Oxford University is planning a comprehensive renovation of the Iffley Road sports centre, it has been revealed this week.
The plans include an indoor cricket school, fencing room, three squash courts, a weights room, climbing wall and a café. In total, over 80 sports will enjoy upgraded facilities if the project goes ahead.
University sports director Jon Roycroft commented, “We are now moving onto the challenge of fully developing plans for the University to fund-raise and build the highest quality indoor sports facilities for the 21st century.” He added, “It will be an absolute transformation.”
The current estimated renovation budget is said to be around £19m, but an Oxford University spokesperson said the university is “holding a public consultation and our final designs will depend on any comments made by members of the university and local community that we can take on board, and the budget will obviously reflect this.”
The consultation highlights the University’s sensitivity to concerns by Oxford residents regarding the impact of the construction work on the local area. David Barton, chairman of Iffley Road Area Residents’ Association commented, “Although we would not be against the development, it is a conservation area and everything would need to fit in with that.”
Currently, local residents stand to benefit from the extensive works. Plans for the increased capacity and improvements to the Iffley Road sports grounds will allow a greater number of non-university members to enjoy the facilities. Currently, the Iffley Road gym has almost 500 external members and non-university teams also use the hockey pitches.
Amongst Oxford students, opinion is divided over the plans. Seamus Brightman, a student at Trinity College who makes regular use of the current facilities believes, “renovation is more than welcome, but the costs could easily spiral out of control.” Other students have stated that it is not the out-of-date facilities themselves that are causing inconvenience, but the distance one has to travel to benefit from them.
The University intends to apply for the planning permission in January. A spokesperson said, “We are planning to put in for planning permission in January but when work begins will depend on the planning and fund-raising processes.”