The author Philip Pullman has condemned Oxford University’s new Port Meadow accommodation, boosting the campaign against its construction.
Pullman, writer of the His Dark Materials trilogy and an Oxford resident, told the Daily Telegraph the new structures are “destructive, brutal, ugly vandalism”. He opined, “I don’t think they would have been approved if it had been known they would be this tall.”
The author’s comments come after months of protest by the Campaign to Protect Port Meadow from Oxford University (CPPMOU). Campaigners say the new graduate accommodation blocks historic views of the Oxford city skyline and have asked for the top floors of the buildings to be knocked down.
A spokesperson for the campaign told Cherwell, “Pullman’s support will help to extend the campaign’s reach. We would like to think that such a well-known voice would be heeded by the City Council and University leaders.”
Yet, they continued, “It seems unlikely that any voluntary solution will be offered. Therefore we are preparing to launch a legal challenge to the planning permission. Sadly, it would seem the only way to get Oxford City Council and Oxford University to the table is by force.”
The campaign’s petition against the accommodation had amassed over 2800 signatures. Oxford City Council has reportedly asked the University whether it would consider demolishing the top two floors of the buildings “voluntarily”, with the Head of City Development on the Council still in negotiation with the University.
An Oxford University spokesperson said, “The University has acted in good faith throughout this process, in line with all the proper procedures. A review conducted by Oxford City Council planning officers confirmed this and agreed that the University acted properly when securing planning permission.”
The spokesperson continued, “The Castle Mill buildings will provide accommodation for hundreds of students, reducing pressure on Oxford’s constricted rental housing market – an important issue for local people.”
In February, the university agreed to re-enter discussions with the council over the impact of the building work. A spokesperson said, “We recognise that the development has aroused some strong feelings and that these have every right to be heard. Concerns about the view of the buildings from Port Meadow have been and continue to be reflected in discussions with planning officers.”
Oxford resident Laura King commented, “I was on Port Meadow last week and these blocks are not just ugly, they are an horrific example of brutalism at its worst ruining a skyline unspoilt for centuries. And the shame of it is we don’t even need any more student accommodation as both universities have been ordered to reduce their numbers.”