Sir — Much public anger was evident at last week’s council meeting when Sushila Dhall presented a petition about the impact on the views of Oxford from Port Meadow, of the new ‘Castle Mill’ development by Oxford University.
Councillors admitted to being ashamed at what they had allowed, and it was gratifying to learn that urgent steps will be taken to discover what went wrong, what can still be done and what lessons can be learned about proper public consultation and proper scrutiny of planning proposals. One aspect, however, went almost unnoticed in the proceedings: Port Meadow’s status as registered common land. We read in the council’s printed response (on the agenda) that the likely impacts on the natural (SSSI and SAC) and archaeological (SAM) status were not sufficient to trigger a full environmental impact assessment.
And yet it is the meadow’s common land status – once again disregarded by the council – that is most at peril and in need of protection from such developments. The Freemen of Oxford have ancient rights of ownership and use of the meadow. They are also concerned to maintain the rights of every citizen and visitor to recreation and enjoyment. These are the rights that go with registered common land.
This brutal and insensitive development rides roughshod over those rights.
It is to be regretted that neither the Freemen nor the Port Meadow Protection Group were consulted about this development.
Alison Cobb, Freeman
Stephen Cobb, Port Meadow Protection Group, Binsey