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Plans approved for new student accommodation on Magdalen Street

The Oxford City Planning Committee has approved a proposal to partially convert the iconic Oxenford House building on Magdalen Street, directly above the burger chain Five Guys, into a student accommodation block.

The upper floors of Oxenford House will be repurposed for 55 ensuite study bedrooms. The development plan includes proposed roof extensions to both the front and rear of the building, cycle racks on the ground floor, and a bin storage area in the basement.

The question of which college will eventually use the new building has not yet been decided, but private providers of student accommodation and Oxford University have entered discussions, with six colleges expressing a “strong interest” in taking out a long-term lease on the building, according to Arron Twamley from the real estate consultancy Bidwells.

At a Planning Committee meeting on 23 January, the new development was welcomed by most committee members, although some expressed concerns about the proposed waste collection arrangements. 

Alex Hollingsworth, Councillor for Carfax & Jericho Ward, said at the meeting: “You end up with a great sea of bins stuck outside in the open air [in Friars Entry], perpetually contaminated and frankly a disgraceful mess, which I hope one day will get resolved.”

While he declared his overall support for the proposal, Hollingsworth emphasised that this would be conditional upon laying out a “very robustly worded and policed” waste collection policy for the building.

Oxenford House was built in 1965 to 1966 and is considered a rare surviving example of mid-20th century architecture in the city centre. However, in recent years, the building has been mostly vacant. 

The basement of Oxenford House was converted into a restaurant in 1968, and was most recently occupied by Fever nightclub, which shut down in 2021. The second to fourth floors of the building formerly housed the British Study Centres School of English but are now unoccupied. The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, which currently occupies the building’s first floor, has secured new premises in the city following the proposed development.

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