Oxford hospital pipeline: Council review after roadworks row

Oxford hospital pipework Image copyright Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Image caption Work had started on the pipeline with trenches between the hospitals

Oxfordshire's councillors are calling for a review into how decisions are made after the installation of a pipeline between two hospitals had to be halted.

The £14.8m scheme will transfer heating and hot water between the John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals.

Officials have questioned whether officers should have been allowed to grant a licence for roadworks.

The scheme is already in limbo after problems over planning permission.

County councillors are demanding a review into the type of decisions officers are allowed to make.

In December, Vital Energi started the project for Oxford University Hospitals Trust but work was halted in January when it emerged planning permission was needed.

A retrospective application was ruled "invalid" by Oxford City Council.

Oxfordshire County Council had granted a Section 50 street works licence but county councillors and residents were not consulted.

The county's scrutiny committee, which met on Thursday, recommended a review of which decisions could be made by officers and which should be decided by councillors.

The committee was told officers had not viewed the roadworks as a single project.

Image copyright Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Image caption The hospital trust said there would be disruption to people in the area

Headington councillor Roz Smith said: "Some decisions do have to be made by officers... but when it's something as big as this, that's going to affect so many people... for officers to say it's not a significant decision is absolutely incredible."

A report by Sue Scane, director for environment and economy at the council, said while county staff "acted within their powers and remits" the "exceptional nature" of the project and "level of disquiet expressed" meant the authority should consider reviewing its processes in future.

The Hospital Energy Project is an 18-month scheme to install a 1.6 mile-long (2.2 km) pipeline in Woodlands Road, Sandfield Road, London Road, Latimer Road, All Saints Road, Stapleton Road, Old Road and Churchill Drive.

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