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Cherry Tree at EOCC

Dave | 28.09.2004 23:24 | Ecology | Free Spaces | Oxford

Here is a photo of the mature cherry tree at EOCC, due to be cut down early
Oct, Planning officers and the tree officer in particular advised that the
kitchen extension would over develop the site and result in the loss of the tree.

Cherry Tree
Cherry Tree

Several Green councillors and one Labour councillor called this decision in.
The area committee voted to build the kitchen extension on the site of the
tree and cut it down, despite planing officers advising that this was a breach of
the local plan. The kitchen would be far more suitably sited on the side of
the bar thereby making better use of the bar space for the wider community and
preserving this lovely mature cherry tree so loved by cowley road people. It
will ruin one of the few original historical frontages in the area. There is
space around the side of the building for an extension and it would be in a more
practical site. No notices about this extension were displayed in the local
area so no one has been properly informed about the exact details.

I would like to explain why we want to relocate the kitchen. The present
proposal is to put the kitchen on the left-hand side of the Princes Street
entrance and extend the building out as far as the pavement, said by the planners
in their original rejection of the application to be 'overbearing'. This would
involve chopping down a much-loved mature cherry tree that is particularly
beautiful in spring, and destroying the architectural line of the street and building, which was originally a 1920s boys' school (the sister school on the other side of Cowley
Road has already been demolished).

This building is a much-loved landmark on the Cowley Road. The planeed change will restrict the view of the street for people turning into Princes Street from Cowley Road, increasing the likelihood of traffic accidents (it is already a heavily congested junction) and willresult in the loss of the Centre's open tree-lined frontage, crowding the building up to the pavement, severly reducing the window area to the downstairs hall, which is regularly used for exercise classes.

You cannot run a restaurant in an exercise hall . This restaurant will
involve using 90 chairs and 20 tables. This will obviously restrict the amount of
space available for exercise classes. Events will push out exercise and
involve extra cleaning. Sticky floors and yoga do not go together. We already have
problems with cleaning.

The advantages of locating the kitchen to the right of the social club/bar, and moving the main entrance to Cowley Road, are:

* Allowing full use of the downstairs exercise hall at all times to continue and develop (there is already inadequate space for exercise classes in East Oxford, as two halls have recently been taken over for use as offices).

* Using the social club premises during the day, which are currently only occupied some evenings You can run a bar and a restaurant in the same space. A bar and a kitchen/café have the same requirements. Tables and chairs would not need to be put up and down continually. The cleaning would be the same.

* Shift the focus of the bar from smoke and alcohol to a community/family cafe

* Reducing noise from people entering and leaving the social club in the
evenings: this currently a serious concern of Princes Street residents. Entering
and exiting onto the busy Cowley road makes more sense and would raise the
profile of the centre.

* Improving and not spoiling the appearance of the Centre

* Improving security of the Centre as it would restrict access and utilise a
dead space 'gap'.



Hide the following 8 comments

East Oxford Community Centre

29.09.2004 10:31

As Treasurer of East Oxford Community Centre, I would like to support the plan to relocate the proposed kitchen to the side of the Centre, for both aesthetic and practical reasons.

We are fortunate in East Oxford in having a large number of dedicated teachers who run classes in Yoga, Tai Chi, Dance, and other forms of exercise, yet none of those people was consulted by the so-called Healthy Living Initiative about the plan to change the use of the downstairs hall from exercise to a cafe.

Over the last few years, East Oxford has lost the use of exercise halls at 44b Princes Street, the Asian Cultural Centre and SS Mary & John church hall. When the nation is facing health problems from obesity and lack of exercise, why does funding go to the Healthy Living Initiative which is obviously just window dressing? A free course in Healthy Eating offered at the Asian Cultural Centre recently had to be abandoned due to lack of interest.

Most of the income of East Oxford Community Centre comes from hiring the halls to exercise classes, which are well attended by a wide variety of people - young, old, from all backgrounds. The loss of one of our halls would have a serious impact on the finances of the Centre, as well as the health of the community.

Anna Sandham
mail e-mail:

Craig Buckby's report

29.09.2004 13:13

Here's a report by Craig Buckby (Community Development and Regeneration Manager) to the East Area Parliament, striking down objections to the new kitchen development, and dated 18th August.

"To ensure the funding is secured work must start in the first week of October 2004"

It looks as if the funding ultimatum isn't from oxforc City Council, it's the New Opportunities Fund, whose contribution is being supplemented by OCC.$FILE/Item%2012.pdf

Mr. Demeanour

Ususal smoke and mirrors about the EOCC

29.09.2004 13:19

Having just read this and the last article about the HLI consultation at EOCC I must say I'm really disappointed that we're going over the same ground again. As someone who was involved with EOCC from 1999-2003 I think there are some things which should be pointed out:
The initial proposal for the kitchen was put together in 1998 with support from the user groups and extensive consultation took place with all the on-site groups and user groups. Since then the needs and desires of users may have changed but that doesn't negate the initial consultation. Also consultation means making sure everyone is heard not making sure everyone is 100% happy, a feat which is impossible in a diverse centre such as this.
The points about the exercise groups are fine, and I think it should be noted that the majority of the trustees of EOCC are now representatives from these groups. However, EOCC was not established as an 'exercise centre' but as a centre to house a range of long-term community projects as well as various classes etc. It is only in the last year or so - with the end of the Claimants' Union and the CIP - that the exercise groups have become such a loud lobby and I think this should lead to a more coherent look at what EOCC is all about.
The Treasurer who wrote a reply should know perfectly well that if the building doesn't start by the beginning of October then NOF will pull the funding and the kitchen won't get built. If you don't want the kitchen then spell it out, don't create a smokescreen of nonsense points. The plan to build the kitchen round the back was investigated in 1998 (as was building it to different levels; rebuilding B block where the Claimants' Union used to be; doing it as a Walter Segal self build project) but was not possible for a number of reasons:
1) NOF will not fund a kitchen like this if it is attached to a bar for various reasons including management and h&s issues
2) It is hardly inclusive to join something like this to a bar as there are sections of the community whose faith disallows them to go to an establishment selling alcohol
2) There are management issues between EOCC and the Social Club
It has been clear for years that this is not an option so why are you pushing it now?

mail e-mail:

A query

07.10.2004 14:00

I must say I find it very odd that the treasurer of the EOCA should be proposing something (an unfeasible re-location of the new kitchen) which would result in the loss of funding for the entire project. As Becky says, still being against the plans at this stage, after so long, means effectively being against the kitchen extension as a whole. If this is your position, please say so, and justify how such loss of building funding would help the EOCC financially.


Green or not

13.10.2004 11:36

I must say I find it very odd that concern for the appearance of an old building is being expressed on the same Indymedia which encourages the daubing of graffiti everywhere.

Another Puzzled

Word of Warning

14.10.2004 10:04

Dear Indymedia members and readers. Please be very cautious about who you end up getting into bed with over the East Oxford Community Centre kitchen issue.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the location of the kitchen, the idea for it springs from the long tradition of social justice and empowerment at the community centre, which stretches right back to its origins in the 19th century. Anyone around East Oxford in the 1980’s and 90’s will know and understand how important a focal point the place has been for genuinely radical and alternative visions of society.

The idea for the kitchen came from and was fought for by the Community Association, not the City Council. Those who are saying it is a city council plot are, quite simply, insane. Previous trustees worked to get external capital funding, not just to improve the facilities but to safeguard the site against being sold off for development, which was an option the Council was considering.

Look at those lined up against the kitchen and see what their real agendas are.

Of the exercise groups, with the single honourable exception of Trevor Charles’ Tae Kwon Do class, none have ever contributed anything to the overall life of the centre. Yet all they have ever received is support and encouragement from the Association. Far from there being a plot against exercise classes, the space available for exercise was doubled with the building of the upstairs hall in 1996, with funds raised by the trustees. The Tai Chi class, who lead the anti-kitchen lobby, did nothing to help or support that work but have since acted as if the upper hall is their personal estate. They are now trying to re-write history, referring to both halls as “exercise halls” whereas anyone ever involved in the place knows that they have always been multi-purpose halls used for a wide variety of activities, including exercise. There has never been any suggestion that a single exercise class would stop or be displaced once the kitchen was built.

But who are the Tai Chi group? Three of them are now trustees of the Association: David Baker, Cathy Spiers and Anna Steadham. One thing is clear, they have no interest in community development or social justice. David regards most other centre users with contempt, including some of the other exercise classes. He regularly used to refer to the Friday prayer group as “Al-Qaeda” and its imam as “Osama bin Laden”. One of his first actions, having assumed the (unelected) position of chair of the Association was to try and wriggle out of a £1,000 debt he has owed the Centre for several years. As anyone on the management committee in the last ten years will tell you, he has been a notorious bad debtor to an organisation that struggles on a shoe string and was run by volunteers. This alone shows that he is not fit to be a trustee, let alone an officer of the charity. Even his friend Anna, the treasurer, knows this is wrong but she won’t do anything about it because he’s her mate. Is she really fit to be treasurer in that case? Likewise, East Oxford’s own caped crusader against corruption, Sean Feeney, seems strangely silent about this – but then he’s from the Tai Chi group too.

The behaviour of this group of people has been by turns both sinister and completely bizarre. It is impossible to have a proper dialogue with them. They work by spreading rumours and misinformation, whipping up anxiety. They insinuate corruption without backing it up. They say one thing to one group of people and something completely different to the next. While their desire to secure and expand facilities for exercise classes is commendable, the fact that they will disenfranchise all other centre users who don’t fit their narrow world-view, is not.

The most recent recruits to the anti-kitchen lobby are certain Princes Street residents. These are the people who have, for years, frustrated social and other functions at the community centre. One prominent resident basically doesn’t like having groups of refugees and other foreigners sitting outside the building drinking coffee during the summer. She originally wrote in support of the plan for the kitchen precisely because it would move such activity round to the Cowley Road end of the building. Another local resident openly admitted in a public meeting that he and his wife have, on more than one occasion, allowed Special Branch to use their house to carry out surveillance against the Community Centre. Not surprising since he’s an ex-copper. If you read their letter to Andrew Smith MP you will quickly perceive where the residents are coming from – they want the centre to be a nice, quiet, suburban “village hall” with yoga classes and “genteel” activities. They do not like the fact that the centre has in recent decades been a welcome space for excluded groups and community activists. To them “disadvantaged” people are noisy, smelly, violent and chaotic and need to be brought within manageable boundaries.

These people, including the Tai Chi group leaders, are basically East Oxford home-owners. They are affluent and privileged, however radical or alternative they may think they are. Their attitudes, in this context, reveal on which side of the social divide they line up, each and every time.

None of this is to say that you should support either the kitchen or its proposed location. You can make your own minds up about that. But as people with some interest in issues of social justice – be aware of who it is you are dealing with and please don’t do anything that undermines the years of social justice work that has flowed richly and powerfully from the Community Centre.

Jim Barlow

Nice one Jim. Spot on!

17.10.2004 14:23


A supporter.

arh! East Oxford community centre.....

30.12.2004 23:12

..used to hang out there loads when I lived in Oxford a few years ago.
I have to say this...if you plan on losing the big hall please reconsider...this is a good space for party's/bands and stuff. Maybe redesign the bar as a cafe also. Maybe just leave it as it's fine as it is.

Blessed be.

King Amdo