AN OFFICIAL plan for a project that would change the face of a busy Oxford street could be submitted within months.

Last September the Oxford Mail reported that the city council wanted to spend £9.75m knocking down and then rebuilding 1-5 George Street in the hope it would be able to charge higher rents afterwards.

By then, the council estimated, any new complex could be worth £11.5m.

Planners had been tasked with drawing up plans with what might replace the buildings currently there last autumn – and the council now hopes to submit a planning application ‘within the next few months’.

Initial plans, which were released in council papers last year, said the authority wanted to boost floor space for 1-5 George Street by as much as two-and-a-half times.

In those documents, it said it hoped it would be able to rake in as much as £630,000 every year with increased rents in new buildings.

‘Modestly refurbishing’ the site had been the council’s first option but it is now likely to proceed by knocking it down and starting again.

Jane Winfield, the council’s regeneration and major projects service manager, said: “We are currently going through more detailed design before coming forward with a planning application.

“Some tenants have already moved out and we are in continued discussions with the remainder regarding the timing of departure.”

But some Oxford Mail readers said they were worried the scheme would take too long to pay back.

If the rent collections remain the same and the city council’s budget does not change in the future, then it could take more than 15 years for the project to yield a profit.

The site has recently been home to Italian restaurant ASK, a chiropodist, a dentist and luggage shop Solutions.

Council documents said in the autumn that all of its tenants would have left their premises by the end of December. It is now understood the council is working on the basis that all tenants will have left in the spring.

The council has already said any new buildings could increase floor space by 155 per cent – from a current 8,812 sq ft to 22,500 sq ft. The restaurant area for the project alone would be nearly double the size of what is available now, from a current 3,590 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft.

As part of the initial plans, property bosses had mooted spending £3.6m on an overhaul, with the hope of bringing in £262,000 in rent each year.

Documents prepared by the council’s major projects and development manager, Nick Twigg, last year stated: “Initially it was proposed to undertake a modest refurbishment for retail on part of the ground and basement floors, with residential above.

“Subsequent and more detailed viability suggested that better outcomes both from a design and financial perspective could be achieved by pursuing a much denser development.”