Mansfield JCR condemns New over ‘ivory tower’

97.6 per cent of JCR members supported submitting a planning objection to the City Council

Students at Mansfield College have lodged a formal objection to New College’s building plans.

It follows an objection by Mansfield College staff, which called the plans “a vanity project.”

The complaint, addressed to Oxford City Council, expressed Mansfield JCR’s concern that the new “Warham Tower,” part of New College’s building plans, would impact on Mansfield’s privacy.

The letter reads: “Mansfield College JCR believe that the proposed development would constitute an unjust and unreasonable infringement on our privacy, and deplore the disregard New College has had in this respect.”

At its closest point, the tower would be two meters away from the boundary of Mansfield, and would have windows overlooking Mansfield’s grounds.

The letter is signed by Mansfield JCR president Daria Lysyakova.

She told Cherwell: “The majority of the undergraduate students at Mansfield live on the college’s principal site. Not only will they suffer from the noise of the con- struction, but there are also future repercussions.

“As described in detail in our letter submitted to the City Council, we believe that the development is unreasonable in terms of size and scale.

“This will significantly reduce the amenity of the residential buildings in Mansfield and constitutes a significant impact on the privacy of students living on site.”

Lysyakova previously called the proposed building a “literal ivory tower.”

The objection states that the building would violate section A3.26 of the Sites and Housing Plan, which states that “there should be at least 20 metres distance between directly facing windows to habitable rooms in separate dwellings (this guidance will be applied flexibly where only student accommodation rooms are affected).”

The proposed building’s windows would be only about ten metres away from two Mansfield student accommodations, the John Marsh Building and the Mansfield College Garden Building.

New College has said the building would be “peripheral to [Mans- field] College.”

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The Mansfield JCR president asked Harris Manchester JCR and MCR presidents to also submit an objection, but they declined.

The Harris Manchester MCR President declined to comment.

Mansfield JCR’s objection comes as Mansfield English tutor, Dr Ros Ballaster lodged her own individual complaint.

She predicted “immense disruption to teaching and living in our buildings while construction is under way over a series of years.”

Ballaster also wrote: “To provide you with a sense of the likely experience of Mansfield College residents and staff, I direct planners to the account of Jeremy Bentham’s design of the ‘panopticon’ in Michel Foucault’s work Discipline and Punish: a large central tower overlooks every room in a prison in which the inhabitants must assume they are under constant surveillance.”

Mansfield students join the Oxford Preservation Trust and numerous Oxford locals in objecting to New’s plans.

New College told Cherwell: “Inevitably, not everyone will agree or support proposed change, but we are confident that we have been reasonable and proportionate, having regard to appropriate planning policies and guidelines.

“We have also listened carefully to the Oxford Design Review Panel and the scheme has been enhanced through that process.

“It is vital we are able to house more of our students so we may play our part in relieving housing pressure within Oxford.

“If we are granted planning approval, it is our intention to implement the scheme.”

Mansfield’s JCR president said: “We believe that having students from another college being able to see clearly into all of the rooms facing the boundary is completely unreasonable and violates the privacy of Mansfield students.

“This is one of the major design flaws of the proposed development which was voiced to representatives from New College on numerous occasions.”

She added: “In submitting their own objection the JCR were hoping to both help college, and voice their own frustration at the development plan.

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“Before submission, the letter was reviewed by the JCR bench, sent out to the entire JCR and voted on. 97.6 per cent of students supported its submission and the vote had a very high turn out (possibly the highest I have seen this year).

“Students were also encouraged to submit their own objections.”