9:50am Thursday 12th August 2010
By Reg Little
A STUDENT tower block that could stretch to 13 storeys threatens city views of the dreaming spires, a residents’ group warned last night.
Proposals to build accommodation for 130 students in the St Clement’s car park were unveiled on Tuesday.
At a public consultation, the developers set out three options, showing blocks varying in height from three to 13 storeys.
One of the options proposes a 13-storey tower and other buildings of four and five storeys.
The plans to build student blocks on stilts in the car park would reduce parking spaces from 120 to 62.
Traders immediately warned the loss of parking would ruin trade for shops and restaurants.
The St Clement’s scheme is set to raise millions of pounds for site owner Oxford City Council.
The exact figure has been kept under wraps, although an Oxford Mail source says the council has been given a £350,000 deposit for the site.
But traders fear the car park’s closure for more than a year during the building work would see customers turn their backs on the St Clement’s area.
Sietske Boeles, spokes-man for the East Oxford Residents’ Forum, said: “One of the proposals would see a tower building of more than 35 metres, half the height again of Carfax Tower.
“These proposals would harm protected views in and out of Oxford – views of the dreaming spires lost forever. It would also set a precedent for further high-rise buildings.”
Hairdresser Nick Warry, of St Clement’s Hair, said: “This car park is a lifeline to local businesses. Its loss would have a major impact when we are talking about a double dip recession.
“People will not come if they cannot park anywhere.
“The blocks are not the most attractive buildings. It is meant to be a conservation area.”
Martin Agius, of Fishers Seafood Restaurant, said restaurants would be especially hard-hit. He added: “Traders here have worked hard to upgrade this area over years. The council must look into keeping some car parking during weekends and in the evenings.”
Paul Gillespie, of developer Watkin Jones Group, said: “We are trying to work within the brief set by the local authority. The main elevations would be brick and designed to blend into the environment.”
The group hopes to submit a planning application next month. A deal with the council is understood to be close to completion.
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