Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Opponents not attracted by concessions on the Magnet
Buy this photo » The chief executive of Science Oxford, Steve Burgess, in his office with Oxford’s Castle Mound behind. Picture: OX62706 Greg Blatchford
HERITAGE campaigners have called for a £35m Science Discovery and Innovation Centre to be built on a completely different site.
It comes after plans for The Magnet in New Road, Oxford, were this week scaled down to preserve views of Oxford’s Castle Mound.
And the charity behind the development, initially expected to open in 2016, has warned it may now be delayed.
Designs for a world class planetarium, shaped like a cut diamond, have now been dropped.
Instead the planetarium – which was originally to have glowed in different colours – will be partially housed in a basement, with the charity behind the scheme admitting the visitor attraction had lost a “wow factor”.
But Peter Howell, secretary of the Victorian Group of Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, said: “The scheme remains unacceptable as there are plans to demolish the Register Office.
“If this science centre needs to be built, it must be on a different site.”
The group unsuccessfully tried to have the 100-year-old Register Office listed but this was refused by Secretary of State Maria Miller.
Ms Miller controversially went against the advice of English Heritage, who recommended that the building be listed and a review of her decision has been refused.
This week, Science Oxford, the charity behind the scheme, said it still planned to demolish the Register Office building at the corner of Tidmarsh Lane and New Road, and warned the centre would not be viable if that wasn’t possible.
The original plans submitted to Oxford City Council faced objections about the impact on the mound from English Heritage Centre and OPT, which oversaw the transformation of the neighbouring castle site, once home to a Victorian prison, into a successful heritage centre. And the county council, which sold the Macclesfield House site for £3.5m, claimed the centre was “too dominant”.
Architects have now cut back on building space for schools and educational use, as well as the size of the plaza beside New Road.
Science Oxford’s new chief executive, Steve Burgess, said: “Things have changed a great deal. “This is not tinkering, the designs have been modified substantially. The revised plans have rectified the Castle Mound issue.”
So far Science Oxford has raised £10m towards the £35m Magnet, which is expected to attract £150,000 visitors a year. The centre would also be home to 50 small businesses, with more than 150 people working on the site.
It had been expected to open in 2016. Mr Burgess added: “It could slip back. Let’s see what happens with the planning.”
Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “What we saw is a very different scheme. It reacts to a number of concerns we had.”
Comments are closed on this article.