summertown

Malcontent… on Out-of-Town Colleges

Malcontent… on Out-of-Town Colleges

It’s safe to say that a thirty-minute trek to lectures in the pouring rain is not what comes to mind for most people when they envisage studying at Oxford. For the benighted denizens of such far-flung locales as Hilda’s, Anne’s and (whisper it) Hugh’s, however, such torment is a daily reality. Consigned to the outskirts of the city by the vagaries of the pooling system, their joy at the spacious grounds and freedom from tourists turned to despair as soon as they realised that getting to a nine am lecture on time would necessitate getting up before they’d actually gone to bed. While the purchase of a bike initially seemed to resolve this issue, the first rainy day highlighted the flaw in the plan with painful clarity. Incapable of cycling whilst carrying an umbrella, the unfortunate student must choose either to make the weary trek on foot, or to attend their tutorials in a state of dampness more befitting to an Olympic swimming team.

Not only the student’s academic career, but also their social life is hindered by the insurmountable misfortune of their college. Going out in the evening requires a level of organisation akin to that of a space mission: if even one component of the holy trinity of flat shoes, taxi company number and dependable friends is forgotten, it will be a miserable night indeed. The student will either tax the patience of their city centre friends by crashing on their floor yet again, or spend the evening fretting about saving enough change for the bus home. And if they manage to pull despite being already exhausted from their arduous journey, no words will crush the fledgling romance quicker than the dreaded ‘I’m at St Anne’s’.

All this would be bearable, though, were it not for the abuse that students of more far-flung colleges must endure at the hands of their coursemates. Reactions are typically threefold: incomprehension (‘I didn’t even know they built colleges that far out’), mockery (‘Bet you never get laid, mate’), or, worst of all, pity (‘Oh, I’m so sorry. Not quite the Oxford experience, is it?’) Still, there is perhaps one consolation for the desolate St Hugh’s student. Within a few terms, all that cycling will have made you fit enough to snag a boy/girlfriend at one of the posh city centre colleges, and with a bit of luck, you’ll never have to go back up to Summertown again.

Bank robbery in Summertown

Two men are on the run after robbing the Banbury Road branch of Lloyds TSB and assaulting its 51-year-old manager last Thursday.

According to Thames Valley Police, the men waited for the manager to arrive, and at 7:40am forced their way inside as he unlocked the door. They are reported to have had a knife in the bag they brought with them, but did not use it, slapping the manager instead and forcing him to hand over a large sum of money from the bank’s walk-in safe. He was left without injury following the assault, but was treated for shock by paramedics at the scene.

They then locked him inside the safe, where he was discovered two hours later by police after another bank employee raised the alarm. They escaped in a black hatchback and a silver Vauxhall Zafira according to police.

The men are said to have been wearing black masks covering their mouths and noses; the first suspect is described as being white, around 30 years old, 5ft 10ins tall, with a grade one shaved head and an unshaved face. The second man is black, 25 years old, 6ft, with tight curly hair and is described as having “thin features”. He was also wearing some kind of head covering. The incident occurred on 19th January.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hayles has described the incident as lasting “about 30 minutes”, and said: “I am appealing for anyone who saw anyone acting suspiciously around the premises before, during or after the incident, or anyone who saw either of these two cars head into the city centre, to contact police as soon as possible.”

Detective Inspector Simon Morton stressed the unique nature of the incident, telling The Oxford Mail: “It’s really rare for a bank to be robbed – it’s more like the ’80s than 2012. We’re not only looking locally, but nationally for similar offences and are scouring CCTV. I’ve got eight detectives on the case.” He also described the men as “quite calm and very directing.”

Michelle Degli Esposti, a second year psychologist at Teddy Hall, said she felt that “for a city, Oxford is very safe, and maybe people take that for granted- hence why security appears to have been so slack at the bank.”

Residents’ concern over Sainsbury’s coming to Summertown

Not content with four stores already in the city centre, Sainsbury’s are about to add their fifth. Due to open in the spring in Summertown, a Sainsbury’s Local will take its place alongside three existing supermarkets on Banbury Road, creating concern among local residents, councillors and business owners.

The supermarket giant will take the vacant Suffolk House site of what used to be both the newsagents Martin’s and wine retailer Oddbins, on the corner of South Parade and Banbury Road, to create one store under their ‘Local’ brand. It will rival Tesco Express, Marks& Spencer and Co-op in the vicinity.

An online petition against the move, which has reached 102 signatures in ten days, has been set up by Frances Kennett, a former Oxford academic who achieved national fame for protesting over fortnightly bin collections in 2007.

The petition reads: “We the undersigned protest at the opening of Sainsbury’s in Summertown: it will be the fourth supermarket within the 100-metre stretch of the local shops. Sainsbury’s are applying for a liquor licence to sell from 7 am to 11 pm. With all the schoolchildren and students in this area, this will be an unwanted and inadvisable increase in alcohol availability in a residential neighbourhood.”

Sainsbury’s are free to lease the site without council approval because the site was formerly used by retail outlets and there is no change of use. It is likely that they will be provided a licence to serve alcohol, which the Martin’s newsagents did not have.

Both Summertown City Councillors Jean Fooks and Stuart McCready are unenthusiastic the move.

McCready said: “I think that three supermarkets are enough and I’d prefer to see development which encourages smaller shops with local character. Co-op, Tesco and M&S aren’t giving us that.

“I’m more in favour of Co-op since it’s been here for longer and served locals for ages but I’d like to see a community planning forum set up which could influence what size developments are in the area and give residents more of a say over neighbourhood planning.”

Jean Fooks said that while she would prefer to see more local independent shops she recognised the reality that many were unable to pay the rent, whereas Sainsbury’s was willing to and provide more jobs in the area.

Sainsbury’s, whose CEO Justin King is a Visiting Fellow of Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation at the Said Business School, confirmed the stores are due to open in Spring 2012.

Their spokesperson said: “Sainsbury’s is delighted to confirm that we have agreed a lease for the former Oddbins and Martin’s stores to be a Sainsbury’s Local.

“We believe the new convenience shop will be of great benefit to the area, by improving shopping choice and regenerating previously vacant units. The store is due to open in spring 2012.”

Website Summertown.info, which promotes business in the area, said last month: “The feeling among the people of Summertown is that [Sainsbury’s potentially moving in] is something they just do not need.” Previously the website had reported rumours that JJB Sports were considering moving to the site.

However, Somerville student Daniel Purcell commented: “I don’t think it’s that bad an idea. I don’t think that Sainsbury’s are doing anything particularly wrong by setting up a shop there and obviously they think there’s a gap in the market that they can succeed in.”

Mansfield second-year Rosie Chesterton expressed concern that, with greengrocers being squeezed, there could be less local produce on the shelves and added: “A new supermarket could result in competitive prices and lower costs for shoppers but it does seem a shame that independents are not getting a chance.”