THE long-awaited £20m redevelopment of Jericho’s Castle Mill boatyard was approved last night, subject to 45 conditions.
The scheme will create a “piazza” square between St Barnabas Church and Oxford Canal, bordered by a community centre, boatyard, nursery, restaurant and 22 homes.
It is the fifth attempt to redevelop the derelict site over a decade and last night’s decision came after months of wrangling between developers and residents.
Members of Oxford City Council’s west area planning committee approved the proposals in principle, but with 45 conditions attached.
The vote came in at seven to one, with only Cllr Mike Gotch against it.
Key among the concerns of councillors and residents’ group the Jericho Wharf Trust was the delivery of a community centre.
At the meeting the trust, which had wanted the developer to sign a legal agreement to build a new community centre, urged councillors to delay the decision.
But councillors said a separate meeting would be held later this year to finalise developer contributions.
Jericho Wharf Trust chairwoman Phyllis Starkey said: “This has been an incredibly long process for the community and it is good we can now move forward.
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“A greater degree of clarity has now also been achieved on how the funding for the community centre can be delivered.”
Developer Johnny Sandelson, chief executive of Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF), agreed he would build the piazza square and boatyard.
He agreed to build part of the community centre’s foundations, meaning the remainder would need to be funded by another party.
Mr Sandelson said he would give £150,000 to residents to help them pay for the rest of the centre, estimated to cost at least £5m, to replace the current building in Canal Street.
Jericho Wharf Trust’s Mrs Starkey said her group had wanted the developers to build all the foundations for the community centre, but would now “reassess” their position.
She added: “At this stage, we are pleased it will come back to committee.”
After a verdict on the scheme was given, Mr Sandelson vowed to repair relations with the Jericho Wharf Trust.
Last week he had attacked the group for being “unrealistic” and said he could not trust its members, after months of intense negotiations.
He said last night: “Clearly there are a lot of bridges to be repaired, but I am over the moon the scheme has been approved.
“There is still a lot of work to do though and it will be done.”
The meeting in Town Hall was packed as more than 60 people awaited a decision on the scheme.
Council officers had recommended the scheme’s approval, despite not meeting Oxford City Council’s affordable housing policies.
The authority said half of the housing in new developments must be affordable in all but “exceptional” circumstances.
But in a move criticised by community groups, officers said a proposed 39 per cent be allowed because of the public facilities included in the wider scheme.
One of the 45 conditions added was that if the restaurant was subject to a change of use in future it should be for social housing.
Another condition was that ownership of the community centre and piazza square would be passed to the Jericho Wharf Trust, Finer details of these conditions are to be discussed at a later meeting.
St Barnabas Church had threatened to hold back land needed for the square if a bridge over the canal was not moved north to be closer to the square.
The bridge had been moved further south after objections were raised about safety for boaters by the Canal & River Trust.
But it emerged that the church had agreed to meet the trust and said it could change position, Henry Gibbons of the parochial council said.
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