The Oxford skyline RIP

One can deduce from Lib Dem councillor Stephen Tall’s blog and occasional letters to the local papers that he is a little brighter and more rounded than some of the other elected members.

He has a new post on one of his blogs called The Oxford Skyline with a super panoramic photograph of the Radcliffe Camera taken from the University Church. Clearly someone who cares about the Oxford skyline. If only some of his colleagues cared as much.

Come with me, Stephen, to Port Meadow, and look back at the towers and spires as they appear from outside – or rather, as they now do not appear.

Distant prospect of Berkeley Homes

Here is a view taken last summer. It shows the Radcliffe Observatory on the left, the towers of Magdalen and Merton, the Radcliffe Camera, St Mary’s whence your splendid photograph was taken, and the spire of Exeter. Here is a closer view of the same scene.

Lost view from Port Meadow

A shift of angle would have brought others into view in a different order – one of the wonders of this panorama is that the pattern and sequence changes with your viewpoint. Or, rather, it did.

See the new building in the centre. It is bright red now, dominates the foreground and stretches off to the right, lower in the middle and rising again at the right-hand end. This high, in fact:

Disappearing spires of Oxford

There is the top of the dome of the Radcliffe Camera, the very tip of Exeter’s spire and part of St Mary’s, all but hidden behind a modern block. We used to be able to see them.

I don’t think we will really notice that we have lost this view. That is because this new building will be dwarfed by another one behind it, thus:

Cranes over Port Meadow

The red-brick building is already knocked into obscurity by the part-built block behind it.

There were various votes on this. At one of them (reported in the Oxford Times on 13 August 2004), one of your Lib Dem colleagues expressed his regret that the new development would block views of the Radcliffe Observatory from Port Meadow. You can see why he was so concerned – this is what he had in mind…

Last view of the Radcliife Observatory

Last View of the Radcliffe Observatory 2

…but he voted in favour of the scheme anyway. He was the one, incidentally, who recently had the willows of Osney hacked down – not a man too much worried about what the place looks like then. One of the others who voted in favour at that round was the chap who dumped a skate park on Aristotle Lane Rec the year before, at a wasted cost of £50,000, a man whose judgement some might question a little.

We do not expect much of the officers in the planning department – they plod from 9 to 5, from Monday to Friday, from recruitment to pension, without much obvious thought or care about the consequences of their work. Some little pen-pusher recommended this. Was he was too dim to notice the impact, or did he just not care? Sometimes it almost seems almost deliberate, a blow against a beauty they are not equipped to appreciate, spite against people who value something they do not understand.

That is what we have elected councillors for, a check against the unthinking yahoos in the planning department.

So I am glad your “adopted home town took your breath away” as you put it, and I much appreciate your excellent photograph. Treasure the views while you can.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in Oxford, Planning, Port Meadow. Bookmark the permalink.

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