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Latest News

21/03/14 08:23pm
In April and May a series of exciting events will be taking place celebrating the industrial and cultural heritage of the Oxford Canal. Organised by the Heritage Lottery funded Oxford Canal Heritage...
28/03/13 09:58am
The Jericho Living Heritage Trust is seeking a part-time manager to lead a project which is ‘Celebrating the heritage of Oxford’s canal’. The post-holder will oversee implementation of a grant...
28/03/13 09:45am
Today, the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, working on behalf of the Oxford City Canal Partnership has received a £65,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project in Oxford....
30/03/12 10:34am
We have reached another key point in the campaign to acquire and develop the boatyard site for the community, and would like to bring everyone up to date. In the first stage of this project you...

Developers: What's the score on the Boatyard?

It’s important for all of us to understand what ‘doing a deal’ or making a compromise with a developer adds up to regarding the Boatyard site, and just why a community-led scheme is the best option for Jericho, the boaters, and for Oxford as a whole.

The Boatyard site is a tiny patch by developers’ standards - however, a very expensive one. Developers make their profits by building residential units for sale: houses or flats. Eight years of battle with developers has shown us that no developer can make what they see as an adequate profit (c.8%) from building on this site without stuffing it with housing units.

The battle with Bellway Homes (appeal 2004) came to this crunch: they couldn’t possibly make a profit without packing the site. A boatyard replacement couldn’t be squeezed into the area, and they were not prepared to go to the profit-eating expense of providing a replacement yard elsewhere along the canal. Away they went.

The battle with Spring Residential (appeal 2008) was fought with the same economic demands in the minds of the developers. They couldn’t see their way to making a satisfactory profit without putting high, massive, and crammed-together blocks onto the site.

In Jericho itself all Spring would have been prepared to think about in the direction of providing for boaters’ needs for a repair facility was a solitary (and expensive to rent) mooring space stuck next to the pumping station on the south end of the site. As for a proper replacement boatyard provision further along the canal - which is a Planning Requirement for anyone seeking to granted planning permission for the site in Jericho - it became increasingly clear to the JLHT and others that Spring wasn’t prepared, or in a position to afford, to provide an alternative boatyard; not one, that is, with any long-term security of tenancy or ownership or provision of services which would be acceptable to boaters both resident and visiting.

Yes, land prices have for the moment fallen. But the late Spring’s administrators Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) have now made it known that they intend to sit on land bank assets until such time as prices rise. The fact remains that the economics of the Boatyard site won’t ever change appreciably for any developer thinking to be making a profit from it: any developer who touches it will have to fill the space with housing – either a mass of units, or fewer units of a higher build quality for the executive market. Nothing can be clearer than this: it has been roundly proven to us by sitting through two Public Inquiries where each developer has fought tooth-and-nail to try to get onto this site as many units as possible.

In the Bellway Homes and Spring Residential battles the community and boaters had been pressured to surrender their greatest common community asset, the boatyard site, for (apart from a new community centre) just one or two trifling concessions which didn’t look to be deliverable in any case. They (the developers) didn’t succeed. Our Trust’s hard won view is that there can never be a good deal for the community, canal boaters - and, indeed, so the JLHT contends, the city of Oxford itself - that can come from commercial developers’ schemes. The site is simply too small to give developers and community their quarts out of a pint pot.

Consequently, the only answer for us all is to go for a community-led development incorporating features that can bring Jericho, canal boaters, and city, undeniable advantages. Not only are we as a Trust convinced that a community-led scheme is the way ahead, we also believe that achieving a community ownership in perpetuity of the Boatyard site is a necessity. The JLHT and its fellow members on the Jericho Coordination Committee are together in this thinking. And together too we look with some hope to the recently formed Oxford City Canal Partnership, which, it seems, has begun to recognise and address the potential value to the city of its canal and canal-side asset. The partnership brings into concert the city, the County Council, and various canal organisations (even including British Waterways). This partnership recently at its last meeting voted unanimously that Jericho’s Boatyard was the most important present issue on the agenda of a new page for Oxford’s canal revival.