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Forum to protect shopping district
THE people of North Oxford have grouped together in an attempt to preserve their shopping district.
In a bid to exert greater control over development in their area they have created the Summertown and St Margaret’s neighbourhood forum and one of the issues which concerned residents most was the vitality of the Banbury Road shops.
New legal powers introduced just over a year ago allow communities to create neighbourhood plans which carry weight when planning applications for homes and businesses are decided.
Under the Localism Act neighbourhoods can put together planning policy to complement that created by councils and now two more communities are taking up the opportunity.
Summertown and St Margaret’s are two neighbourhoods that are hoping to do this.
Frenchay Road resident Nick Baldwin said: “The district centre is the heart of Summertown and I think it is right to protect it.
“This is about identifying the character of the area and building on the strengths of that.”
Susan Reynolds, who lives in Charlbury Road, said: “I certainly think that it would be valuable to protect the shopping area and keep its vitality.”
One of the concerns the residents have is over the potential development of Diamond Place and Ewert House which Oxford City Council has earmarked for housing and retail.
Martin Roberts, the new chairman of the forum who also lives in Frenchay Road, said: “This will be the biggest development in the area and if it is done well then generations will benefit from it.”
But city councillor for Summertown Jean Fooks expressed concern about the loss of parking involved in the development.
She said: “The fact remains that we need people to be able to come here and park while they shop.
“There are a lot of ideas about what we could have on that site but it should complement rather than compete with the existing shops.”
The neighbourhood forum was officially formed at a meeting in St Michael and All Angels Church in Lonsdale Road.
Oxford City Council, the planning authority, will now have to accept the boundaries of the neighbourhood which the forum has set out.
Meanwhile, the neighbourhood forum will begin drawing up what it considers to be special about its area and what its neighbourhood plan should look like.
Before becoming reality a neighbourhood plan will have to go through a public consultation as well as a local referendum.
Wolvercote has already set up a neighbourhood forum and is beginning the process of creating its plan.
Thame is already well on its way to having such a plan with a referendum due to be held in the spring to formally approve it.