Oxford University and the City Council have come under new, sustained pressure to modify the graduate buildings currently under construction at Port Meadow.
Numerous complaints have been made both by the Oxford Green Party and in a recent online campaign which currently has over 1,500 signatures. The concern centres on the height and aesthetic value of the buildings, as well as the potential damage done to the Port Meadow area and Oxford skyline.
Toby Porter, a local resident, has spearheaded the campaign against the buildings. Porter has written to the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten, to request that their complaints be addressed and the building design be suitably altered. He wrote that while he understood the challenge of providing affordable student housing, “People simply can’t comprehend the insensitivity and apparent greed of the University in erecting fourand five-storey buildings, that have totally spoiled the view of the ‘dreaming spires’.”
Among those who support the campaign is author Philip Pullman, who described the project as “destructive, brutal, ugly vandalism”. He added, “The City Council ought to be ashamed.”
A similar charge has been levelled by local Green Party chair Sushila Dhall, who said, “The original plans show a drawing of the projected height of the buildings which look to be about tree level. In fact it can be seen to be rising well above that, causing light pollution and ruining views from as far away as Wolvercote. Laypeople have been misled about the height of the buildings.
The plans have also caused worry amongst many Oxford students. One second year commented, “Having access to such a gorgeous meadow only a short walk away was a major factor in my choosing to live out in Jericho – it’s something that ought to be treasured and preserved.”
A University spokesperson stated, “We have noted the petition against the student accommodation development and we continue to urge opponents of the project to reserve their final judgement until the buildings have been finished and the trees between Castle Mill and Port Meadow have grown to full height.
The University held a very inclusive public consultation, advertising in and sending a press release to the Oxford Mail and the Oxford Times. The height of the buildings was discussed in the consultation, and the drawings of projected views were done by architects in good faith.”
A spokesman for Oxford City Council said, “A full report on the matter is being prepared following a Council Motion on 17 December.”
In accordance with the Council Petitions Scheme, once the campaign received 1,500 signatures it was debated in full council on 17th December 2012.As a result an investigation has been launched into the process of approving the Port Meadow construction.