A DEAL could soon be struck over the ownership of the derelict Jericho boatyard.
Despite attempts by the Jericho community to buy the site, administrators are understood to be on the brink of selling it to a development company.
This would be the fifth attempt to redevelop the site which ceased officially to be a working boatyard in 1992.
It is understood the Castle Mill boatyard could soon be bought by Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund, which is already redeveloping Grantham House in Jericho.
Banbury Road-based architectural firm Riach Architects is understood to have been hired to draw up plans for the site but last night Douglas Riach, the firm’s founder, declined to comment.
The Jericho Wharf Trust, which is composed of several local bodies including the Jericho Community Association and the St Barnabas Church parochial church council, had submitted a bid with PricewaterhouseCoopers to buy the site.
Phyllis Starkey, chairman of the JWT, a former MP and former leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The trust is obviously disappointed the administrators chose not to accept our offer for the site, as we already have a costed plan.
“This was developed after extensive local consultation, which would have guaranteed a development in line with the needs of the community and as set out in the council’s most recent planning document.
“We will be meeting shortly with the developer to understand their plans and to explore their potential for meeting the community’s demands and delivering the new boatyard, bridge and community centre for which Jericho has waited far too long.”
The site found itself in the hands of an administrator when developer and landowner Spring Residential went into administration in 2009 after failing to get planning permission to redevelop the boatyard.
Oxford City Council has drawn up a blueprint for how the 1.2 acre site should be developed, which is out for public consultation until next Friday.
If formally approved by the authority, it would mean developers would have to include a new community centre, housing and a public square as part of the scheme, if it is to comply with the city council’s planning policy.
A new boatyard with a wet dock must also be created on the site that has been used for boat building and repairs since the 1840s.
Colin Cook, city councillor for Jericho and board member for city development, said: “I look forward to an application coming forward in due course which will bring this site back into use.”
Jericho city councillor Susanna Pressel added: “I’m sorry that the official receivers refused to sell the land to the trust set up by local people, but I'm glad that this important site may at last be brought back into use if their plans are approved by the city council.”
Nick Bank, a spokesman for SIAHAF, said last night that an agreement over the sale had not yet been reached, but discussions are at an “advanced” stage.
The Oxford Mail contacted PwC for comment but the company did not respond.
- 1992 – Orchard Cruisers, a working boatyard ceased operations on the site which was owned by British Waterways.
- 1997 – An informal boatyard grows around the site, centring around a floating canalboat restaurant.
- 2000 – The Jericho Community Association puts in a bid with local builder Leadbitter but British Waterways opts for Bellway Homes.
- 2004 – Oxford City Council rejects a planning application from Bellway, one of the grounds being the lack of adequate provision for a new centre.
- 2005 – A planning appeal by Bellway is rejected by a government planning inspector.
- 2006 – British Waterways forcibly evicts the boaters who had been occupying the site.
- 2007 – Spring Residential buys the site from British Waterways for £4m and applies for planning permission.
- 2007 – The city council rejects Spring’s application because of the the lack of provision for a new boatyard and the appearance of the buildings.
- 2008 – A government planning inspector rejects Spring’s appeal.
- 2009 – Spring goes into administration.
- 2013 – Negotiations between PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Jericho Wharf Trust over the sale of the boatyard begin.