Supt. Bunt that this was a sensible move as the Oxford facilities are awkward being at the top of the building and rather past their sell-by date.   He said he would circulate a short memo to councillors addressing concerns about the risk of new arrangements meaning police officers might take longer to get back on the streets after an arrest and I was reassured that vulnerable people arrested in Oxford then released from Abingdon would not be just put on the street with no means to get back to Oxford.

pcpYou can follow the PCP on twitter as @ThamesValleyPCP and the commissioner as @TV_PCC


Another shop loss on George Street – but good news on bins!

jessopsToday I spotted a planning application for a change of use of basement and ground floor from a retail unit (Use class A1) to a restaurant (Use class A3) at 63 George Street.  That’s the now-closed Jessops shop.  I was worried about the loss of another retail unit and the addition of yet another food outlet/bar (that’s what A3 is) so asked the planning officer about it.  He explained that the council has to assess any against its own retail policies in the Local Plan depending on the number of retail units left within the street and how this affects these policy thresholds.

A couple of days later the planning officer came back to me and explained that  he had reviewed the proportion of non-A1 (retail) uses within the secondary shopping frontage of the city centre (within which the site is located – in line with policy RC5 of the Local Plan). The proportion of A1 uses at ground floor level taking account of the change of proposed would equate to 51% (as based on January 2013 surveys by the Council). The policy minimum threshold for retail units is set at 50%. Consequently the proposal would not be contrary to the Council’s town centre/retail policies.

In English that means the retail units proportions policy does not give planning ground to refuse the application and so it would probably be granted.  I have to accept that really.  The only other thing I would like to see is a condition about is where the proposed A3 user will store waste.  There is a growing problem of large industrial waste bins being left out all over the city centre’s pavements and I really don’t want this unit to be another that does that.  I’ve asked it if can be conditioned that all waste must be stored onsite unless it is out for collection, say within the next two hours.  There are currently too many A3 users that area leaving pavements looking awful all week and I really don’t want that to get worse – All Bar One and the bins all over Alfred Street is a an example of this poor practice as are some of the A3 units on Gloucester Green.

To my delight, the planning officer said it would be entirely possible to write such a condition into the permission  requiring any future A3 user to store waste/bins on the premises at all times except immediately before and after waste collection. He said he would look at ways of making the condition as precise as possible (as required by Government guidance on conditions) so that it is enforceable if necessary and even went as far as to say he had circulated my concerns to all officers within the development control team for them to bear in mind when assessing such applications.  I am extremely impressed!


Provision for homeless and rough sleepers in cold snap

Freezing and rough sleepingI’ve had a few emails about homeless people and rough sleepers in this cold snap. The City Council does have things in place and here is some information:

Oxford City Council has a “Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and extended cold weather provision” (SWEP) which is a protocol for provision of additional bed spaces in hostels in Oxford City.

The protocol sets out a joint effort between Oxford City Council and single homelessness service providers in Oxford City to take all possible steps to avoid deaths on the streets due to people sleeping rough during severe winter weather conditions. The protocol ensures that Oxford City Council and local agencies provide appropriate responses for homeless people during cold and severe weather periods.

This is based on national guidance and follows the principles mentioned below that if temperatures are forecast to be sub-zero for 3 nights then emergency bed provision kicks in.

Currently, the city has 19 people accessing provision over this period which is forecasted to stay open for at least the rest of the week.

This is the third time this winter that the City Council has opened SWEP provision.

Any rough sleepers should – during this period only – be directed to O’Hanlon House (Tel: 304600). After this cold period, the situation will revert to normal, with any rough sleepers needing to be assessed under the No Second Night Out (NSNO) arrangements (Tel: Broadway, Oxford City Outreach Team on 304611).

If you want to do something to help then please DON’T give people money on the street but please DO consider making financial donations to OxHop, offering warm clothing to be distributed (dropped off at O’Hanlon House) and raising awareness via social media accounts.

Three licensing hearings

There were three hearings today: A variation for Thirst Lodge on Park End Street, a new license for The Oxford Kebab House on Manzil Way and a license review for the Hi-Lo Jamaican Eating House on Cowley Road.

I couldn’t hear the first as the Council has a policy that ward councillors cannot decide licensing applications in their own wards. I am not alone in thinking this is silly as we are perfectly allowed to make planning decisions (which are much more final if they are approvals) and we have good training and strict rules about declaring conflicts of interest in any case.

The first hearing was basically an application for an extra half hour of opening at Thirst Lodge. Everyone acknowledged that this is a well-run venue but Thames Valley Police were objecting on the basis of the City Centre Special Saturation Policy (SSP). I have to say I think the Police were right to object. The decision was to grant the variation and personally I think that was the wrong decision as it undermines the validity of the  SSP. While Thirst is very well run so probably won’t be a problem with an extra half hour, I’d not like to commit to that position for all venues in the City Centre SSP area.

The second hearing was the license review for the Hi-Lo Jamaican eating house.  This was quite difficult as there was clearly some misunderstanding on the part of the license holder about what was permitted and what was not, as well as when it was permitted.  Part of the problem is that this was a license “grandfathered” from the pre-2003 Act licensing arrangements so some of the terminology in it was obsolete.  We had a good discussion with the licensee and with City Council Environmental Protection (EP) and eventually decided that a short suspension of the ability to play licensable live or recorded music was in order.  We were told that lots of measures had been put in place to mitigate the problems that had been the basis of lots of complaints (with lots of evidence from Environmental Protection Officers) but as the problems had been severe and ongoing we felt it necessary for another visit from EP to happen so this could be officially checked.  If all was in order we were happy then for the licensing team to re-instate the licensable music on the premises license.  We also clarified that after the terminal hour for licensable music then background (non-licensable) music should be just that – barely audible in the premises itself, let alone in adjoining premises or outside.  I hope that things will be resolved soon and that the license can be re-instated once EP is happy that the premises can operate without damaging the rights of it neighbours to quiet enjoyment of their own premises.  It should be noted that we did nothing to the hours during which the venue is allowed to serve food or alcohol as neither of these had been the cause of any complaints.

The final hearing was by the Oxford Kebab House which is on Manzil Way in the medical centre.  The application was for live and recorded music and again, I think there was some confusion about what type and level of music actually required a license.  The applicant explained that the lice music would be acoustic, Persian music played in the upstairs restaurant area up to only around 11pm.  There were concerns from some residents about noise in and around the venue but we felt that these could be managed as the premises operator is experienced in such things and has a good record.  We encouraged all neighbours to keep in touch and reminded all that the license could be reviewed if it transpired there were problems at an unacceptable level.

As always, please note that this post does not form an official record of proceedings and should not be treated as such. The decision notice from the City Council is always the definitive document.

Licensing and Gambling Acts Committee

We met today as part of the regular meeting cycle.  We had a useful and impressive update on licensing activities from Julian Alison, our licensing manager and it was good to have a presentation from Inspector Katy Barrow-Grint of Thames Valley Police.  Katy is the new City Centre and North Oxford inspector and I was impressed at her commitment to partnership working with the City Council as the licensing authority.  I had raised an issue with her by email this morning and she had researched it thoroughly and had an excellent answer ready for the meeting.  I was grateful for that.

Another items on the agenda was the relaxation of licensing hours for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in July this year. It means that on Fri 1st Jun and Sat 2nd Jun premises that are already licensed will be able to carry on those licensable activities until 1am the next morning if they currently have an earlier termination of licensable activities.

We also looked at some proposals to address some of the problems of late-night drinking.  The Government is currently consulting on a Late Night Levy (on clubs etc. to fund more policing) and Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROs) that local authorities can use to to restrict the sale of alcohol in the whole or a part of their areas between 3am and 6am on all or some days, to address specific problems caused by the late night supply of alcohol in their areas.

The meeting took about an hour.