Jericho rumbles on—and on

Published: Wednesday, 27 January 2010

IT WAS way back in May 2006 that British Waterways sent in the 'heavies' to clear Castlemill Boatyard on the Oxford Canal of its inhabitants, as it wanted all the people off the site to be able to sell it for development, yet after nearly four years it still remains empty, Alan Tilbury reveals.

Regular readers may remember that at one time there was the infamous barbed wire topped fence surrounding the site at Jericho to prevents the inhabitants returning, and developer after developer tried their hands at building, all to no avail. The photograph shows the fence being erected, earning the site the name of Stalag Jericho.

It was the former residents and others who banded together to form the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, and with campaigner Adrian Arbib setting a goal to get part at least of the boatyard back into use, coupled with affordable housing, instead of the luxury housing that the developers preferred.

Luckily, Oxford City Council agreed, and turned down plan after plan of the sometimes ludicrous developments that were submitted.

Into Administration

The very last developer, Castlemore Securities, was taken by the recent downturn, going into administration, and now the City Council itself is being urged to purchase the property, to both create affordable housing and bring the boatyard back to life on the site.

The site has been derelict since a proposal for 54 flats was rejected by a planning inspector in October 2008, with an artists' view of the flats shown. But council leader Bob Price has already told there is not the money available for the council to bid for the site.

Borrow money

However, Councillor Matt Morton has tabled a motion urging the authority to borrow money to buy the site from administrators, explaining:

"The city council should be doing it, because no-one else is able to respond to the needs of the boating and Jericho communities, who have a shared need to see the site brought back into use.

"We borrow the money and the interest to service the loan is paid for by the letting of the site back to the community, it costs the ratepayer nothing."

Sub-standard conditions

He pointed out  that many of the boaters on the canal are living in sub-standard conditions, because they don't have access to a serviceable boatyard, telling that many are surviving the winter, but  can't go on like it forever.

British Waterways has always maintained there is a serviceable boatyard, but the one referred to is a distance away, and does not have the facilities required by the boaters.

There has been a boatyard at  Jericho at the bottom of the Oxford Canal in the city for 160 years, but it was actually closed before British Waterways decided to sell the property to developers.