City Council try to bury bad news

with Xmas release of critical report on Port Meadow development.

The Greens have criticised Labour-run Oxford City Council over its decision to release to the press in the holiday period an upbeat spin of a long-awaited ‘independent’ report on the Council’s handling of the controversial Roger Dudman Way development.

This independent review was commissioned following a petition initiated by Green campaigner Sushila Dhall.

The report contains a number of criticisms of the Council which they were clearly hoping to avoid getting into the media.  Releasing a one-sided press release late on the Friday after Xmas, when no one is likely to be paying much attention, is one way of trying to bury bad news.

says Chair of Oxfordshire Green Party and campaign founder, Sushila Dhall.

The Greens are currently working on a full response to the report. But an initial review shows a number of implied, serious, criticisms of the Council:

  • A lack of clarity in the Planning Committee Papers
  • Unclear information on the lowering of the roof heights
  • An inadequate pre-application consultation
  • A failure to challenge the University on soil contamination
  • A failure to require an environmental impact assessment (EIA)
  • Unrealistic talk of mitigating the visual impact of the development with tree planting

Despite some changes being made to the draft version, the report could also mislead readers with respect to the application by campaigners to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the failure to require an EIA. The report implies that the campaigners were unsuccessful. In fact, the application was pre-empted by the University’s agreement that they would voluntarily conduct an EIA.  The Judge has made it clear to campaigners that they can return to the High Court if the EIA does not proceed (currently no EIA has been published). Says Ms Dhall,

No one can say with any certainty how the vote would have gone if the Council had acted more appropriately when considering the application to build this monstrosity. But, the likelihood is that Councillors would have been far more inclined to vote against. The Council’s administration has a lot to answer for.

Greens have also noted that, although the web version contains a link to the report, the version of the press release emailed to the media DOES NOT.

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