Residents angered by plans for Iffley tennis centre

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Proposals for a new indoor tennis court on Iffley Road have come up against fierce opposition from locals, including Professor of Theology, Andrew Linzey.Professor Linzey said, “We are not opposed to development on the sports ground per se, what we are opposed to is huge, ugly buildings in a conservation area.“Surely the University can do better than an ‘up-turned sink’ design. It is in the University’s own interest to come to an understanding with local residents.”The plans show a centre just over 25 feet high to be located on the University sports ground which, from some positions, would obscure views towards the city centre. The large, six court indoor tennis building would be built just next to the rugby pitch and very close to a nearby main road. Designs include plans to dig out the area adjacent to the road so the building can stand lower, but the roof still would still stretch a few metres above the fence. The current wooden fence bordering the site would be replaced by tall iron railings.A spokesperson for the University said, “The planning application was registered by the City Council on 15 January and provided residents with the full statutory consultation period to consider and respond to proposals.”She added, “Comments that were made have been taken into account in the final proposals where possible.” However,  members of the Iffley Area Residents Association have said that they feel this response is simply not good enough.Professor Linzey has teamed up with the Association in a stand against the plans. David Barton, Chair of the Association said, “The view from the road beside it will be of a very large, ugly grey zinc roof, divided by lighting panels, stretching back across the field for 33 metres. In our view, the designers haven’t considered the impact of implementing these plans at this particular location, given that it is situated within a conservation area, and close to the Grade 1 Listed building of St John’s Church.”In their submission as a Residents Association, Professor Linzey and co-members will suggest that the building is poorly designed and highly unsuited to the location. They will do so along with those who live opposite the site on Marston Street.Nearby resident Sarah Wild said, “The University obviously cannot have both indoors and the outdoors in the same place because of the restriction at the Iffley Road site; so the answer would be to have a split site – one with primarily indoor and one with primarily outdoor facilities.”The objections of the Resident’s Association will be heard formally at a consultation to be hosted by Oxford City Council. A spokesperson for the Council commented on planning procedures. “As part of the normal planning process we have consulted residents and their comments will be taken into consideration when the application is reviewed,” he said.Oxford University held a public exhibition of the plans at the University Rugby Club pavilion this week where Professor Linzey and the rest of the Association were invited as guests. However, the next discussions concerning the application are not to take place until March.

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