Is Oxford Road in Reading West going downhill? (local response to our tweet)

I am writing this in response to a recent tweet “It feels like Oxford Road (Reading West) has gone down hill recently, what do you think?”

In the 4 years I have been here, I see much to commend in Oxford Road and yes, some things to lament. 

  • Litter
  • Shop closures
  • Addiction/drinking

Always troubled by litter, it has got even dirtier recently. In conversation with a street cleaner I learnt that this was due to a significant cut in the cleaning streets team.  This has not impacted wealthier areas like parts of Tilehurst and Caversham because they do not have the same amount of takeaways and possibly because the education of the population in general means that individuals litter less. (I know that lays me open to attack on a number of front’s but I’ll say it anyway, with the caveat that it is a question of how you’ve been taught to treat litter, if a child is walking the street and throws a wrapper on the floor, and the carer does not make sure the child picks it up, then the child learns that littering is normal and the behaviour is never adjusted.  The council also has some responsibility in terms of the increased litter in the streets – their recycling team changes and virtually imcomprehensible advice over what will or will not be recycled is quite absurd. Indeed the list of things not being recycled has become more complex and is ridiculously large given the landfill bills that they pay – more innovation is needed. 

Many small businesses have closed/moved from the area; just in the last 10 weeks, an Electrical place closed (the owner died and  no-one has replaced them) a nail shop closed down and one of the best Indians, Bohj has gone.  Are the rents unreasonably high? Certainly that isn’t helping the area…

Parking has become more difficult, and making the Kensington park area an area where you now pay has surely not helped local businesses.  Now it remains empty instead of having people park and shop locally, with business going to the big corporates like Tescos who have big parking spaces. 

You could say then that cuts have severely impacted Oxford Road.  It’s not however just a question of cuts.  It’s decisions. Multi-departmental decisions. Decisions to build expensive new projects in the centre of town and Caversham which is infinitely less affected by poverty; thus not investing the monies available in areas like Oxford road; decisions that mean areas afflicted by drug addiction are not policed as much as they should be; housing decisions resulting in more people with problems housed with other disadvantaged people; decisions to neglect the development of cheaper options in the long term like schemes that would incentivise shop owners to keep their own areas clean (small rent drops) or recycling of cans that would help get people return/collect cans and help the council to meet it’s recycling targets.  

These are the things to lament about Oxford road and nearby streets. The things to celebrate are incomparable to other districts, namely

  • Multiculturalism – indeed multi-everything!
  • A close knit community where peoples enjoy being with other peoples
  • Convenience, it’s own rail station and 17 minute walk to the centre
  • Parks and green spaces
  • Vibrancy