RESIDENTS have hit out at "grotesque" plans to extend East Oxford's Florey Building after they were approved by the council.

The multi-million pound project to provide 25 extra student rooms and more conference facilities had been approved by Oxford City Council earlier this month but then called in over concerns it could damage the building's heritage.

A planning review committee unanimously approved The Queen's College scheme earlier this week after discussing issues relating to the architecture, concerns over the planning process and concerns that residents in sheltered housing would be blocked in by a new annexe.

Secretary of the York Place residents association, Dr Peter Collins, said: "I am disappointed that no more than a perfunctory consideration was given to a building with enormous architectural importance.

"It is a modern masterpiece from which many other buildings have followed.

"Our only hope now is that the city council will impose sufficient conditions to mitigate the problem of noise and the problem of access for some 50-plus residents."

The Grade II-listed building off St Clement’s, built in 1971, was designed by controversial British architect of the post-war period James Stirling.

It was commissioned by Lord Howard Florey, the Queen’s College Provost and a Nobel Prize winner.

Committee chairman James Fry said: "The reason it was called in was so we could discuss the issues and it was gratifying to see the concerns raised and dealt with by the committee.

"I'm no expert on architecture but the Design Review Panel was very much in favour of the designs."

The application was called in by 12 city councillors who were also concerned proper process had not been followed through the consultation - but again the committee was satisfied with the engagement of The Queen's College.

The Planning Review Committee discussed the concern some York Place residents would have their fire exits blocked on one side.

Kim Sanders-Fisher, who lives in nearby Anchor Court, said the only fire escape to the back of the properties would be by jumping into the river.

The committee resolved Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue were consulted and made no objections.

Ms Sanders-Fisher said: "I'm disgusted by the decision. It's an important architectural building and the extension is grotesque.

"If you were in one of the houses and you were faced with having to jump in the river to escape a fire you would be horrified.

"The noise pollution from the block will also be a major problem - I'm very disappointed with the approval."

The Queen's College finance bursar Andrew Timms told the committee the college had selected designs that added something to the original architecture and that all other entries it turned down were much bigger.