THIS is the new scheme developers have drawn up to build student accommodation on Oxford’s St Clement’s car park.
An earlier proposal for the site sparked months of protests from residents, traders and Oxford University – with objections about the loss of car parking and the impact on a conservation area near Magdalen Bridge – before it was rejected by councillors.
But the developer Watkin Jones has returned with this proposal for two four-storey blocks linked by a glass-sided bridge. A new pedestrian street would run through the middle of the development, linking St Clement’s Street to Angel and Greyhound Meadow.
As well as reducing the height of buildings, the developers say the scheme will provide 80 car parking places, six more than the earlier scheme. The existing city council-owned car park has 120 spaces. As St Clement’s car park would have to close for a year of building work, new plans have been drawn up to provide a temporary car park for 65 vehicles off Marston Road, near the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
The loss of car parking has led to warnings that shops and restaurants would be driven out of business.
Watkin Jones has appointed Manchester firm Hodder and Partners as the new architect, following a design competition.
The designs will be on show tomorrow and on Saturday at the Town Hall. The new scheme aims to reintroduce the former street pattern on the site, once occupied by the historic Pensons Gardens, to enhance views from St Clement’s towards the River Cherwell and the meadows.
Roger Smith, of planning consultants Savills, said: “We acknowledge this is a controversial proposal but the principle of redevelopment has been established in the Local Plan. It will help recreate the old route down to the river.
“We consider that this is a much better proposal, which takes account of the conservation area, the amenity of local residents and provides a greater level of temporary parking during the period of construction.”
He hoped that a planning application could be submitted next month, with students moving in by September 2013. The plans include new public toilets and the river bank area would be landscaped.
St Clement’s trader Alan Grosvenor, pictured right, of A-Spires Audio Visual, said: “It appears the development will have the same number of units. It is difficult to see how they can achieve this while making the buildings smaller and avoid cramming the site.”
The city council, which owns the site, is understood to be in line to benefit to the tune of £5m if the development goes ahead.
Meanwhile, the developers still intend to appeal against the city council’s decision to reject the earlier scheme.
The exhibition in the Town Hall, St Aldate’s, runs tomorrow between 4pm and 8pm and on Saturday from 9.30am to noon.