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Uni warns council to back off over homes
Oxford University and the city council clashed at a public inquiry over a bid to make colleges give cash for affordable housing.
Oxford City Council wants to make the city’s two universities give funds for affordable homes as part of deals to build new student halls.
But Oxford University representatives told a public inquiry the move was unlawful and inconsistent with previous council policies.
The council said the proposal is legal and vital to ensured a “mixed and balanced” community.
The clash came on the second day of hearings into the council’s blueprint of where 8,000 homes should be built by 2026.
The plan includes a pledge to provide more affordable housing to help people on low incomes buy their own home.
Stephen Morgan, representing Oxford colleges, told the hearing the plan to impose a charge on college developments was unfair and “seriously flawed”.
Rupert Warren QC, for Oxford University, said the proposal was a matter of law and not up to the council to decide.
He told Tuesday’s hearing: “You can understand why they would want to do it but legally, we submit, it is fatally flawed.”
The council wants to charge £140 per square metre of new student flats with a five per cent administration charge on plans of eight units or more.
In Oxford, private housing developments of 10 or more homes must already make 50 per cent of the properties available as affordable homes.
Anthony Crean QC, for the council, said the universities were “simply wrong” and the issue must be heard at the inquiry.
He said: “It is not something one party is able to announce at the beginning and shut down without any further debate.”
And he said there was “considerable room for manoeuvre between one plan and another”.
Council spatial and economic development manager Mark Jaggard said the demand for affordable housing would not jeopardise student housing plans.
The public inquiry is set to last 10 days.