There is a letter in this week’s Oxford Times from Steve Howell, Head of Transport at Oxfordshire County Council. He is terribly upset about complaints reported the previous week from the Warden of All Souls amongst others, who protested about the vandalism perpetrated the length of Oxford’s High Street by the uncultured, insensitive oafs of Oxfordshire County Council.
Howell boasts of the work already done to the High with paving and road surfaces improved with a de-cluttering of signage where possible. He goes on:
I, therefore, slightly resent the undertones that that we are cold and unfeeling towards the heritage of the High Street and its status as an Oxford gem.
I saw no such undertones in the reported comments. The paper’s short report included expressions like “vandalism”, “ill thought-out”, “too appalling to contemplate”, “a thoughtless proposal from engineers who have studied maps, not organisations or people”, “further vandalism of the High Street”, “a sorry sight in terms of signage, street furniture, eyesore boxes and machines”. If Howell thinks these are merely “undertones” then his skin is as thick as his head.
Council employees are fond of euphemisms (they don’t call them that of course) and “cold and unfeeling” seriously understates what people think of his department’s attitude to the city’s streets. “Dull-minded, unthinking, dim ignorance” gets closer.
Susan Traynor, writing in the same edition, says
There will always be smart new ideas for visually distracting street clutter: boxes, poles, signs, lights, more bus shelters, and advertising. But the beauty of High Street is worth preservng, like a giant work of art, and should always come first.
This is a recurring theme in this blog, together with my prediction that these people would be genuinely puzzled at the assertion that they were too ignorant to know what damage they were doing – see the category Street clutter. Howell fulfills my predictions perfectly.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is the High Street between All Souls and Queen’s a few days ago:
And here is one I took on a glorious day last Summer from the opposite direction.
I have many Oxford photographs like this – of the High, Oriel Square, St Giles, Broad Street – all of which are more powerful than words to show what these vulgar little people have done to Oxford.
Susan Traynor’s point is the same as one I made about Oriel Square (What a load of bollards in Oriel Square) – anyone but a council officer would say that if the Oxford Transport Strategy needed this then the OTS was fundamentally flawed.