Colourful flats plan is axed after Leys’ tenants say ‘no’

Kevin McHale outside Plowman Tower

Kevin McHale outside Plowman Tower

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

PEOPLE have voted down plans to add colour to Blackbird Leys’ tower blocks – but they have been promised £1.7m-worth of new extras.

Oxford City councillor for Blackbird Leys Val Smith said that designers had done a U-turn after hearing from residents at consultation talks in March.

She said: “They have changed their minds because the people who lived there didn’t want it.

“People who lived there were not keen on it and they’ve gone for neutral shades.

“It’s a shame, I thought it would have been fun, but if that’s what they want then that’s fine.”

Scott Seamons, the city executive board member for housing, said: “I hope that the other three towers will be going ahead, but if we’re going to change the designs then we will have to show them to the residents again to get their views.”

The consultation period saw 267 people living in and around the towers give their thoughts.

Under the initial proposals, Evenlode and Windrush Towers in Blackbird Leys would have been purple, grey and white.

Hockmore Tower in Cowley will be clad in green, with part of its Portland stone exterior maintained, and Foresters and Plowman Towers will be clad in red terracotta.

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Lauraine Dineen lives in Evenlode Tower and is thrilled by the new plans, adding: “I’m really excited. That’s great.”

The full-time mum to two boys - Harry, three, and two-year-old George - said: “Now we won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Purple would not have blended in with all the other houses in Blackbird Leys, it was crazy. I know it’s difficult to blend a huge tower block in but neutrals will do that better than anything else.”

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Not everyone agrees. Kevin McHale has lived in the Plowman Tower for over 20 years, and has attended several consultations since the beginning of the project.

The 66-year-old said: “That’s a real shame. I thought one of the most attractive things about it was the colour scheme.

“But if people don’t want it then I suppose they’ve got to go with something that’s grey and boring.”

Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman Gordon Roper said: “You can’t say Oxford City Council don’t give people what they want and that they don’t listen.”

It comes at the same time that Oxford City Council is increasing the project’s cost by more than £1.74m. The current budget says the scheme will cost £16.615m and this will be bumped up to £18.358m.

Mr Seamons said: “It’s a few little extras we added in the external work. It’s costing a little bit more than we thought. It’s including parking and doing work to the balconies so they are enclosed.

“Residents were very keen to change the balconies because it means they can use that space when it’s raining and stops issues with pigeons.”

He said the extra money would come from the existing housing revenue account budget, which is paid for by the rent of council housing tenants.

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