Keble’s new campus stalled by the council

Keble college plans for a new campus on Banbury road were stalled this week after planning officers recommended that the proposal be rejected.

Officers concluded that the planned development would result in the “unacceptable loss” of a listed building, and would have a “detrimental impact” on the character of the area.

The report was withdrawn from the north area planning committee meeting last Thursday to allow further discussions with Keble about the application.

Keble’s original proposal suggested that the buildings currently occupying the land be demolished and the site completely cleared to make way for the new £45m campus.

The college bursar, Roger Boden, said he remained optimistic.

“The Acland Site is a very important and sensitive one. We have to balance the needs of the future with the claims of the past, and that is a huge challenge. The College is engaged in a constructive dialogue with the planning officers and we are confident that it will result in an outcome of which we can all be very proud.”

The plans would require the demolition of the Grade II listed Acland Nursing Home, founded in 1878. The hospital was designed by Victorian architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, whose other work included the Examination Schools and the Bridge of Sighs over New College Lane.

C. S. Lewis and John Betjeman are among those who have been treated at the private hospital.

English Heritage society opposed the plans, describing the Acland hospital as a building of “considerable significance”. The Victorian Society, who were also consulted in the planning permission process, accused Keble college of lacking “adequate justification for demolition”.

Conservationists have further accused the college of deliberately overlooking the historic value of the buildings. The Oxford Architectural and Historical society has said that “the presence of a number of buildings of historical significance has been ignored”.

Many local residents have also complained. They included concerns about increases in traffic pollution and worries about the over-development of the site. Objections were also made about the choice of pale sandstone bricks for the new five-storey campus buildings and about their “bulky” design.

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Officers have suggested a number of changes to the initial proposal, designed to preserve the character of the site and prevent the demolition of the listed hospital buildings. They suggested that new designs should retain parts of the original building and be built in-keeping with the character of neighbouring buildings on the Banbury Road.

Officers have also expressed concerns about the loss of existing trees on the site.

The new campus was intended to provide living space for a further 250 students, a library, teaching rooms and a multi-disciplinary research facility.

Keble has called the plans an ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for the college to improve its appeal and to attract greater numbers of high-quality students.