PLANS to add a new towering 'gatehouse' to Oxford's famous skyline of spires have been approved.

The redevelopment of Northgate House - on the corner of Cornmarket Street and Market Street - was waved through by city councillors last night for the second time after it was called in over fears it was too tall.

Plans would see the existing building completely redeveloped to include retail units within the lower levels and above that 68 student rooms, plus the 'gatehouse' providing teaching rooms or exhibition space.

Oxford Mail:

The project was previously approved last month but called in for a second opinions when 14 councillors raised fears about the highest point of the building sitting at 21.3m - 3m above city centre height restrictions set out in the local plan.

But applicants Jesus College, alongside city council planning officers, argued the restriction was out of date and has been exceeded by many other city centre buildings - including Varsity Club, Burger King and Debenhams.

It was argued the 'gatehouse' would not fit in with its surroundings and not disrupt the view of famous landmarks such as Carfax Tower.

Jesus College principal professor Nigel Shadbolt said: "The proposal is a fundamental part of our strategic plan. We envisaged a transformative development of the Northgate that gives us fantastic accomodation, helping take pressure off the housing stock in the city."

He added: "We also think this is a unique opportunity to bring about the reanimation of Market Street and nearby Covered Market which is very much needed.

"It [the gatehouse] clearly is a focal point and what we are trying to do is help bring people back into the area which is suffering from poor footfall, back to the Covered Market  - as well as giving us a new vantage point."

The proposals were passed by the planning review committee by six votes to two.