University College has submitted a planning application for new buildings and renovations in North Oxford, prompting numerous resident concerns.

Neighbours have expressed complaints over the 132 trees that will have to be cut down and the visual impact on the North Oxford Victoria Conservation Area.

The plans are for seven new three storey buildings and alterations to create new student accommodation, a children’s nursery, café, gym, and common spaces.

To date, the Oxford City Council website has received 90 public comments since 20th February on this application.

One member of the public stated: “The development proposal is within the Victorian conservation area of North Oxford.. This is one of the most outstanding areas of Victorian architecture in the UK… The proposed development plans would result in a desecration of this exceptional area of the UK’s architectural heritage.”

Another neighbour said: “The removal of 132 trees and other vegetation across the site would have an immediate damaging impact on the environment and the character and appearance of the NOVSCA – this is unacceptable especially as the City Council has declared a climate emergency.”

A spokesperson for the college said that it is important to consider the numbers of trees being cut down are considered in context: “The development will be completed with more trees – 197 trees in total, comprising 78 new specimen trees and 119 trees retained – than will have been felled, with a material investment in British native specimens.

“All of the ‘Category A’ specimen trees on the site have been retained. Of the trees lost, 77% are either diseased or a ‘Grade C’, the lowest category, comprising low amenity value, scrub trees and plants of poor quality. Many of them are self-seeded and do nothing to enhance the Conservation Area’s ‘front gardens’.

“A Habitat Management policy is also incorporated in the planning application and will support the fauna of the area. Bat, newt, bird, and insect life has all been considered in the development preparations. The introduction of 17 different British native trees to replace those trees felled should be welcomed and will, over time, make their contribution to enhancing the flora and fauna for this precious part of the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area (NOVSCA).”

The spokesperson also responded to claims that new buildings with “disfigure” the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area: “The foregoing makes it very clear that University College values this site enormously. Its aim is to enhance the site with a landscape-led design that has fully considered the demands of NOVSCA. The architect and landscaper have designed a scheme that represents an exemplary development, an harmonious scheme that fits with this Victorian Suburb Conservation Area.”

The design statement of the application states: “The project is a unique opportunity to provide new accommodation to enhance the collegiate setting of ‘Stavertonia’ with a scheme that is heavily inspired and enriched by the neighbouring North Oxford residential context.

“The proposed development should be viewed as part of University College’s wider strategy to address shortcomings in the College’s student accommodation provision. Presently, University College can only guarantee to provide College-owned accommodation for all of its undergraduates, and just one year of its post-graduate members when its current North Oxford site provision is included in the beds available.”

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