NEW parts of the city are set to be added to Oxford’s Central Conservation Area for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The area was first designated by Oxford City Council in 1971. It has been reviewed four times since – but the last time was in 1998.

It has been proposed that St Thomas’, including Frideswide Square, and the University Science Quarter are both included.

Designation would mean new buildings or alterations to present buildings might need to adhere to characteristics found in those particular areas to 'prevent harm to the existing character'.

That potential added inflexibility for future development has meant Oxford University has opposed the plan for the Science Quarter.

St Thomas’ was ‘one of the earliest suburbs’ outside Oxford’s initial city walls and was developed as part of a route between the site of the former Osney Abbey and Oxford Castle.

The area has a ‘distinct “town” character’ and can be compared to Holywell.

The council said: “The buildings have a collective character that illustrates Oxford’s built development and close relationship to the nearby waterways, as well as the social connection to renewing and replacing buildings with those which are sympathetic to their surroundings.”

The University Science Quarter, including Oxford University’s Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry and Zoology and Psychology Buildings, could also form part of the Conservation Area for the first time.

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The council said that area, including buildings in South Parks Road and Parks Road, is a ‘physical demonstration of the commitment to scientific research within the city’.

“Rather than go outside the city centre, the university chose in the mid-19th century to base its science development around the existing museum and has continued to grow in that location,” the council states in a report.

Inclusion within the expanded conservation area would mean the university can ‘sustain and reinforce its education and research character by promoting the established high standards of architecture that the university is known for.’

The city council’s cabinet is likely to agree the move at a meeting next Wednesday.

Planning officers had mooted including the Keble Road triangle, the Radcliffe Infirmary Buildings and Island site near Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street in the conservation area. But those proposals will not be used for now.

The Keble Road triangle, the council said, ‘lacks a cohesive appearance or character.’

It added: “Without this defined character, the designation requirement of ‘preserve or enhance’ is not present.”

The listed Radcliffe Infirmary Buildings, in Woodstock Road, are ‘worthy of designation’ but better suited to inclusion within the North Oxford Suburb Conservation Area, it said.

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While the Island site, the triangular area between Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street, ‘is not considered to be commensurate with the existing conservation area and this has deteriorated since their construction’.

The first part of the Conservation Area appraisal was carried out between September and October last year.

Oxford Civic Society said it supported the council's proposal. In its response to the authority's plan, it said it thought the additions were 'thorough and well-judged'.

But the University of Oxford's Estates Service said it does not support the proposals.

It said the Science Quarter 'contains a range of buildings which are becoming obsolete due to requirements for science and research' and that 'tighter science regulations require a more flexible planning approach'.

Both Christ Church College and Green Templeton College oppose the city council's plan.

Offering opinions on just the St Thomas' changes, it says the area 'does not have special character required for designation'.