OXFORD University hopes to replace a key building contaminated with asbestos with a new ‘Life and Mind Building’ by spring 2024 at the latest.

The Tinbergen Building, at the junction of St Cross Road and South Parks Road, is the university’s largest teaching and research building.

It was closed in 2017 after asbestos was found ‘throughout’ its structure and has remained shut. It had been used by the university’s zoology and experimental psychology departments.

Planning permission for its partial demolition has been filed with Oxford City Council, with an application for its potential replacement set to be submitted early next year.

Work to remove ‘internal accessible asbestos’ should be completed by November.

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When it was first closed two years ago, about 1,325 people were using the building, including about 600 undergraduate students.

They were moved into temporary buildings to the south of the Tinbergen and the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. Planning permission for those buildings runs out in June 2022 but that could be extended.

Historic England said it is supportive of the Tinbergen’s demolition and that there is a ‘reasonable justification’ for it.

But it said its removal would harm the Central Conservation Area ‘to an extent’.

The building, which has never been listed, was designed by celebrated architect Sir Leslie Martin.

Sir Leslie is still considered to be one of Britain’s most eminent and influential post-war architects. He also co-designed the university’s Grade II* listed St Cross Building, in Manor Road, a short walk from the Tinbergen.

Historic England said work to the Tinbergen means it now ‘does not pass the bar of special interest in a national context’.

A university-led consultation found 95 per cent of people agreed the Tinbergen should be demolished or that enabling works have to be done to make way for a new building.

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If the city council gives permission to demolish the building, that work should be done between December and December 2020.

Work on a new building would be completed between December 2020 and spring 2024, the university said.

The Design Council said it supports the demolition but that a ‘world class building’ will be needed to ‘match the esteemed research and teaching facilities that have been delivered for decades at the plant sciences, zoology and experimental psychology departments’.

Regarding the new building, documents completed on behalf of the university by planning consultants Savills state: “Many of the large, initial design decisions – site layout, building height and mass etc – appear broadly sound but more work is required to ensure these strategic decisions are underpinned by core principles of health and wellbeing of users, energy efficiency and sustainability.”

The building is named after celebrated Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen. He taught at Oxford from the late 1940s and was co-awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1973 for work on social behaviour patterns. He died in the city in 1988.

Oxford City Council approved an extension to the Central Conservation Area in May.

The university formally opposed that on the grounds it would ‘place further constraints’ to ‘limit flexibility of future development opportunities’.