What’s Happening Just Round the Corner

From today’s Oxford Mail (though I don’t think the link will last for long), and with added hyperlinks:

Protesters take over boatyard
by Andrew Ffrench

Protesters have occupied a boatyard in Jericho, Oxford, in a bid to prevent the site becoming a new housing development.

Steve Goodlad, 40, ran the Alchemy Boats repair business at Castle Mill boatyard until Friday (July 29) when he agreed to leave the site.

Mr Goodlad did not want to leave the yard, but finally agreed to do so after owners British Waterways agreed to lease him a new site north of the Pear Tree roundabout near Yarnton.

But when he left the yard on Friday (July 29), protesters moved in and pledged to stay until the outcome of a public inquiry over plans for 46 new flats next to the canal.

Mr Goodlad said: “I handed over vacant possession of the site to British Waterways, signed all the paperwork and made sure about 20 boats were cleared from the wharf. But the next thing I knew half a dozen other boats turned up with some people who announced they were occupying the site. I am pleased I have been able to reach an agreement regarding a new site but I do have some sympathy with the protesters.”

Matt Morton, 33, of Walton Well Road, Jericho, who is leading the protest, said: “We will continue to occupy it until we get legal approval that boatbuilding can continue here. British Waterways know that people from the boating community are not the easiest people to get tough with. A lot of boaters have spent their life being pushed from pillar to post and this time they are resolute that they won’t be pushed around. We are anticipating a visit from British Waterways staff in the near future — which should be interesting.”

Mr Morton added that protesters were setting up a website to coordinate their campaign and to update supporters.

There was large-scale opposition to the closure of the boatyard when it was announced earlier this year and opponents to the housing plans include children’s writer Philip Pullman.

Chris Stanley, a spokesman for British Waterways, said: “They have been making their feelings known in a peaceful manner. We will be monitoring the situation.”

Building plans depend on the outcome of a public inquiry held in April and the inspector has not yet announced his decision.

British Waterways has offered boaters who were living on site help to find new moorings.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who likes this development. It’s not just the boatyard, it’s also that there’s not enough affordable housing proposed, the worry that highish-rise building will spoil views of St Barnabas church tower, and the lack of adequate space for a new community centre, and, no doubt, other things, too. Not many people like British Waterways much round here.

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