Design tweak that tipped balance in Port Meadow student flats row

The artist's impression of the original plan with the apexed roofline

How the flats have been built

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

CAMPAIGNERS have criticised the redesign of Port Meadow student blocks after it emerged the change made following concerns about height was to take the tip off the roofs.

Oxford City Council heritage officer Nick Worlledge felt the development in Roger Dudman Way would have a “harmful impact” on the Oxford skyline in a strongly worded report last year. As a result the university submitted revised plans that reduced the height of the building by 1.2m. That meant the full extent of Mr Worlledge’s criticisms was not heard when councillors made their decision to approve it in February 2012. They were told the university had sought to mitigate the impact.

Now though the university has admitted that, rather than reducing the height of the whole structure, the redesigned scheme only took a section away from the gable, removing its apex.

Helen Marshall, the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Oxfordshire, said: “In our view it is completely ridiculous. They can’t have it both ways. “Either it was a significant change, in which case the scheme should have gone out again for consultation, or it was not a significant change, in which case the heritage officer’s reports were still valid.

“We think the council should think again and so should the university.
“The building should be reduced by two stories at the very least.”

The city council is now facing a legal challenge over the decision to approve the scheme last February, as residents and campaigners continue to object.

The Oxford Mail asked the council whether simply removing the central section of the roof constituted enough of a redesign to make the plans acceptable and it would not comment.

City council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “The council is at the first stages of legal action and we are considering the claims that have been made against us.

“We will be responding to them shortly. At this stage we cannot add anything further.”

Adrian Arbib, Jericho Community Association committee member, said: The height reduction is pointless. It is 1.2m – the height of a small child. It is a laughable reduction and not effective at all.

“They have scarred the place.

“Port Meadow is a national scheduled monument and it is part of the history of Oxford. The whole thing is just shocking.”

University spokesman Matt Pickles said the redesign was carried out by the university’s architect and the council did not have any input.

He said: “The design of the roofs was reconfigured to achieve the reduction in height.”

Mr Pickles added that the university had not commented on whether it thought removing a section of the roof was sufficient to affect whether the scheme was approved or not.

Sushila Dhall, who has been campaigning against the buildings, said the university’s redesign “made a mockery” of the role of heritage officers.

She said: “Look at all the things the council has done – the plans and the heritage advice left out.

“If a householder put up an extension that did a 10th of the damage they would be told the plan had been misleading and to lower it.

“I think it is completely outrageous that in the face of an excellent heritage report the university seems to have decided to take off a very tiny snip from the building and then to think that this was enough.

“The university should have gone back to the drawing board.”

The Oxford Mail also asked for an interview with Michael Crofton Briggs, the head of city development, but this request was turned down.

Nick Worlledges heritage advice Jan 12.pdf


West area planning Castle Mill report.pdf

Comments (5)

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1:42pm Tue 2 Apr 13

bart-on simpson says...

Yes, a pointy roof or a pointy flapjack has no place in 21st century Britain!

Still looks like plain, dull, box standard student accomm.
Yes, a pointy roof or a pointy flapjack has no place in 21st century Britain! Still looks like plain, dull, box standard student accomm. bart-on simpson
  • Score: 1

4:57pm Tue 2 Apr 13

mike111 says...

Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres.
The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission.
I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others.
Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres. The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission. I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others. mike111
  • Score: 1

4:57pm Tue 2 Apr 13

mike111 says...

Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres.
The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission.
I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others.
Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres. The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission. I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others. mike111
  • Score: 1

7:44pm Tue 2 Apr 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

mike111 wrote:
Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres.
The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission.
I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others.
Well, not all of the access road is owned by Network Rail, just parts of it - that's why there were so many problems getting street lighting.

The best solution would be to build a brand new access road through the Botley Road allotments and over a couple of bridges.

Encouraging people to focus on minutiae is often an effective distraction solution.
[quote][p][bold]mike111[/bold] wrote: Last year the university quietly asked if they could add another storey. It wa s announced to councillors as a detail change and clearly they didn't spot it. Why the fuss about 1.2metres when a storey is another 3metres. The role of the ward councillors in helping the university to overcome planning objections should be highlighted.The access road is still a reason to refuse this sort of intensive development; it is privatetyowned by NetworkRail and is not fit for pedestrians and cyclists. It should have been improved before planning permission. I have also been told that although part of the consultation process, the chair of the allotment society was so obsessed about getting rid of badgers that she failed to protest the extra height and didn't inform others.[/p][/quote]Well, not all of the access road is owned by Network Rail, just parts of it - that's why there were so many problems getting street lighting. The best solution would be to build a brand new access road through the Botley Road allotments and over a couple of bridges. Encouraging people to focus on minutiae is often an effective distraction solution. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

5:07pm Fri 5 Apr 13

mike111 says...

The Judicial Inquiry will focus on the minutiae
The Judicial Inquiry will focus on the minutiae mike111
  • Score: 0

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