Plans for 500 new homes in North Oxford have been presented to the public by a group made up of St John’s, Worcester, and property development group Kier Ventures Ltd.

According to the developers, the development would include up to 500 new homes, a hotel with 120 to 180 bedrooms, a 90,000 square metre business complex, shops, cycle routes, and public spaces. Construction could begin as early as 2017.

The development group, known as the Northern Gateway Consortium, held an introductory consultation event on February 20th. The land in question is mostly owned by St John’s and Worcester, with some plots owned by Merton and Oxford City Council. However, Merton and Oxford City Council are not part of the consortium.

Oxford’s Northern Gateway, the area where the development is being proposed, is immediately north-east of Summertown and is flanked by the A34. Some of the land is currently marked as Green Belt land, and would need to be reclassified before building could commence.

The Oxford Mail also reports that plans for a new primary school may be considered.

The Northern Gateway Consortium revealed to Cherwell, “There is a lot of work to be done between now and submitting our outline planning application. We will be speaking to Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority, and a range of other consultees, including local residents and local groups, over the coming months.

“There are a number of factors that could influence the timing of our outline planning application submission. Flexibility has been built into our programme to allow us to respond to the Northern Gateway Area Action Plan adoption programme and other strategic consultations.”

Some local groups have voiced opposition to the move, however. Helen Marshall, the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Oxfordshire, told the Oxford Mail, “Traffic and air pollution in the area are already atrocious.

“The proposed development will make things worse. We are also concerned about the five storey buildings proposed on higher ground within the Northern Gateway area, which could affect Port Meadow’s protected views and spoil the rural character of Wolvercote.

“Coming hot on the heels of Oxford University’s commitment to do better following the lessons learned from the Castle Mill accommodation blocks, it is worrying to see that St John’s and Worcester colleges are still not giving adequate consideration to the visual impact of their buildings.”

Ann Duncan, the Green Party candidate for the Oxford East constituency in this year’s elections, claimed, “Regarding the Northern Gateway development project in particular, we would support some (but not all) of the development proposed for the area, providing that the genuine concerns around traffic and flood risk are properly addressed. The development should focus on social housing rather than ‘employment growth’ as this would lead to even more housing demand. As the traffic and flood risk issues limit this development, there wouldn’t be a need to build on the green belt here.

“We need to solve Oxford’s housing crisis with a range of solutions, as well as building new social homes. Oxford has over 800 empty homes but the Council has only agreed to use compulsory purchase powers twice. Better use of these powers could bring many of these empty homes back into use.”

Kevin Dixon from the Consortium, added, “We are very much at the start of the planning process, however we recognise that many residents are concerned about traffic and infrastructure in North Oxford. Over the next few months, before we submit a planning application, we will be outlining how we will improve local infrastructure and the steps we will be taking to ensure that our proposals are sustainable.

“Following our initial consultation last week, we are now analysing the feedback received and we will present our outline plans to the community later this year, before we submit an application. Our proposals will reflect the City Council’s Core Strategy and Northern Gateway Area Action Plan, as well as comments from the local community. We are committed to promoting a world class development which responds positively to the context of North Oxford, integrates fully with its neighbouring communities and delivers substantial benefits for visitors to the city as well as existing residents and businesses.”

The project’s official timeline implies that the Consortium hopes to submit an outline planning application by July or August, which will be considered by planning authorities. One of the first public consultations took place on 21st November 2013 in the form of a Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum public meeting.

Government approval for the plans was sought in October last year. Leader of the Oxford City Council Bob Price explained at the time, “The Northern Gateway development is a rare opportunity to provide significant space within the city for the innovation and knowledge-based sector so important to Oxford’s economy.

“It also offers the opportunity to provide additional new homes and facilities in a thriving new community.”

OUSU’s Rent and Accommodation Officer, Danny Waldman, told Cherwell, “As OUSU was keen to highlight recently in the Castle Mill debate, Oxford is the most expensive city to live in: building more housing can only be a good thing from that perspective. Obviously, this won’t change the Council’s 3,000 ‘living out’ student cap, but more housing means cheaper rent generally.

“I can’t say to what extent the consortium will deal with the traffic issues, but I’d be confident that they won’t unreasonably dismiss a strong concern of local residents if this comes out in their public inquiry.

“I’d also hazard a guess that they’ll double-check any Environmental Impact Surveys for their larger buildings overlooking Port Meadow…”

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