A TV historian has put forward a motion to lower the height of the Castle Mill student flats to the top authority of Oxford University.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, has put forward the proposal to the Congregation, a ‘parliament’ made of 5,000 senior figures of the university and its colleges.
Its decisions are binding on the university’s governing council and if members supported the resolution bosses would be forced to accept its wishes.
Prof MacCulloch said he hoped to make the university take drastic action to reduce the impact of the flats on views from Port Meadow.
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The move comes after the end of a seven-week consultation on a retrospective environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out on the Roger Dudman Way buildings.
The EIA was commissioned by the university after a legal challenge against the 2012 approval of the flats by local campaigners. It found the blocks had a high “adverse impact” on Port Meadow, the Oxford skyline, the Thames and the Grade-I listed St Barnabas Church in Jericho.
Three options for reducing the impact are set out by the report:
- Option one would change the colour of the buildings and see a full line of mature trees and the addition of timber cladding on the western side.
- Option two would further reduce the roof height.
- Option three would remove a floor from six of the eight buildings.
- Diarmaid MacCulloch
Prof MacCulloch said: “Option 1 is the minimum option, and basically just a paint-job and a few bushes.
“Whereas option 3 is the only one which gets anywhere near to sorting the flats out.”
His motion to the Congregation – that option three be chosen – is to be discussed when it meets on February 10.
The motion was welcomed by Save Port Meadow campaigner Toby Porter. He said: “There now seems to be real momentum behind this issue.
“We are continuallyimpressed by the strength of feeling and this is a very significant step that puts pressure on the university to switch to option 3.”
Now the consultation on the EIA has ended, the university will decide which option to take and present it to the city council’s west area planning committee in February or March.
Stephen Rouse, spokesman for the university, said: “The university has received the report on the independent Environmental Statement and will respond to the council once its contents have been considered.”
The council does not have the authority to force it to reduce the height of the flats.
But it came as the city council produced its own independent scrutiny report on the EIA on Christmas Eve.
Carried out by SLR Consulting Ltd, it claimed that the conclusions of the EIA could not be verified due to “ommissions.” The firm concluded: “Of particular note is the dismissal of Design Mitigation Options 2 and 3 on a socio-economic basis.’’
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