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'Uni's hostels spoil Port Meadow view'
STUDENT accommodation blocks being constructed by Oxford University are having “a scandalous” impact on views from Port Meadow, it is being claimed.
Building work is now well under way on a scheme to create 312 flats and bedsits over four and five storeys on unused railway land near the station.
But walkers in Port Meadow say they have already seen enough to despair of the lasting damage being done to the famous views of the city.
Oxford Preservation Trust also hit out at planners for allowing the development – which will eventually see eight blocks, six of which will be five storeys.
And the trust has called for a meeting with the university to ensure no similar projects are submitted on sensitive sites in the city.
The university secured planning permission in February for an extension to student accommodation at Castle Mill in Roger Dudman Way, to create hundreds of postgraduate student flats.
But former Oxford University ancient history professor Sir Fergus Millar said he had been shocked by the extent of the impact.
He said: “Port Meadow has been preserved as public land for the people of Oxford for more than 1,000 years.
“Until recently it has been protected as open grazing land, which is not overlooked by large buildings, in which anyone can walk peacefully without their views being obstructed by obtrusive development.
“But now anyone walking on the meadow will see to the south four large blocks of five to six storeys under construction, of which the nearest is more than 100 metres from the public car park at the end of Walton Well.
“The atmosphere and environment of a large part of the Meadow has been fundamentally damaged.
“It is scandalous.
“Oxford University ought to be ashamed of itself.”
Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “It is visible in the view across Port Meadow.
“It shows the importance of having better protection of Oxford views. “There is a study under way at the moment with OPT and the city council working together, and funding from English Heritage.
“In the meantime, we will be asking for a meeting with the university to discuss how we can stop this happening again in the future.”
University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “During the planning approval process, the university listened to planning officers and as a consequence lowered the height of the roofs to some of the blocks and changed their shape to try to meet their concerns.
“The university produced views that showed how the buildings would look when viewed from several locations of the far side of Port Meadow along the river path from Wolvercote to the Walton Well Road entrance.
“These were taken into account at the meeting when the planning application was approved.”
He added: “Consultations over how the buildings will be clad are ongoing.
“Trees will be planted by the council so that the buildings are better screened from view.”
Oxford City Council spokesmanLouisa Dean said: “When planning applications are submitted, there is a consultation period for the public to submit their objections.
“For this application no objections were received by the council raising concerns about the impact of the development on views from Port Meadow.
“However, the issue of views from Port Meadow was raised in detail in the report to west area planning committee. Councillors approved the planning application earlier this year.”