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Credit Crunch Boosts Community Plans for Jericho Canalside

Castlemore Securities, a well-known property development company, has gone into administration providing a unique opportunity for the community to acquire the old boatyard site in Jericho. The Jericho Living Heritage Trust (JLHT), a registered charity, is currently in discussions with the company’s administrators about the future of the Boatyard site.The Jericho Living Heritage Trust (JLHT), a registered charity, is currently in discussions with the company’s administrators about the future of the Boatyard site. Colin Dexter, author of the Morse TV series and Patron of the Trust said “We are all behind the Jericho Living Heritage Trust and its
tremendous efforts to acquire the old boatyard site for the community. Jericho will forever be my favourite location in this beautiful city of Oxford, and one of the only remaining places in the centre of Oxford were people can linger and enjoy the Canalside.”

“We are uniquely placed to acquire the site for the community and to take advantage of these extraordinary times,” said Peter Strong, chairman of the Trust. “We have been working extremely hard on this project, raising the necessary finances and listening to and liaising with all the groups involved.”

In August 2008 the Trust, working together with other groups, successfully defeated an appeal by the owners to build 54 residential flats on the boatyard site, raising significant funds to support the campaign.

The Inspector’s decision was the second time that a commercial planning application had been refused on the site. “There were over 700 letters of objection lodged during the appeal by local residents and people who care about the future of Jericho,” said Sir Christopher Ball, founder Patron of the Jericho Living Heritage Trust. “The Inspector’s decision gives hope to communities across the country wanting to safeguard the beauty and heritage of their local environment.”

"I am delighted that the work of the Jericho Living Heritage Trust is gathering momentum, and that the possibility of a locally-led redevelopment of the boatyard is drawing together such an exciting mix of interest, talent and enthusiasm. It will be a great achievement for all who care about the future of this fascinating quarter of Oxford. It will be a beacon of hope to many other communities who are facing similar challenges. I wholeheartedly support the aspirations of JLHT" said Father Jonathan Beswick, parish priest of St Barnabas, Jericho.

Spring Residential Lose their Appeal!

The JLHT is delighted to announce that Spring Residential's appeal was rejected by the Planning Inspector. Congratulations to all involved for your hard work and support in the helping the JLHT and the community achieve this important victory!

What next?

The JLHT is now working to put together a consortium with the intention of purchasing the Jericho Boatyard site for a community-led development. Your support will be as important as ever. Please stay in touch via the website, more information will be forthcoming.

About the Appeal

Spring Residential's appeal against Oxford Council's decision to reject the plan to build a four-storey block of flats on the boayard site took place in Oxford Town Hall from the 12th to the 21st of August.

The case against the appellants (Spring Residential) was fought vigorously by us the Jericho Living Heritage Trust (JLHT) in close partnership with the Jericho Community Association (JCA). Our barrister was Mr.Trevor Standen of the firm RadcliffesLeBrasseur, Westminster, and we had four first-rate expert witnesses, including Mr. Richard Anstis (canal paths, planning policy, etc), Dr. David Lloyd (flood-risk), Mr. Denis McCoy (urban design); and further, on the topic of the design’s appropriateness for Jericho, Mr George Ferguson, the former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

There were two other barristers engaged along with ours in what was altogether a gruelling battle against the appellants: Mr. Douglas Edwards representing the Oxford City Council fought the issue of affordable housing; and Mr. Mark Westmoreland-Smith representing the Jericho Community Boatyard Ltd. fought the issue of the developer providing a replacement boatyard elsewhere along the Oxford Canal.

A number of individuals gave their 3rd Party representations, including Philip Pullman's spirited entreaty to the Inspector, Ava Wood. Among others of our team Jenny Mann and Heathcote Williams did excellently. And Father Jonathan Beswick, priest in charge of St Barnabas Church, gave the JLHT and JCA’s stance his fullest support.

Throughout the Inquiry, the sheer strength of local feeling about the insensitivity and unsuitability of this proposal was made abundantly clear.

So, where are we now?

The Inspector will decide the issue within 6-8 weeks. At present we need to finish finding the funds to cover the costs of what was a vitally necessary legal defence of the community’s say in what happens to the boatyard. And if we win, and should Spring choose to sell, there awaits an even greater challenge for us - that of gathering the wherewithal to purchase the boatyard for the community. All the contingency work to enable future actions is now underway with our sub-committee teams of volunteers. Also, our registered charity status application is progressing.

As Heathcote Williams, one voice for Jericho's heritage, expressed in his 3rd Party Statement:

'Oxford is England's Venice, its Florence. Imagine the authorities in Venice - the Serene Republic - being presented with Castlemore Securities' Blocks A, B and C - or Spring Residential's Executive Barracks. They'd be laughed out of court for hatching something so inappropriate and might count themselves fortunate not to find horse's heads on their pillows. Castlemore have now spent some three years laying siege to Jericho with one plan or another. All of them dull if not plug ugly. But if they should have their way and if Oxford continues to be nibbled away at and is then finally turned into Brent Cross Shopping Centre its magic will never come round again.

In 1918 when the poet W.B. Yeats lived here he wrote: "I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is an opera." If Yeats could glimpse what Castlemore Securities have been plotting to plant on Jericho I dare say he wouldn't be surprised to discover that the Oxford songbirds of his imagination had now lost their voices and were falling into a despondent silence. Why? because Jericho wants its boatyard back.'