NORTH Oxford residents are concerned an Oxford college could create an ‘academic ghetto’ including 150 new bedrooms, destroying a treasured setting.

University College held a consultation with residents who could be affected by it earlier this month and have encouraged people to send it their views.

The college claims the North Oxford Development Project is ‘a comprehensive and exemplary development’ but people living nearby say they worry a ‘huge difference’ could be created between Rawlinson and Staverton Roads.

It would include bedrooms for students, a children’s nursery, a gym, academic study spaces and meeting rooms.

The college hopes to submit the project for planning permission before the end of this year and for building to start between October and December 2020.

It hopes to open it between July and September 2023, if planning permission is successful.

Some detractors say they fear the equivalent of a second Univ site, which would be accessed by pedestrians from Banbury Road, being dumped in the North Oxford Conservation Area.

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David Paroissien, who has lived in Banbury Road for over 20 years, said he was worried the changes could mean ‘ecological destruction’.

He said: “We feel really indignant that such devastation is being planned; it’s not being planned openly. Many of the moves are under the cover.

“[College staff] don’t disclose their intentions and if they achieve all their plans, they would be responsible for ecological and environment and avian destruction.

“We’re not in it for money, we just want to see something preserved that someone else could have.”

He added residents worried the college was buying up land, such as Banbury Road’s Fairfield Villa in 2016, in a ‘pincer movement’ so it could build the development.

University College already owns about 400 bedrooms for students, with 300 at its main site off High Street in the city centre. Others are at the college’s annexe in Banbury Road and at a third site in Iffley Road.

Oxford’s universities are under increasing pressure from the city council to take their students out of the private rental market and to accommodate them themselves.

A cap of 3,000 students in the private rental market for both Oxford and Oxford Brookes universities has regularly been exceeded over recent years.

At the last count, for 2017/18, 3,174 full-time Oxford students were not in college accommodation. Another 4,089 Brookes students were living outside university halls of residence.

Professor Paroissien said he had been in contact with county councillor for St Margaret’s, John Howson, to convey his concerns over the potential use of the site.

A spokeswoman for the college said: “University College engaged with the local residents earlier this month at a first public consultation on its proposed North Oxford development.

“Follow-up discussions with local residents have occurred already and will continue over the summer months culminating in a further public consultation in September.

“The site is currently home to university undergraduate and postgraduate students. The development scheme is maturing in a manner that respects and enhances existing mature specimen trees and orchard areas, and the North Oxford Conservation Area setting.”

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The spokeswoman added: “Fundamentally, it will improve the accommodation and facilities for the College and permit more of its students to be accommodated on its own premises, thereby reducing demand on the City’s limited lower cost housing stock.

“These North Oxford Development plans, in their current form, are available on the College’s website, and we welcome further comments from all interested parties.”

In papers on the college’s website, it said the ‘landscape-led proposal’ would ‘properly celebrate the existing mature specimen trees’ around the site.