Opinion divided on the future of Diamond Place

OPiNION: Martin Roberts

OPiNION: Martin Roberts

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

PARKING is a key issue for people in Summertown ahead of one of the biggest developments the area has seen.

The four-acre Diamond Place car park site is to become a ‘retail-led’ development and residents have been quizzed on what they think of Oxford City Council’s plans for it.

Frenchay Road resident Martin Roberts, the chairman of the Summertown and St Margaret’s neighbourhood forum, said opinion in the area is sharply divided about a number of aspects of the development.

He said: “My impression is that there is no great demand for more retail in the area and that there would be quite a lot of support for the amount of parking remaining the same or slightly improved.

“It is a superb site in the centre of Summertown and a whole lot of things could be put there that benefit the whole community.

But if there were plans for a new supermarket when there are four in the area already I don’t think that would be a good use for the site.”

Mr Roberts is chairman of a forum which is putting together a neighbourhood plan, a new piece of planning policy introduced by the current government which will let the community dictate how the site should be developed.

Overall the initial plans look to have won broad support, with the council’s proposals for smaller retail units and a new community centre winning approval in the recent consultation.

But there is concern about the city council’s plans for a two or three level multi-storey car park and about the temporary parking during the construction period.

Diamond Place car park is currently a pay and display car park run by the city council which has 115 spaces.

Ewert House, which is north of the car park, is owned by Oxford University which uses it for its Department for Continuing Education.

The building is also used by the university for its examinations as a test venue.

City councillor for Summertown Jean Fooks said: “This can be a good opportunity for Summertown if we make it that way.

“People are worried whether they will lose parking and there is very much a need for a new health centre.

“But until we have a bit more certainty that the university is moving out of Ewert House it would be silly to progress development in the area if the whole site isn’t available.”

Chofamba Sithole, a spokesman for the city council, said: “The redevelopment of the site will create a more attractive environment at the heart of the district centre and provide new facilities that are needed, such as housing and public open space.

“We have consulted on preferred options for the site and in the autumn we’ll invite further public comments to ensure that the final development brief is informed by the aspirations of the local community.”

Oxford University would not comment.

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