A BID to turn a health centre into student accommodation has sparked fears that Oxford colleges are taking over the suburbs of north Oxford.

University College has applied to change the use of the North Oxford Medical Centre, which shut last November, from a surgery to a nine-bedroom student accommodation block.

It owns several properties within the block of houses bordered by Staverton Road, Banbury Road, Rawlinson Road and Woodstock Road.

And residents are concerned that the college’s latest move is a sign of a larger plan that could see the character of North Oxford drastically change.

St Margaret’s ward city councillor Elizabeth Wade said the change of use application was originally to be delegated to council officers, but has now been called in by councillors at the west area planning committee.

She said: “By itself this application is fairly minimal, but what I am worried about is the salami-slicing going on in the blocks.

“The college has bought up various bits of land in the area and although there is no reason they should not be allowed to do that, residents should be informed about what is going on. This practice is hollowing out whole blocks.”

Permission was already granted by the city council previously to change the former medical centre’s use to a single home, but that had not been carried out, the college said in its letter to officials.

The college said two of the student bedrooms would include wheelchair access and would have common rooms and a kitchen. A porter’s lodge would also be created on the ground floor.

The three-storey building is located within the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area.

Government planning inspectors have refused applications which they ruled would damage the character of the area, including one that would have seen two lime trees outside Lady Margaret Hall chopped down.

In its application the college said the property was suitable for student accomodation.

It wrote: “The site is within a convenient location for access to the college as well as local shops and services. Furthermore, the proposed use would have limited impact on nearby properties.”

The application has so far received six comments from residents living in Woodstock and Staverton Road.

They claimed the extra student accomodation would create more noise and disruption in the area.

University College spokesman Mark Chambers said the college was in discussions with residents about their concerns.

He added: “The college wants to be a good neighbour and will consider the points they have raised.

“That has always been our policy and remains the case.”

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