RECOMMENDATIONS on how Oxford’s planning system should be changed have been put forward following the Castle Mill controversy.
The city council’s planning officers have drawn up an action plan which lists changes to be made following the independent review released late last year about the student flats overlooking Port Meadow.
Changes include carrying out a feasibility study into how the council can better represent the visual impact of planning proposals, putting together guidance on improving the council’s consultation process, and reviewing how officers create reports for planning committees.
A steering group has also been set up to oversee the implementation of the plan, which is expected to be complete by the end of September.
Michael Crofton Briggs, the head of city development, said: “The action plan lists each of the six principle recommendations from the independent report.
“The plan also includes a number of extra actions not listed in the independent report but which are considered to be important.”
The independent review was carried out by planning expert Vincent Goodstadt to find out how planning applications are considered following the fall-out from Oxford University’s Castle Mill student homes plan.
Campaigners have been attempting to have the buildings in Roger Dudman Way lowered after it emerged they blocked off views of Oxford’s “dreaming spires” from Port Meadow.
Mr Goodstadt’s report found a series of errors led to a consultation being inadequate and failing to reach the people who would be affected by the development.
He has now joined the steering group along with city councillor Colin Cook, the executive board member for city development, and David Edwards, the executive director for city regeneration and housing.
Council leader Bob Price said the authority is committed to implementing Mr Goodstadt’s recommendations in full.
He said: “After this is carried out people won’t say that this is a massively different planning system but they will have more chance to comment and a better idea of what schemes will look like.”
The action plan will be considered by both the west and east area planning committees over the next few weeks because it affects planning decisions across Oxford.
One of the key recommendations is setting up a design review panel, bringing in experts from outside Oxford to examine key decisions.
Helen Marshall, director of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It’s good to see some positive outcomes from the Port Meadow planning fiasco.
“There are some genuinely helpful steps here.”