A MASSIVE new block of flats in the centre of Oxford would ‘overpower' historic buildings nearby, an expert has warned.

Property company A2 Dominion wants to build the complex in Paradise Street opposite the Westgate Centre but would need knock down homeless shelter Simon House.

Now a design expert has said the proposals would have too much of an impact on historic listed buildings nearby.

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Richard Peats, Historic England’s inspector of historic buildings and areas, told Oxford City Council the site represents a ‘golden opportunity’ to improve Oxford ‘with a well-designed new building’.

But he added: “The current proposals don’t take this opportunity but the concept is not fundamentally flawed and with further thought… it could turn into a good building.”

Oxford Mail:

Google Maps image of the corner of Castle Street and Paradise Street. Simon House is the white building beyond the large block of flats.

The new flats would be four to five storeys high and taller than Simon House.

Mr Peats said the building would have a ‘much greater presence’ on Paradise Street.

He added while the design looks to ‘break up’ the building and ‘create the impression of separate blocks’, this has ‘not been done with enough conviction’ in the current plan.

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He added: “While recesses have been cut into the façade it still reads as a very large single block that snakes down Paradise Street.

“As a result the façade would have far too much presence in the street, overpowering and overbearing the nearby listed buildings and thereby harming their significance.”

The site is in the Oxford City Conservation Area, which also includes 29 Castle Street, which is Grade II listed, Greyfriars, which is Grade II* listed and the Grade II listed Jolly Farmers pub.

Oxford Mail:

“Given its sensitivity, it is unfortunate that [Historic England] was not involved in pre-application discussions about these proposals,” Mr Peats added.

Ian Carmichael, Thames Valley Police’s crime prevention design advisor, said the force is generally happy with the design of the building.

But he said he was 'concerned' communal entrances would have open railings, which he said he worried 'may present opportunities for arson'.

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To prevent that, he recommends builders use glazing instead of railings.

He said audio and visual access control for residents should also be to 'ensure security' for them.

Oxford Mail:

None of the 30 flats in Paradise Street would be classed as affordable.

A2 Dominion wants to include more affordable homes at a new complex in Gibbs Crescent.

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It wants 85 of 140 flats there to be affordable.

That means that half of the homes – or 85 of its new 170 flats – would be given that classification, meeting a council target.