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Ruskin College homes scheme war of words continues
A LONG-running row between Ruskin College and the city council over plans to develop north east Oxford continued yesterday.
The college branded “unfair” the fact that its proposals to build nearly 200 homes on part of Ruskin Fields had not been included in the council’s Barton Area Action Plan.
The claim came during an ongoing public inquiry into housing plans for the city.
As part of the action plan, Oxford City Council is hoping to build up to 1,200 homes on land to the west of Barton.
In July, the council was told to reconsider including Ruskin Fields in that plan by planning inspector Shelagh Bussey.
But following a new sustainability appraisal the council has again ruled Ruskin Fields out due to its “negative ecological impact”.
Ruskin College told the inspector this was unfair as the council’s own scheme would also have a negative impact.
College principal Audrey Mullender said: “The (Ruskin Fields) land is soggy and neglected. There is nothing of special interest in those fields and we cannot afford to improve them without (part of) the fields being developed.”
But city council officer Adrian Roche said developing the site would have a “significant” archeological impact on the fields, which had been used as farm land dating back to the medieval period.
City council officers also raised concerns about pollution and the effects on the area’s biodiversity.
Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday, councillor David Rundle, who represents Headington, said: “I think that the officers throughout this process have bent over backwards to let Ruskin have one bite of the cherry after the other. There’s nothing left of the cherry now.
“Even though they have gone through this process, they have still not come up with something which would be viable on the site.
And Labour’s board member for city development Colin Cook said: “I would like to say by not including Ruskin into the policy, we’re not saying they can’t come forward with something that might be more appropriate in the future.”
At that meeting, the council agreed to reject inclusion of the Ruskin proposals and made amendments to its own Barton West scheme.
Plans to turn the A40 into a “boulevard”-style street, with a 40mph speed limit and houses fronting on to the main road were scrapped.
The change was welcomed by councillor John Goddard, who said the city council had been “saved from its own idiocy” regarding the “boulevard” idea.
MORE public hearings will be held next week into Oxford City Council’s sites and housing plan, which earmarks plots of land across the city for development.
It will allow Oxford City Council to build nearly 8,000 homes by 2026 and meet its housing target.
But planning inspector Shelagh Bussey raised concerns about some aspects of the document and more hearing sessions have been scheduled so the city council can make further changes to the plan.
One of the issues is the city council’s plans to demand financial contributions from developers of student accommodation towards affordable housing.
Dr Bussey said: “I consider that the policy is ineffective and therefore unsound because its implementation strategy is not robust.
“It has not been demonstrated how the required contribution to affordable housing would in all cases be clearly related to the development proposed and would be of a scale proportionate with the development proposed.”
On Monday the council and Dr Bussey will discuss what major modifications need to be made to the plan.
Another further hearing will be held on Friday. Modifications will go out for public consultation on October 5, for six weeks, following which another hearing with the planning inspector will be held on Thursday, November 29.
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