RESIDENTS have had their first glimpse of plans to transform a derelict garage in Cowley into 40 flats and houses.

A consultation event was held by Oxford City Council, which owns the Between Towns Road site, this week at nearby community hub The Venue ahead of a formal planning application being submitted later in the year.

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Currently the plans include a block of 39 flats which would ‘step up’ to either five or six storeys, as well as a row of four three-bedroom houses behind at the end of St Omer Road.

City councillor David Henwood, who attended the event, said as well as providing much-needed housing a key part of the scheme would by widening and improving the footpath that links St Omer Road to Between Towns Road.

He said: “It’s a nightmare for residents at the moment with drug dealing and reports of prostitution. It’s a dangerous space.”

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Last summer the former Murco Petroleum Ltd building was beset by problems to do with anti-social behaviour and squatters moving onto the site.

Pam Phillips, who came to view the plans and lives opposite the site in a flat above The Venue on Barn Road, echoed this saying: “Something needs to be done about the site and anything to make that path less dangerous would be welcomed.

“I used to live in that area near St Omer Road and I never felt safe walking through there at night.”

She did raise concerns though that there was no parking space for the flats and houses other than two disabled bays.

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Murco petrol station in 2011 - pic. Google

The 66-year-old retired mental health nurse explained: “It’s not so much residents but what if people want to have visitors? We have the same thing here and it is really difficult as all the car parks close when the shops do.”

Mr Henwood admitted long-standing parking issues could be exacerbated by the development, saying: “People are free to own cars and as it is a council owned site we do have to bear some responsibility for the consequences of that.”

He added, however, that the site was very close to transport routes and there was space for bikes.

Lila Haracz, a senior housing development officer for Oxford City Council, said the plans could still be altered based on public feedback but believed the designs were, broadly, the best way to make use of the space.

She explained: “We want the site to fit in and bridge the gap between the residential houses and the upcoming Templars Square redevelopment.

“The flats are envisioned as acting as a focal point to the major junction.”

She added 50 per cent of the new properties would be affordable with a mix of social rents and private ownership.

A planning application is expected to be submitted in the autumn 2018, with building work hoped to start next summer, with a completion date of late 2020.