Friday, 1 June 2007

How Oxford Treats its Heritage

Three of these four houses in Iffley Road (see pictures below) have been awaiting demolition for some years, in a city where an empty house ought to be a crime, let alone a handsome house in keeping with its area and capable of housing a good 5-6 tenants to earn its keep.

Now you may think the fact that planning permission to demolish the Victorian houses was turned down by Oxford City Council secures their future, but you'd be WRONG.

No, what the owners of such houses then do to achieve their aim of a juicy empty plot in a prime location is:

A. Allow the houses to deteriorate to the point where they can be decreed 'dangerous' and therefore there is no contest about their demolition. (Roof tiles are routinely removed and windows smashed, to abet the elements in this task.)
B. Repeatedly submit demolition applications to the council until they wear them down or a new, less heritage-friendly, Planning Officer comes along and finds a way to help out.
C. Hope a 'mysterious fire' takes hold to settle the matter - as with the empty 1930's pub further up the road which has now been successfully razed to the ground, conveniently for a new development.

Now don't get me wrong, I speak as a POOPER (priced-out-of-property) person myself.

But THIS is not the answer! Notwithstanding, I wouldn't be able to afford any of the squalid battery-hen sized flats in the soulless block built in place of any of these houses, even if I could live in one without needing to take anti-depressants to do so.

Incidentally, for those of you visiting our fair city for the first time, bear in mind that Hitler (a keen mediaevalist) left Oxford alone in WWII, except for the aircraft factories bordering the city. No handy bombing gaps between buildings here for 'brave new' monoliths to sprout up. All the architectural vandalism that has since been visited upon Oxford has been inflicted by its own Council in league with property developers and the University. Small wonder then that our Cornmarket street came third in Worst Streets in England three years ago.

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