The Council’s Great Green Grab

The Headington and Barton Green Space Catastrophe – the Council’s Great Green Grab



Oxford, as acknowledged by the Core Strategy has “ significant inequality across the city and high levels of deprivation in some areas”

This article illustrates the effects of the Council’s decisions on one very important aspect of this – unrestricted green space, and how the Headington and Barton communities or “Urban Villages” are green deprived, and how much worse their situations will be by 2016 as approximately 38% of the 2111 houses planned under the Core Strategy will occur in the NE quadrant of the city.

The green chaos caused by the muddled Council’s policy has lead to a green crisis, but its policies on the West Barton development, former Barton Cricket Ground, the last and largest candidate green space outside of Bury Knowle Park, and further, the selling off of its remaining assets at Bury Knowle – the depot and precious barn and stables, both of which were key candidate resources in mitigating green space losses and population increases, has lead from crisis to catastrophe.

In 2016, the new Barton will have, at an estimated 1.35 H.A/1000, only 23% of the average, and target, city unrestricted green space of 5.75 H.A. per 1000 residents (down from 34%), a figure lower than Tower Hamlets in central London at 1.6 H.A.  Similarly, the Headington “Urban Village” (U.V.) will have only approximately 44% (down from 53%)

STOP PRESS – Barton population has an approximate 30% increase from 4659 (2005 , “urban village”) to 7145 (2011 census, Ward boundary) – therefore green space per 1000 is even less than shown below Headington probably similar.

It has not only failed to address the needs of the existing population, but permitted the destruction of the only useable spaces for future green and community space provision of a burgeoning population, ensuring the development of Bury Knowle Park as there will simply be no other place left.

Green space is a heritage asset, irreplaceable and precious, yet very little accessible space will remain by 2016 in this area.

Green space is more than a matter of lifestyle, but of social equality, not only as every child has a right to connect with nature, but also attractive places to live result in genuinely mixed communities, reducing poverty of expectations and life outcomes.

The Council could have built communities via sport and other collocated communal activities such as libraries and clubs which would have done much to mitigate the increasing concentration of poverty in the NE area resulting from the Council’s Policies, but all the candidate sites have now been disposed of – or very nearly.

What Could The Council Do?

The few positive steps the Council could yet take to mitigate this are:

        • Ensure the Barton Cricket Ground Development has 25% of genuine green space, not the apparent 16% proposed – it is too late to reverse the appalling decision to develop this space, or attempt to repurpose it
        • Increase the green space at the Barton development, this does not conflict with the AAP policy which sets a minimum
        • Withdraw the Barton Depot application and open and preserve the green space for current and future needs
        • Negotiate access to land at the John Radcliffe, Ruskin and the Barton Triangle
        • Stop the Bury Knowle Stables sale and preserve the space for community use

Headington and Barton Urban Villages – 2005

Headington and Barton Urban Villages - Current

Headington and Barton Urban Villages – Current

Headington and Barton Urban Villages – 2016

Green space is divided into unrestricted public access eg: parks (green border), limited, eg: allotments, schools (brown border) and restricted. (red border, inaccessible, and purple marking development sites.

Headington and Barton Urban Villages – 2016

Headington and Barton Urban Villages - 2016

Headington and Barton Urban Villages – 2016

Diagrammatic future housing is shown to indicate the approximate area only, indicating housing spread and scale – actual proposals, in particular for the Barton Development looks better on the developer’s plans.  (  13/01383/OUT – Land West of Barton)  

Oxford – A City Divided

We live in a very segregated city with rich north and a poor south, as can been seen by the social deprivation map below.

Map Of Social Deprivation - Core Strategy

Map Of Social Deprivation – Core Strategy

Diagram from Core Strategy showing green space and social deprivation [1]

However, this map can be criticised [1] as it marks areas of low and denser population equally.  If we annotate it with marking areas of low population and high green space the contrast between the economically and green space rich and poor becomes even starker.

Annotated Map Of Social Deprivation With Low Population/High Green Space

Annotated Map Of Social Deprivation With Low Population/High Green Space

Annotated diagram from Core Strategy showing green space and social deprivation [1]

The Green Space Chaos

The Green Spaces Survey 2005/2007 (G.S.) was commissioned by the Council as part of its evidence base for the Core Strategy to review current green space in the city.

The methodology was deeply flawed and illogical as it included wholly restricted sites such as those owned by private houses, yet excluded institutional (eg: John Radcliffe, Ruskin) and agricultural land ( eg: Land at Barton) on the grounds of their “limited potential for recreation”, which rather conveniently means green space loss is not, as it never officially existed, despite much in the city being used precisely for that purpose via restricted public access.  Further, such land clearly meets the NPPF definition:

“Open space: All open space of public value, including not … which offer important opportunities for sport and recreation and can act as a visual amenity.”

Further confusion and obfuscation is caused as the “Headington Oxford Sub Area” in the Core Strategy (C.S) is effectively the NE Quadrant of the city (NE_OSA), whereas the Green Spaces Survey divides the same approximate area into the “Urban Villages” of Headington, Barton, Marston/Northway and Risinghurst.

Meaningful correlation of population growth due to Core Strategy housing with green space provision is thus very difficult, and it appears regrettably the Council has neither attempted this nor communicated it to the Inspector at the recent at the Core Strategy or Site and Housing DPD enquiries.

The green space survey identified that Headington and Barton “Urban Villages” had only 53% and 34% respectively of the of the 5.75 HA per 1000 of population of unrestricted green space considered desirable to be maintained as a city wide average by the Council. (C.S.21, G.S.  5.6-5.7)

The key statements in the Green Spaces Survey (see appendix) pertaining to this area were:

      • Green space is a matter of social inclusion, health and quality of life
      • Headington and Barton are areas of significant green space deficiency
      • Creation of new open public space should be considered
      • “Carrying capacity” of the few remaining areas should be increased
      • Access to private land should be negotiated

Much of our unrestricted green space is unusable or of poor quality, Headington (NE_OSA) has 4 of the top 5 “most threatening” spaces, (G.S.) even some of the “unrestricted green space” such as  Headington Cemetery (2.43 H.A) is hardly a suitable location for most activities.

Some of the other green space marked on the Green Space Survey of 2005 has also been lost, but this has not been assessed.

Not only does the area lack accessible green space, but that which is available is either invisible, not officially publically accessible, and/or simply both officially non-existent and surrounded by notices “Private Property – Please Keep Out!” such as Ruskin Fields or arable such as Elsfield Hill (out of the Council area) adjacent to the Barton development.

From Crisis to Catastrophe – 2016

Notwithstanding, 38% of all new housing under the Core Strategy, or 2111 houses, are planned for NE Quadrant. (C.S.)

We can estimate the full extent of the deterioration of green space provision per person for the increasing population by taking the total number of houses (2111) for the NE Quadrant (C.S), multiply by five for an average of 5 persons per house (or 2.5 bedrooms) to arrive at approximately 10,500 persons, for Barton, a more accurate figure can be calculated based on Policy B.A.8.

District Pop AllHA Unrest HA HA/ 1000 % 5.75
Current_Barton_UV [1] [GS] 4659 15.87 9.16 1.97 34%
Current_Barton_and_New_Barton_UV [2] – Estimate 9681 15.87 13.06 1.35 23%
Current_Headington_UV [GS] 19056 90.10 58.11 3.05 53%
Current_Barton_and_Current_Headington_UVs[4] 23715 106 67 2.84 49%
Current_Risinghurst_Marston_Uvs to exclude [5][GS] 8300        
Current_Barton_Head_Rising_Marston_UV[6]=OSA 32015        
Barton_Head_Rising_Marston_UVs_pop_increase=OSA[7] – estimate (2111*5) 10555        
NE_OSA_pop_increase_minus_barton [8] 5533        
NE_OSA_pop_increase_minus_Risinghurst,Marston,Barton [9] (Headington_UV) 3854        
Headington_UV_pop_after_CS[10] 22910 UNK 58.11 2.54 44%

Summary Calculation – Headington and Barton Urban Villages

The Barton Development

The Barton development will have 885 of the 2111, leaving a residue of approximately 1,200 houses in the remaining NE Quadrant.

The Barton development is only required to provide a total of 10% of “new” green space, although it covers 38 H.A. of land that was previously accessible via the footpath along Bayswater Brook and to Stoke Place.

In this calculation, the new population is estimated using the Barton AAP Policy B.A.8, the number of beds, and an occupancy rate of 80%, taking the original amount of green space in Barton,  the linear park and minus the loss of the Barton Nature Park, allowing 1 H.A. for the 2.83 H.A. of “Green Ways” which are essentially broad road reservations.   The former football field is marked at 50/50 unrestricted/restricted as it will be school grounds and public courts which in any case will require some restriction.

Arable land to the north of Bayswater Brook is privately owned, and the public footpaths not particularly attractive, and certainly not suitable for any sports infrastructure.   The allotments and other limited access space make value green space contributions, but they are not unrestricted.

The below is based on the LLP Open Space statement and updated as shown.

Population Estimate Policy BA8: Housing mix Persons/Dwl Percent Pop
1 bedroom – 5-10% 2 7.5% 133
• 2 bedroom – 25-30% 4 27.5% 974
• 3 bedroom – 40-55% 6 47.5% 2522
• 4 bedroom or more – 15-20% 9 17.5% 1394
Total Dwellings   885 5022
Assume 80% occupancy     4018

Barton Population Calculation based on B.A.8

TOTAL SITE AREA 38.03 % New? UnrestNew RestrictedNew Comment
Formal recreation/sports pitches  1.86 5% N 0.93 0.93 Say 50:50
Comm. gardens and add. allotments 1.17 3% N 0.00 1.17 Exist as part of GS 173, not add, restricted
Linear park 3.84 10% Y 3.80 0.00 OK
Green ways on N-S roads (2.93 H.A. In LLP. report) 1.00 8% Y 1.00 0.00 Road verges, have given 1 H.A. “credit”
Existing allotments 2.49 7% N 0.00 2.49 Part of site 173
Barton Nature Park Loss (not in LLP) -0.90   Y -0.90 0.00 Loss
H.A. Extra       3.9 0.0  

Barton Green Space Calculation – Old and New Barton (Basis LLP Statement – modified)

Headington Urban Village

Apportioning the remaining growth as per the current proportion of the population in each Urban Village, we can arrive at an approximation of the remaining unrestricted green space in 2016 (H.A. per 1000) 

Eg: if Headington Urban Village had 40% of the population of the NE_OSA, we multiply (1200 * 5 * 0.4) to arrive at the population increase in 2026.  Risinghurst and Marston (inc Northway) have been removed using the same calculations.

Approximately 10,000 -11,000 extra residents for the N.E. Quadrant would require an extra 60 H.A. to provide adequate green space to conform to C.S.21.

However developments since 2005 and additional factors render the above conservative:

      • Student accommodation such as John Garne Way, Dorset House and at the Cavalier, Northway constructed after 2005 (approximately 2000 persons) which in any case are not part of the Core Strategy housing numbers
      • A lack of private green space, particularly in Barton
      • No private green space available at Oxford Brookes University
      • Extra bedrooms and extensions on existing housing
      • Developments that were not foreseen by the C.S. such as a Bury Knowle Depot and Stables although some may be “windfall” sites
      • Loss of unofficial green space to development at Barton and others
      • Much green space is either threatening, or of little value such as Headington Cemetery at 2.7 H.A. of a total of 15 H.A. unrestricted green space.
      • Excluded hotels such as at Barton
      • Population growth in existing Barton
      • Population figures obtained by 2005 survey may have already been dated

Some of the development may have already occurred as the Core Strategy plan period may have been completed by 2005.

It is very difficult to calculate the figures above accurately, they are questionable, but very probably representative.

The Catastrophe – The Council’s Reaction

The Council’s reaction to the above has been nothing short of extraordinary, in lieu of protecting the green space and enhancing the remainder, it is selling off each and every space that could have helped to community, and authorising the destruction of much of the remaining pockets of green space.

Bury Knowle Stables

The Little Old Lady Of Headington - BK Barn and Stables

The Little Old Lady Of Headington – BK Barn and Stables

Council owned, this will be the single biggest community and heritage loss for many decades in the Old Headington Conservation Area, marking the squandering of a unique opportunity to create a very special community facility in the heart of Headington.  Instead of providing a community space near at Bury Knowle, with parking for families, it is to be converted into units rendering the park inaccessible to those who can neither afford a £7 family return bus fare, nor manage prams and children on buses.

The need for community facilities is expressed best in the words of the Green Spaces Survey “Headington comprises a varied mix of land-uses and building styles; the result is an unstructured and disconnected Urban Village, with little clear identity.”

Green Space Loss: Lost potential amenity, reduces “carrying capacity” of Bury Knowle Park

Former Barton Cricket Ground

The Council supported the destruction in spite of the objections of Sport England, a statutory consultee, of this, the second largest and last green space other than Bury Knowle requiring, via the Sites and Housing DPD only an unusable 25% of public green space, the rest to be 30 houses, adding to the green space pressure.

The planning application currently for determination appears to only have 16% as green space although the land had an official S.R.5 protected status with an extant use as a cricket ground.

The argument advanced by the Council and others, that Barton Lane Playground is close by, is nonsensical, as green spaces used differently for different reasons:

      • The person wanting some quiet contemplation
      • The loud group of youths wanting to kick a ball around and let off some steam
      • The nature lover who wants to observe wildlife and birds
      • The sports player who wants a formal pitch
      • The child who needs a playground
      • The community group that needs “green infrastructure” such a hut
      • The bird that is looking for a nest
      • The dog walker

The only characteristic the above share is they are legitimate users of green space, otherwise they largely interdict each other – the children’s playground interdicts the dog walker, the formal pitch interdicts trees and wildlife, the loud youths interdict the person looking for some tranquillity, formal infrastructure such a pavilions interdict usage of that space, therefore it is imperative to preserve each and every piece of green space to accommodate all the above needs, even if closely collocated such as former Barton Cricket Ground and the Barton Lane playground.  It is nonsensical to suggest this space is “spare” on the grounds the Barton Lane playground is nearby.

The further argument that this space is unused is equally absurd with large local population increases of green deprived communities concentrated with metres at Barton.

It is equally absurd to trade section 106 contributions for land, no amount of improvement can compensate for irreplaceable green space.  The £100,000 suggested is no compensation for the catastrophic loss of the second largest, and last useable remaining green space.

Loss: 0.93 H.A. of restricted green space with approximately  0.7 H.A as total loss, 0.2 H.A as new public space

Bury Knowle Depot

Counted as part of the 7.7 H.A. of Bury Knowle “unrestricted green space” it impacts severely on the usability of the park, both as a loss of a candidate site for green facilities to use the park more effectively, and by permitting traffic into the park.

The site has been described as “brownfield” which logically means Bury Knowle Park is also.

Loss: Approx 0.6 H.A. of official unrestricted green space, usability of Bury Knowle (G.S.)


A larger population creates greater pressures on public infrastructure, and the situation left to us by this Council is such that development of the remaining green space at Bury Knowle is inevitable for sports, education or other community infrastructure.

The Council has failed utterly to provide for the needs of the existing community, and ignored the future pressures of the burgeoning population for green space, therefore increasing social division  and inequality.

The result is an increasingly divided city divided into the haves and have-nots.

So where will the children play?


Headington Heritage


Ver : 1.0.

Rel: 29/06/2013


Read all about the Lost Medieval Murals of St. Andrews, Headington:


Appendix – Green Spaces Survey Extracts

“The principle [sic] recommendations of the study are based on achieving the following Vision:

‘The open space of Oxford makes an important contribution to its unique character and quality. The vision is to rationalise its extent to more closely meet the needs of local communities, and improve its quality through enhancing its appearance and ecological value and providing a full range of recreational opportunities. Its use by all sections of the community should also be encouraged so as to promote social inclusion, improve health and enhance the quality of life’. [E.S.5]

“New Open Space Provision

The current Quantity standard of open space in Headington Urban Village is below the Oxford City Standard, and significant deficiency areas have been identified [Central Headington/JR].  The potential to create new open space , especially in the centre of the Urban Village, should be investigated. This could include exploring whether public access can be arranged to previously restricted sites, including the open space associated with the institutional land uses. [ie The John Radcliffe, Ruskin Fields]

it may be possible to provide better access across the open space associated with the hospitals [ie The JR] to act as green-links across the Urban Village and promote connectivity.”

“In general, accessibility to City level formal sites is good, except an area in North Marston and

Headington Villages and including Barton and Sandhills and Risinghurst Urban Villages. Access to

Informal sites is good in the west and east of the City but poor in Marston, Headington, Blackbird

Leys and Littlemore Urban Villages. [E.S.3]”

“In settlements where Quantity is below the City standard, consideration should be given to the

creation of new public open space. However the Accessibility and Quality of provision should

also be taken into account; by upgrading existing open spaces, it may be possible to increase their carrying capacity. [5-7]”


“Current population projections indicate an increase of approximately 2.8% to 2011 [ E.S.3]”


“Issues should be addressed where barriers to access have been identified in priority improvement projects.” [E.S.7]


Appendix – Core Strategy Policies

P o l i c y C S 17

Developer contributions will be used to ensure that the necessary physical, social, economic and green infrastructure is in place to support development.

P o l i c y C. S. 2 1

Green spaces, leisure and sport

The City Council will seek to maintain an overall average of 5.75 ha of publicly accessible green space per 1,000 population…

Improvements to, or the provision of, public green space, public rights of way, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and play facilities will be sought in accordance with Policy CS17.

Appendix – Green Spaces – Barton/Headington UVs

Green Space Summary
Ruskin Fields Last pastoral fragment of English countryside

Views: Excellent

Access: Traditional unofficial accessBarton Triangle, land East of Stoke Place

Invisible, inaccessible

Views: Almost none

Private property, inaccessible – partial views only from Barton Lane

Views: Obscured by hedges across road from footpath on south side of   Barton lane.Elsfield Hill North of Barton WestVery large field sizes, arable, only narrow strip of footpath   available for walking – not on way to anywhere, low habitat opportunities in   relation to size

Views: Nice from a distance, featureless and unattractive to walk onHeadington CemeteryA place to get away life, but not really usable

Views: GravestonesHeadington HouseEntirely concealed by high walls and inaccessible, some good habitat.

Views: Nil except trees on Northern wallJR HospitalImportant green space with good views to Headington Manor,

Private, hard to use, habitat only on 4 metre strip at Cuckoo Lane

Further development permitted under site DPD

Views: Urban park, some trees, intrusion by hospital etc

In centre of area of Headington UV more than 400 metres from any   other green space

Access: Unofficial onlyBarton Road Cricket GroundDevelopment pending with 25% only of public space

Had formal SR5 green space designation

Views: Almost noneBury Knowle ParkGood public far from Barton West and Northway although used by residents,   little habitat in relation to size

Views: Urban Parkland

Access: Full publicNorthway Playing FieldsBlank featureless, devoid of wildlife – sport only

Views: None

Access: Full publicBarton Lane PlaygroundGood playground and public space, but little wildlife habitats, too   far for residents of Northway and Barton West

Views: Urban parkland

Access: Full public


[1] Reproduction made under fair dealing criticism and review provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act source as marked on image –  Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.


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