THE regeneration of the city’s west end has taken its first step after plans for more than 500 student flats were approved.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the development off Osney Lane would ‘set the standard’ for the upcoming revamp of the Oxpens, which will see the whole area transformed.

The student flats have been proposed by Student Castle, which wants to demolish the existing Oxford Business Centre.

It was given approval by the city council’s west area planning committee on Tuesday night, with Mr Price saying its plans would fit in with a ‘masterplan’ for the Oxpens being drawn up jointly by the city council and Nuffield College – the two biggest landowners there.

He said: “The student flats are a very important first element in the overall redevelopment of Oxpens and will set the standard of what’s to come in terms of design.

“We have met with their architects and their proposal fits beautifully with our scheme, which will be a mix of commercial uses and housing.

“It will become an entirely new quarter of the city for people to live in and that’s very exciting.

“What is there now will be totally transformed – you won’t think Oxpens used to look like it is now.”

The council leader added the draft masterplan for the area was likely to be revealed next month.

That is expected to propose offices, open spaces, a hotel and up to 500 homes, with Oxpens Road becoming a tree-lined ‘boulevard’.

A special company – Oxford West End Development Ltd – has been set up jointly by the city council and Nuffield College to spearhead the scheme.

It is hoped that the student flats could be occupied by 2019. And Mr Price said it was hoped work on the rest of the redevelopment could start in the same year.

“We hope that will set things up and the new culture, which encourages environmentally-friendly buildings and green spaces between them,” he added.

Dan Lampard, senior director and head of Lichfields, Student Castle’s agent, said: “The public consultation on the Student Castle proposals last year received a warm reception.

“We are now pleased to secure planning for this development which will mark the start of a vital regeneration opportunity.”

Overall the student flats development is expected to cost about £32.5m to build and could create 750 jobs, Lichfields said.

It will provide 514-bed student rooms on land bordering the railway, with the ground floor of the building featuring 383sqm of space for commercial, leisure and community uses.

The building was designed by award-winning architect firm Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp and also includes 290 cycle parking spaces.

Mr Lampard added: “The council’s long-term vision for the site envisaged the comprehensive redevelopment of the Oxford Business Centre and the surrounding area. The proposals will enhance Oxford’s historic setting.”