Plans to build new housing close to the C.S. Lewis nature reserve have resulted in protest from Oxford residents.
The small area of Headington woodland supposedly served as C.S. Lewis’ inspiration while writing his children’s book series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Campaigners claim the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve is under threat from a new building application close to the woodland which could “spoil this place of amazing magic and beauty”.
The Wychwood Foundation submitted plans to Oxford City Council to build nine apartments for vulnerable adults in a two and a half storey block, including 22 car spaces, at Wychwood Lane, Ringhurst, which runs adjacent to the nature reserve.
The application has since received fierce opposition from some campaigners, who handed a 4,250 signature petition to the council on Monday.
The petition organiser, Cara Langford, told Cherwell, “I spent my childhood playing in the C.S. Lewis reserve and now bring my own children there to explore the wonders it holds. The proposed development and access road will create noise, light, dust pollution and many more negative impacts on the environment and wildlife.”
The area of woodland once formed part of the back garden of C.S. Lewis, who was a fellow at Magdalen College from 1925 to 1954.
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, who own the reserve, described it as a “tranquil woodland”, where the author enjoyed wandering while writing such titles as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The Oxford-based C.S. Lewis Foundation, who own the writer’s former home, The Kilns, urged Oxford City Council “to act now to preserve our rich legacy by denying approval of this most aggressive and egregiously offensive development proposal.”
A central objection of campaigners is the plan to construct an access road at the end of Lewis Close, which runs near to the reserve. Ms Langford said “it is such a wonderful place and the access road and property development that is planned to run along it will no doubt pollute the lake, increase the traffic making it unsafe for pedestrians and spoil this place of amazing magic and beauty. This area is of national and historical significance and should be preserved for generations to come.”
However, the campaigners’ claims have been strongly refuted by the Wychwood Foundation, who submitted the application. Speaking to Cherwell, Simon Beecher said “the access lane to the Wychwood Foundation will not be tarmaced, and does not encroach into or interfere with the Nature Reserve, as it travels through a private garden at the end of Lewis Close.
“The parking spaces allowed for in this garden are away from the boundary with the Nature Reserve, and considering the type of vulnerable and disabled people who will be living in the Foundation building, traffic movements are considered to be very light.”
Mr Beecher also stressed the efforts made by the Wychwood Foundation to protect the natural environment of the nature reserve. “The visibility of the new Foundation building will not in any way be dominating to the Reserve, because of the natural screening, which will also ensure all wildlife is not only preserved, but encouraged.”
“No effort is being spared to preserve the uniqueness of the Reserve, and the long term enjoyment of it by generations to come.”
A decision on the planning application is scheduled to be made by Oxford City Council on December 5.