Rector fears Botley church could be swallowed up by Doric plan

The Rev Clare Sykes outside St Peter and St Paul Church

The Rev Clare Sykes outside St Peter and St Paul Church

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

A SACRED building could be engulfed by a new £100m shopping centre, a vicar has warned.

Rector of Osney Clare Sykes said St Peter and St Paul Church in Botley Road would be surrounded if plans to demolish West Way and build an extended shopping and cinema complex go ahead.

Developers Doric Properties has submitted a planning application for the scheme to Vale of White Horse District Council but the plans have not yet been made public.

Rev Sykes said she fears it could be swallowed up by the development.

The vicarage next door, where she lives with her two daughters and husband, would be demolished under the proposal.

Rev Sykes said: “It would be surrounded on three sides by a metropolis essentially.

“I’m very worried about the distance between the west side of the church and the four-storey cinema.

“It is about respecting the particular character of that building. From the outside it isn’t beautiful architecturally but it has got a sacred purpose which should be respected.”

Preliminary plans by developers Doric Propertied included a new home for Rev Sykes and her family but showed the property to be about 150m away.

The vicarage is currently 4m away from the church.

Rev Sykes said: “I think people have overlooked the fact that it is a semi-public building, my home.

“It’s my home but it is one the general public need to be able to access conveniently, a rectory is generally well visited.”

She explained the development would have to be very sensitive to the church’s garden of remembrance where the ashes of 120 people lie.

Doric director Simon Hillcox said: “We’re proud to put St Peter and St Paul’s Church at the heart of our scheme, with a newly-designed entrance south of the existing building, an enlarged landscaped area and direct access on to the Piazza acting as a focal point to the scheme.”

Rev Sykes said it would be good if the church opened on to the piazza but worried the church would be on the same level as the underground car park.

Although Doric submitted the plans to the council on December 20, officers have not yet published the documents.

Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council Matthew Barber said: “The delays are for no other reason than it is a large application with lots of paperwork.”

This week Mr Barber defended comments made by a council officer in an email leaked to the Oxford Mail which said that the development would boost trade by taking it from Oxford.

In it, the Vale’s Economic Development team leader Trudy Godfrey said: “The development would be a good thing for the district in terms of clawing back retail and leisure spend that might otherwise be spent in Oxford.”

But Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said he did not believe it would take trade away.

A six-week public consultation on the proposal is due to start when the plans are published.

Comments (1)

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12:00pm Sat 25 Jan 14

Gatos4 says...

Well said, Rev Sykes - you are right to be concerned. From Doric's artist's impression of the piazza and the only plan so far publicly available, it does look as if the church will be completely dominated by the surrounding buildings and pedestrian walkway. Would the garden of remembrance also be vulnerable to thoughtless abuse from users of the piazza? Convenient rubbish drop for takeaway containers and cans? Picnic spot?
I wonder if Cineworld are aware of the effect their building as planned will have on the church?
Well said, Rev Sykes - you are right to be concerned. From Doric's artist's impression of the piazza and the only plan so far publicly available, it does look as if the church will be completely dominated by the surrounding buildings and pedestrian walkway. Would the garden of remembrance also be vulnerable to thoughtless abuse from users of the piazza? Convenient rubbish drop for takeaway containers and cans? Picnic spot? I wonder if Cineworld are aware of the effect their building as planned will have on the church? Gatos4
  • Score: 5

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