MULTI-MILLION pound plans to build 500 student flats in the heart of the city have been unveiled.

Developer Student Castle wants to construct the flats on the Oxpens site, with hopes of moving the first students into the new homes within two years.

It comes as part of the multi-million pound regeneration of Oxpens, which was agreed by Oxford City Council in November 2013, and envisages a boulevard along Oxpens Road, public spaces in the new development, and a mix of residential and commercial buildings.

Edward Cade, chief executive of Student Castle, said: “The council has identified the Oxpens site as a key regeneration site within the city and our site is considered suitable for student accommodation.

“We are very excited to be developing in Oxford on such a key site and are working with other stakeholders to deliver our scheme.”

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The development, planned for land adjacent to the railway line south of Osney Lane, would include a mix of studios and cluster flats, communal space, management facilities, a gym and outdoor seating areas.

Student Castle has appointed Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners (NLP) to lead the planning stage of the process, as well as architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, based in Woodstock Road.

Residents can view Student Castle’s plans at Oxford Town Hall between 2pm and 7pm tomorrow on Tuesday, with Student Castle, NLP and architects on hand to discuss the proposals and answer questions.

A planning application is expected to be submitted to the city council next year, with development starting next autumn if planning permission is granted.

Mr Cade added: “The public consultation and feedback is a key part of this process. The timescales for delivery of the wider Oxpens masterplan are uncertain at present, however our proposed development at Oxford Business Centre provides the opportunity to kick-start this regeneration.”

Sietske Boeles, chairwoman of Oxfordshire’s branch for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the group was concerned about proposed height of the student housing and the risk of developing near key archaeological sites.

She added: “We are really very concerned that the views of the key heritage buildings will be affected. We feel that there needs to be a thorough assessment [of potential archaeological sites] because we don’t know what might be destroyed. It’s very important for the understanding of the history of Oxford.”

Leader of the city council, Bob Price, said he had some initial “reservations” after looking at developers’ plans but said he was not concerned with the height of the proposed buildings.

He added: “The site has been allocated for student housing so it’s an appropriate use of the site.

“There’s some way to go before we would be content to see the particular development go ahead.”

Mr Price is concerned the development appears “monotonous” and said the proposed brickwork could make it seem “dull”.

He added: “It does not excite in the same way that some other developments have.”

The city council has previously been drawn into a planning saga over the height and appearance of student homes after approving the construction of blocks at Castle Mill, overlooking Port Meadow.