Oxford City Council have voted to reject a planning application submitted by Oxford Brookes University for the redevelopment of their student accommodation.

This is now the second time such an application has been rejected, despite the recommendation of the Council’s planning officers that the Council approve the application. In 2019 a similar plan was rejected unanimously by the council, with concerns raised especially over the height of the new buildings.

This time the Council was split, with four councillors voting in favour of approving the plan, and seven voting against. This delays the implementation of what the council set out in its ‘Oxford Local Plan 2036’, which intends to make the number of Oxford Brookes students living in private accommodation less than 4000.

The proposed plan would increase the number of students able to live on-campus in the Clive Booth Student Village, from the current 640 to around 1200, as estimated by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. The current buildings would be demolished, and twelve new ones built, each with six stories.

The Council had concerns that some of the accommodation, now approaching 30 years old, is outdated, and by moving more Brookes students, space at private accommodation would be freed up for Oxford residents.

However, the residents of the area raised concerns over the proposed height of the buildings and the over-shadowing of residential property that it would cause. Objections were also raised on the grounds that more students in the
area, and therefore greater footfall, would impact negatively on the nearby Headington Hill Conservation Area.

Tessa Hennessy, secretary of the New Marston Residents Association, commented to the Oxford Mail that “[Oxford Brookes University] did not take on local concerns from the webinars they held, and they came back with a set of plans… virtually the same as the last plans and it’s right that they’ve been thrown out again.”

The plans were slightly modified to reduce the height of some of the buildings and avoid overshadowing of allotments, and between the applications the university has submitted separate plans to improve the pedestrian link between the student village and the Headington Hill campus.

The university has said it “has reflected carefully on the questions and issues raised by the local community” and made “significant changes and improvements”. They say the benefits of the redevelopment for the local community include “helping to reduce pressure on local housing supply”, “helping to educe pressure on local transport systems” and “helping to provide improved facilities for Oxford Brookes University Nursery.”

There is certainly tension between the Council and its planning department, with Adrian Arnold, head of planning, telling the BBC that this rejection could result in a successful appeal, and there is a “high risk of costs being awarded against us.”

For now, however, Oxford Brookes is biding its time. They are “disappointed” at the decision, but “will now consider next steps in relation to this proposed redevelopment”.

Image credits: CC BY-SA 2.0


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