A HUGE overhaul of Oxford Brookes University’s student accommodation was unanimously rejected by councillors over concerns it could badly affect Headington.

The university wanted to knock down eight accommodation blocks and replace them with taller ones – including a seven-storey unit – at its Clive Booth Student Village.

There are currently 640 bedrooms at the Headington complex, which first opened in the 1970s. After the work, there would have been 1,077 bedrooms.

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However on Wednesday night councillors agreed the damage to the Headington Hill Conservation Area and to the wider city was not worth the possible public benefit.

The council’s East Area planning committee was unconvinced by a claim backed by planning officers that 246 homes would be released back onto Oxford’s housing market because students would not need them.

Oxford Mail:

A scale model of the plan taken to Wednesday's planning meeting.

During a fractious meeting at Oxford Town Hall, a member of the public opposed to the plan labelled that ‘pie in the sky’.

He shouted: “I’ve listened to enough rubbish.”

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More than 100 residents had formally opposed the project, with one telling the council they worried it could ‘form a ghetto’.

Labour councillor Nigel Chapman said: “This case is a finely balanced one and the planning officers have given the benefit of the doubt to it. When you start to unpick it more thoroughly, some of the crutches on which it’s based become rather flimsy.

“The first is the public benefit issue that homes will go to [the market]. That can’t be proven.”

Oxford Mail:

A vision of how the new blocks were supposed to look.

He added: “The (council’s) paper makes clear that the impact is moderate to the city as a whole if you’re far away…but the nearer you get to it the more substantial the impact is.

“This cannot be compatible with the distinctiveness of a local area in terms of scale, orientation and mass. There would be scheme that would [be], but it’s not this.”

Ahead of the meeting on Wednesday night, the Oxford Preservation Trust had been opposed to the development.

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An Oxford Brookes spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that planning has not been approved despite a recommendation for approval by officers.

“We will consider our next steps in relation to this proposed development which would benefit students and the wider community.”

Oxford Mail:

A current block at the student village.