CPRE Oxfordshire welcomes Oxford University’s Environmental Statement (ES) on its controversial Port Meadow student housing development. The statement identifies the impact of the development on four of Oxford’s high value heritage assets as “high adverse”. These harmful impacts have been identified for the Oxford skyline, St Barnabas Church, Port Meadow and the river Thames and towpath.

This is the highest possible category of harm. Planning law is clear that only under exceptional circumstances would a new development justify such harm. It is highly unlikely that the Planning Committee would have granted planning permission for such a damaging development if it had been in the possession of this ES.

CPRE feels fully vindicated that we took the city council to the High Court. Our view has always been that the city council acted unlawfully in not requiring the University to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), arguing that “the development was not likely to have a significant effect on the environment”.

CPRE is now satisfied that the harmful visual and landscape impacts of the Castle Mill development have been properly assessed. The damning report offers three mitigation options and in our view the city council now has to adopt Number 3, which lowers the development to the level of the tree line by taking one floor off the highest buildings, and flattens all the roofs.

Even this option would not mitigate the impacts entirely, but would reduce the majority of damage to “slight to moderate”.

If the city council decides on one of the other cheaper options it runs the risk of a further High Court challenge because of a lack of compliance with EIA regulations which are in place to protect our environment from such philistine behaviour.

Helen Marshall Director, CPRE Oxfordshire

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