£1m U-turn: Call to take two storeys off building

Save Port Meadow protesters at Oxford Town Hall on Thursday night

Save Port Meadow protesters at Oxford Town Hall on Thursday night Buy this photo

First published in Oxford
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Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

UNIVERSITY bosses were last night urged to pull down the top two storeys of “stark and aggressive-looking” student blocks.

Despite giving permission for the Castle Mill scheme, Oxford city councillors yesterday admitted they don’t like how it looks.

Campaigners say the buildings in Roger Dudman Way, which received planning permission last February, damage the historic view of Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ across Port Meadow.

And – after a hard-fought campaign by protesters – councillors have now pleaded with Oxford University to demolish the top of the half-finished buildings.

However, the council has been warned by its own officers that it could be faced with a bill of around £1m from the university for compensation if this takes place.

At an emotionally-charged meeting which was attended by around 100 campaigners and residents, councillors agreed to begin negotiations with the university.

Chairman of the councils West Area Planning Committee (WAPC) Oscar Van Nooijen said: “The city council has agreed to negotiate with the university in order to reduce the size and impact of the buildings.

“Those negotiations started yesterday.

“In addition, we will be setting up a high-level group with leading councillors and local amenity groups to learn lessons for the future.”

Councillor John Goddard, who sits on the committee, said: “We need to get this development two storeys lower, that would be our ideal.

“That is what’s needed to move it below the tree line, and that is our objective.”

As it stands, the scheme will create 312 flats and bedsits over four and five storeys on unused railway land near Oxford Station.

A review of the development was ordered in December after the Campaign to Protect Port Meadow from Oxford University (CPPMOU) handed the council a petition, signed by 1,666 people.

At Thursday’s committee meeting, representations from the CPPMOU, residents, the Freemen of Oxford and local historians were all greeted with applause from the public gallery in the Town Hall.

Sushila Dhall, who started CPPMOU, said the petition – which now has more than 2,000 signatures – would now be withdrawn from the city council and presented to the university.

The city council can revoke planning permission, but needs the Government’s approval – unless the university does not object. Either way, it would need to pay compensation.

Council officers last week warned the compensation claim could amount to a seven-figure sum.

Campaign member Toby Porter told the committee: “I know it is a difficult decision to take and could potentially cost £1m, but the chance that the university, which is severely embarrassed, would seek reparations of that amount from the city in which it is hosted is zero.”

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood met campaigners yesterday and said she was pleased with news of the negotiations. She said: “Of course the city council has a responsibility to try to ease the pressure on the local housing market and the university has a role to play in that by providing sufficient accommodation for students.

“But this should not come at an irreversible cost to a historic and environmental heritage site like Port Meadow.”

Head of city development Michael Crofton-Briggs yesterday met the university’s director of estates, Paul Goffin, to begin talks.

Mr Crofton-Briggs is due to report back to the committee in April.

A spokesman for the University of Oxford refused to say whether it would reduce the buildings’ height and who would pay the bill if it did.

Spokesman Matt Pickles said: “We welcome the report’s finding that the university acted properly when securing planning permission for the Castle Mill student accommodation development.

“We are always happy to meet with planning officers and to hear what they have to say.”

CASTLE MILL TIMELINE

February 15, 2012: Oxford City council gives Oxford University permission to build 312 students dwellings in four- and five-storey buildings at Castle Mill

October 1: Resident Sushila Dhall starts the Campaign to Protect Port Meadow from Oxford University (CPPMOU)

December 1: CPPMOU hands a petition against the development, with 1,666 signatures, to the council

December 17: Councillors order a report on how the impact of the new student accommodation, pictured, can be reduced

February 7, 2013: The west area planning committee agrees to begin negotiations with the university.

Comments (15)

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9:10am Sat 9 Feb 13

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

The councillors who approved the design last year should pay for the changes because their lack of foresight has caused this mess. Council tax payers should not be charged a penny. Moral blackmail against the University (who gained planning permission for the blocks) is a sleazy tactic. The height of trees has not changed since 2012.
The councillors who approved the design last year should pay for the changes because their lack of foresight has caused this mess. Council tax payers should not be charged a penny. Moral blackmail against the University (who gained planning permission for the blocks) is a sleazy tactic. The height of trees has not changed since 2012. Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: 3

9:35am Sat 9 Feb 13

SNJ says...

Was it the West Area Planning Committee that gave permission, and was it on the recommendation of the planners? The Oxford Mail omits crucial facts.
Was it the West Area Planning Committee that gave permission, and was it on the recommendation of the planners? The Oxford Mail omits crucial facts. SNJ
  • Score: 2

9:48am Sat 9 Feb 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

£5000 donation from each of the protestors and an assurance that students will be welcomed in residential areas would, I'm sure, do the trick.
£5000 donation from each of the protestors and an assurance that students will be welcomed in residential areas would, I'm sure, do the trick. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 2

2:25pm Sat 9 Feb 13

jooly says...

I was horrified at the height of these flats when looking at the planning application on line last year and accordingly entered my objections. How can councillors NOW agree the flats are too high, when they had all the facts at application stage. There is too much high building being allowed at the moment in Oxford - the new Hobbycraft building is another blight on the horizon in West Oxford - a storey too high. How do we stop this from continuing to happen?
I was horrified at the height of these flats when looking at the planning application on line last year and accordingly entered my objections. How can councillors NOW agree the flats are too high, when they had all the facts at application stage. There is too much high building being allowed at the moment in Oxford - the new Hobbycraft building is another blight on the horizon in West Oxford - a storey too high. How do we stop this from continuing to happen? jooly
  • Score: 0

3:20pm Sat 9 Feb 13

Myron Blatz says...

Where are all those 'campaigning journalists' and editors with balls? Presumably out campaigning with Ed Balls?
Where are all those 'campaigning journalists' and editors with balls? Presumably out campaigning with Ed Balls? Myron Blatz
  • Score: 1

2:19am Sun 10 Feb 13

Grunden Skip says...

What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong.
What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong. Grunden Skip
  • Score: 1

8:06am Sun 10 Feb 13

Toby Porter says...

Hi Grunden

I don't think any campaigner has or will call for the tax payer to pay for any remedial work. Wait and see what options emerge, but I think you can discount that one, our Campaign certainly won't be calling for it.

In terms of democracy, all I would say is that had the University and Council properly publicised their plans, there would be petition.

Read what people are saying, no-body knew, thats the point. And for a place like Port Meadow in a city like Oxford, that's just not good enough.

Come along next time there is a campaign gathering or demonstration, and talk to us in person.

You may find we not quite the ghastly group you think we are. Last week, for example, when you called us "lentil munchers", I had a nice steak in the fridge ready to cook that night. I cooked it rare, and it was delicious!
Hi Grunden I don't think any campaigner has or will call for the tax payer to pay for any remedial work. Wait and see what options emerge, but I think you can discount that one, our Campaign certainly won't be calling for it. In terms of democracy, all I would say is that had the University and Council properly publicised their plans, there would be petition. Read what people are saying, no-body knew, thats the point. And for a place like Port Meadow in a city like Oxford, that's just not good enough. Come along next time there is a campaign gathering or demonstration, and talk to us in person. You may find we not quite the ghastly group you think we are. Last week, for example, when you called us "lentil munchers", I had a nice steak in the fridge ready to cook that night. I cooked it rare, and it was delicious! Toby Porter
  • Score: 1

11:33am Sun 10 Feb 13

jooly says...

Grunden Skip wrote:
What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong.
You're missing the point GS - it is irrelevant how prestigious (or powerful) the developers are. All planning applications should be scrutinised with the same care and amount of foresight. Something as huge as this development should have had a longer period of time and greater publicity for all objections to be raised before planning permission was granted. It is disgraceful how we were steam-rollered with a rushed application. Is it really so 'extreme' to try to preserve special views for so many? Thank God for them. Oxford University appears to have lots it's connection with the people who live here.
[quote][p][bold]Grunden Skip[/bold] wrote: What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong.[/p][/quote]You're missing the point GS - it is irrelevant how prestigious (or powerful) the developers are. All planning applications should be scrutinised with the same care and amount of foresight. Something as huge as this development should have had a longer period of time and greater publicity for all objections to be raised before planning permission was granted. It is disgraceful how we were steam-rollered with a rushed application. Is it really so 'extreme' to try to preserve special views for so many? Thank God for them. Oxford University appears to have lots it's connection with the people who live here. jooly
  • Score: 0

11:43am Sun 10 Feb 13

SNJ says...

I don't think that the University of Oxford can be blamed for this fiasco: they went through the proper planning process.

It's St Scholastica's Day today: beware of starting a town & gown dispute....
I don't think that the University of Oxford can be blamed for this fiasco: they went through the proper planning process. It's St Scholastica's Day today: beware of starting a town & gown dispute.... SNJ
  • Score: 0

1:12pm Sun 10 Feb 13

Myron Blatz says...

It's all quite simple. There's rules and regulations for some, and different ones for others - it's all in the Planning! Nor is it only the University which seems to apparently 'bend rules' and gain planning agreement which ordinary people might rarely obtain. It may only be pure coincidence, but look around at some of the local property magnates, builders and developers, and you'd be surprised at how much influence they appear to wield. That, or the local planning authorities really are as inept as some 'common folk' rightly or wrongly seem to think? Whilst it's true that if not satisfied with our local City and County Councillors, we supposedly have the opportunity to vote them out of Office every four years, how do we do the same for what we might view as inept and badly-managed City and County Council senior management?
It's all quite simple. There's rules and regulations for some, and different ones for others - it's all in the Planning! Nor is it only the University which seems to apparently 'bend rules' and gain planning agreement which ordinary people might rarely obtain. It may only be pure coincidence, but look around at some of the local property magnates, builders and developers, and you'd be surprised at how much influence they appear to wield. That, or the local planning authorities really are as inept as some 'common folk' rightly or wrongly seem to think? Whilst it's true that if not satisfied with our local City and County Councillors, we supposedly have the opportunity to vote them out of Office every four years, how do we do the same for what we might view as inept and badly-managed City and County Council senior management? Myron Blatz
  • Score: 1

6:49pm Sun 10 Feb 13

Grunden Skip says...

Toby Porter wrote:
Hi Grunden

I don't think any campaigner has or will call for the tax payer to pay for any remedial work. Wait and see what options emerge, but I think you can discount that one, our Campaign certainly won't be calling for it.

In terms of democracy, all I would say is that had the University and Council properly publicised their plans, there would be petition.

Read what people are saying, no-body knew, thats the point. And for a place like Port Meadow in a city like Oxford, that's just not good enough.

Come along next time there is a campaign gathering or demonstration, and talk to us in person.

You may find we not quite the ghastly group you think we are. Last week, for example, when you called us "lentil munchers", I had a nice steak in the fridge ready to cook that night. I cooked it rare, and it was delicious!
I support the building, you do not, so there we will have to disagree. But at least you know how to cook a steak :-)
[quote][p][bold]Toby Porter[/bold] wrote: Hi Grunden I don't think any campaigner has or will call for the tax payer to pay for any remedial work. Wait and see what options emerge, but I think you can discount that one, our Campaign certainly won't be calling for it. In terms of democracy, all I would say is that had the University and Council properly publicised their plans, there would be petition. Read what people are saying, no-body knew, thats the point. And for a place like Port Meadow in a city like Oxford, that's just not good enough. Come along next time there is a campaign gathering or demonstration, and talk to us in person. You may find we not quite the ghastly group you think we are. Last week, for example, when you called us "lentil munchers", I had a nice steak in the fridge ready to cook that night. I cooked it rare, and it was delicious![/p][/quote]I support the building, you do not, so there we will have to disagree. But at least you know how to cook a steak :-) Grunden Skip
  • Score: 0

10:09am Mon 11 Feb 13

Hafiz Ladell says...

This is all very fishy. Nobody seems to be taking responsibility. Councillors don't know what's been happening. Oxford University are acting the aggrieved innocent. Objections to the original designs have been blithely ignored. Most striking of all is the speed at which these impressively ugly structures have been imposed on the landscape.

Where then can we point the finger?

Following recent local government reforms, planning decisions have been, to a large extent, removed from public oversight, and council scrutiny has been drastically curtailed. Should we ask, to whose benefit?
This is all very fishy. Nobody seems to be taking responsibility. Councillors don't know what's been happening. Oxford University are acting the aggrieved innocent. Objections to the original designs have been blithely ignored. Most striking of all is the speed at which these impressively ugly structures have been imposed on the landscape. Where then can we point the finger? Following recent local government reforms, planning decisions have been, to a large extent, removed from public oversight, and council scrutiny has been drastically curtailed. Should we ask, to whose benefit? Hafiz Ladell
  • Score: 1

10:19am Mon 11 Feb 13

jooly says...

Agree with Hafiz Ladell. I'm very concerned that the councillors involved in any review of this should have no involvement with Oxford University in their personal lives. Otherwise the 'council scrutiny' will be extremely unreliable and limited. Take a look on the council website at the councillors to see who their employers are.
Agree with Hafiz Ladell. I'm very concerned that the councillors involved in any review of this should have no involvement with Oxford University in their personal lives. Otherwise the 'council scrutiny' will be extremely unreliable and limited. Take a look on the council website at the councillors to see who their employers are. jooly
  • Score: 1

3:11pm Mon 11 Feb 13

Grunden Skip says...

jooly wrote:
Agree with Hafiz Ladell. I'm very concerned that the councillors involved in any review of this should have no involvement with Oxford University in their personal lives. Otherwise the 'council scrutiny' will be extremely unreliable and limited. Take a look on the council website at the councillors to see who their employers are.
Maybe we should just scrap the democratic planning process. It only causes problems and scenes like those on The Town Hall steps pictured in the OM. Instead we could just have a he/she who shouts loudest wins, as that seems to be what is happening here.
[quote][p][bold]jooly[/bold] wrote: Agree with Hafiz Ladell. I'm very concerned that the councillors involved in any review of this should have no involvement with Oxford University in their personal lives. Otherwise the 'council scrutiny' will be extremely unreliable and limited. Take a look on the council website at the councillors to see who their employers are.[/p][/quote]Maybe we should just scrap the democratic planning process. It only causes problems and scenes like those on The Town Hall steps pictured in the OM. Instead we could just have a he/she who shouts loudest wins, as that seems to be what is happening here. Grunden Skip
  • Score: 1

3:04pm Tue 12 Feb 13

Isawyoucoming says...

Grunden Skip wrote:
What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong.
most prestigious university in the world
in your opinion
[quote][p][bold]Grunden Skip[/bold] wrote: What a shame, nay disgrace, that a bunch of rabble rousers, are trying to dictate to the most Prestigious University in the World. I hope The University ignores them, but if they do not and We (tax payers) are landed with the hefty bill, then every name on the petition should be forced to pay the damages, as this planning went through all democratic processes before being granted. As what has happened in Chippy with the Mosque, it seems that extreme groups can now overturn planning decisions. That is not a democracy, and is wrong.[/p][/quote]most prestigious university in the world in your opinion Isawyoucoming
  • Score: 0

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