Criticism of Castle Mill development continues

Criticism has continued regarding the Castle Mill development in Jericho, a complex of graduate accommodation for Oxford University students.

Members of the Campaign to Protect Port Meadow from Oxford University (CPPMOU) condemned the lack of response to letters sent to the University, in an open letter published in the Oxford Mail last Thursday.

Toby Porter, a representative of the CPPMOU, claimed, “The campaign has grown in strength due to people’s dismay at the buildings, but also an implacable anger at how the University and City Council managed to between them so mismanage the consultation process that it is almost impossible to find anyone who was aware of the proposed development at a time when the consultation process was open and complaints could still be made.”

The University’s position on the Castle Mill development has also been criticised by Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, fellow of St Cross College, who alleged, “The total silence from any senior representative of the University above the level of a hapless and relatively junior employee in the University Press Office is very telling: everyone knows that the buildings are a ghastly error.”

MacCulloch also claimed, “I have had a significant number of very senior members of the University privately support me and say that they would like to express their horror at the scheme, but are constrained by the offices that they hold.”

In a statement to Cherwell, an Oxford University spokesperson commented, “It is absolutely not the case that holding a university position prevents University members from expressing their views on these matters – they are free to say whatever they feel, as shown by Professor McCulloch’s comments, and the University values open and free discussion among its members.”

She added, “Concerns about the view of the buildings from Port Meadow have been and continue to be reflected in discussions with planning officers. We have already met planning officers for the first of what will probably be several conversations and we do not have anything further to add until these discussions have been concluded.”

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OUSU has also become implicated in the debate. OUSU Vice-President for Graduates Christopher Gray’s view on the development of graduate accommodation near Port Meadow was quoted in last week’s Cherwell. He commented, “We understand the concerns over the aesthetic effect on the view from Port Meadow, but the time to raise them has unfortunately passed.”

In an open letter addressed to Gray, Stephen Ross, a graduate student at St John’s College, criticised Gray’s comments and alleged, “The time to raise these concerns has not passed — the plans for this development were approved in secret, with no real consultation with the community on which they will have such a large impact.”

Gray clarified his position in an open reply to Ross where he claimed, “This does not mean that I, or OUSU, necessarily oppose the objectives of your campaign, it simply means that based on the feedback we have had so far we cannot reasonably devote time to it over other campaigns such as those for graduate funding, better quality Masters courses, or the Living Wage.”

Gray added, “In no way have I ever intended to ‘silence dissenting voices’ nor to stifle any kind of debate. I spend much of my time in this role speaking to graduate students and their representatives, encouraging them to raise the issues that they care about and campaign on them.”