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Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme moves closer to reality 

In May, the Environment Agency submitted the planning application for the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme. The University is part of the group of sponsors for the scheme, alongside other major stakeholders including the City and County Councils, Thames Water Utilities, the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

The £121m scheme secured full funding in early 2018, with central government contributing more than £65m and project sponsors also providing financial support. If the planning application is successful, this will be a major project which will take approximately three years to complete and involve the creation of at least 15 hectares of new habitat, seven new bridges and 2.6 kilometres of new flood defences.

The scheme is primarily focused on protecting residential property but will be instrumental in helping to unlock the potential of the Osney Mead Industrial Estate, where the University aspires to deliver a world-leading innovation quarter with space for research and collaboration with industry, as well as housing for graduate students and subsidised accommodation for University staff.

Estates Services staff are working with University divisions to develop an academic strategy for the proposed development, with external space planning consultancy CPB Projects providing support in evaluating the various options available.

Wytham Woods 75th celebrations continue

The programme of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Wytham Woods passing into the University’s stewardship continues to attract widespread interest and public engagement. The team organised a day of lectures in April exploring the diverse living things of the Woods, from plants to bats and the impact of climate change, at the Museum of Natural History. The ‘Sylvan Cinema’ screenings of films in the Woods were also a success, with dozens of visitors braving uncertain springtime weather to see screenings including the Laboratory with Leaves films about science at Wytham Woods, an Inspector Morse episode that was filmed there and the BBC documentary about one of its ancient oak trees. An exhibition of photos of some of the people who have done research in the Woods over the years followed in late May and early June.

Recently the team shot a special anniversary Laboratory with Leaves special, looking at the big picture of how the woods have developed over their time under the University’s control. Presented by Miranda Krestovnikoff of Coast fame, the film will soon be available on the team’s YouTube channel. There has even been opera in the woods, with Opera Anywhere staging a free performance of some of Puccini’s greatest operatic arias around the Wytham Studio during Art Weeks as well as putting on a ticketed performance of Sister Angelica by the same composer at the Chalet on 12 May. The team are now working to arrange another performance in the autumn to provide a fitting culmination to the anniversary year.


Fine furniture for Bodleian and Bonavero Institute

The DLO Joiners have created seating for the Bodleian’s new student breakout room, in its old exhibition space. The new seats are upholstered over an oak frame and will make the room more pleasant for students to use for breaks and discussion.

They have also finished and installed a set of oak bookcases for the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. Building users had been impressed by the shelving the joiners had made for the Law Faculty, and asked them to produce something similar to replace the temporary shelving they had been using since moving into the recently-finished Bonavero Institute.

The joiners are also working on several other projects around the estate, including:

* Refurbishing a set of gates in the University Parks, which were not opening and closing properly and whose posts had rotted

* Creating new storage shelving for the Nuffield College wine cellar

* Building and installing new benches outside Building 696, formerly known as the Amenities Building, at Old Road Campus

* Replacing fire doors throughout the Thom Building in the Keble Triangle

If you would like the joiners to quote for jobs like these in your building, please contact Graham Hooper, Joinery Workshop Manager.

Car parking permit system moves online

The system for applying for and distributing staff car parking permits has moved online, saving time for the departmental staff responsible for processing their colleagues’ car parking applications. Departmental Car Parking Permit Administrators will now receive automated email notifications for each permit application, and can export applicants’ data to a spreadsheet to help with the approval process and manage all aspects of permit application online. Staff can also track the progress of their application over the web.

More information is available in the car parking section of the Estates Services website. If you have any questions, please contact Ed Wigzell, Travel Officer in the Environmental Sustainability team.

FM team overhaul customer communication

The Facilities Management team have improved the way they share information with users of the buildings they manage. All users now receive a monthly electronic newsletter detailing any opportunities or issues relating to the management of their buildings and providing an overview of the key developments across the FM team. Building users on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter have received a newsletter for some time, but due to positive feedback, since the start of 2018 all other building users are now being sent them too. The team has also revamped the quarterly reports it sends to departmental administrators and other key customers, which set out in detail the performance of their building’s FM management team and any actions needed from its users, making it easier for customers to find the information they need.

Weighing the Woods with lasers

Wytham Woods are a long way from the tropical Amazon, but research there is helping scientists understand the world’s rainforests, and how climate change could affect them.

We know that forests hold masses of carbon in their trunks and branches, but not exactly how much. Until recently if they did not want to cut a tree down and weigh it, scientists had to estimate its weight based on its height and thickness. Now they have found a better way – scanning the whole forest with lasers to map out every branch and twig in 3D. They needed to check the results make sense by scanning woods closer to home for comparison, though. We already know more about Wytham than almost any other woodland, so it was a perfect place to start.

Some of the results were remarkable; one Wytham sycamore turns out to have nearly 11km of branches – twice as much as some rainforest trees, which are far taller but lack the sycamore’s intricate network of branches. Forests are expected to account for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emission reductions under international efforts to fight climate change, but the scientists say estimates of how much carbon is stored in tropical forests could be too low by as much as 45 billion tonnes – this kind of research will help improve climate predictions. 

Events for World FM day

The FM team marked World FM day on Wednesday 16 May. The day aims to recognise the importance and achievements of the facilities management industry worldwide, around the theme of ‘enabling positive experiences.’ All FM staff received a chocolate bar to thank them for their efforts to do this, and have been invited to nominate a team member who exemplifies the theme, consistently going out of their way to give customers the best possible experience. FM senior management will pick a winner from each Senior Facilities Manager’s team and announce the results later in June. Each winner will get a £25 M&S voucher.

Surveys to explore graduate student and staff housing needs

The University and the Graduate Accommodation team have been surveying graduate students about housing – from what the key drivers are when they are choosing where to live and what they need from their accommodation, to how far out they would be prepared to live and what rent they would consider reasonable. The graduate survey closed in late May and will be followed by a corresponding staff survey, which will launch shortly. The information the surveys gather will help inform the University’s strategy to fulfil its long-term goal of creating around 4,000 new accommodation units for graduate students and staff. 

Wytham visitors take part in bee science

The Wytham Woods team has launched its flagship BeeWalk citizen science project. They will hold regular events at which visitors walk transects through the woods and report all the bumblebees they see along the way in order to help scientists assess these important insects’ numbers, helped by a trained facilitator. There are also now 10 bee kits including identification guides and nets at the Wytham sawmill; visitors can pick one up, use it to look for bees along a particular path through the Woods and then report their findings.

Successful fifth year for the SLO Conference

In March the Security Services team held another successful Security Liaison Officers (SLO) conference in the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre in the Science Area – the fifth such annual event. The event attracted 86 guests from all over Oxford’s security community, including college head porters and the SLOs who form an important link between departments and the central Security Services team. They heard presentations on key themes from the University Strategic Security Threat Assessment, including crime, IT security, terrorism, protests and building occupations. They could also visit trade stands and interact with suppliers of security technologies including CCTV, radios and alarms. The conference gives delegates a chance to meet peers, exchange information and stay up to date on the latest security and crime trends affecting Oxford; it was well-attended and has attracted good feedback – one delegate described it as ‘an excellent opportunity to network and discuss issues among colleagues in the same field,’ while another said its subject-matter struck ‘just the right balance’. If you or a colleague would like to attend next year, please contact Richard Mason on richard.mason@admin.ox.ac.uk. 

Wytham Woods featured in BBC Wildlife magazine and on TV

Wytham Woods and the ground-breaking science that goes on there form the subject of a five-page feature in the April issue of BBC Wildlife magazine. Science writer Jo Wimpenny wrote the piece after speaking to many of the researchers who use the Woods in their work – as well as to Estates Services’ own Nigel Fisher, Conservator of Wytham Woods. She focused mainly on the important long-term studies of blue and great tits that have been going on for decades, touching on many related topics – from the challenges of weighing tiny birds to the impact of climate change and the intricate ecological relationships between birds, the caterpillars they feed on and the oak trees that in turn provide the caterpillars with food.

The Woods also appeared in a David Attenborough programme about birds’ eggs – Attenborough’s Wonder of Eggs, broadcast in mid-April. The veteran wildlife presenter discussed science at Wytham that uncovered the reason for the increasing spottiness of Great Tit eggs. Over the winter they also formed the setting for part of another programme, this one dealing with Dame Judi Dench’s passion for trees.

Security Services updates vetting and screening processes

To help streamline administration, Security Services will move to fully online processing of all screening checks for departments and colleges in 2018. This will involve enhanced-level Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks as well as the higher-level checks the team already processes through external contractors. Basic-level DBS checks have also recently moved online. Any feedback on these changes would be welcome.

Up-to-date screening advice is available online. This aims to ensure the various categories of checks are applied more consistently. The team plan to supplement this with a document control system which will make supporting documents more accessible. Security Services administrators can also provide general advice on vetting and screening, including arranging briefing sessions for administrators and HR colleagues. Please contact screening@admin.ox.ac.uk.

New case studies published on Estates Services website

The Estates Services website holds a number of case studies showcasing the exceptionally wide range of work done by the teams in the department, and the benefits it brings to the wider University. Visit the Showcase section of our website to view the recently-published case studies on topics including:

  1. The installation of a new lighting scheme in the lower reading room of the Radcliffe Camera
  2. High-profile media coverage of the science carried out at Wytham Woods
  3. The Space Management team’s work to help the Humanities Division use space more efficiently
  4. How the radio network managed by Security Services makes Oxford more secure
  5. How the gardeners of the University Parks team helped save the lawn at Lady Margaret Hall from insect attack
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