A UNIVERSITY college's plan to knock down a student block to replace it with a larger one will be considered by planning chiefs this week.

Oxford City Council's west area planning committee meets tomorrow night, and will discuss Pembroke College's plan to demolish part of an accommodation block at the Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building.

The college wants to build a new three-storey building at the site which sits next to the River Thames, which will contain 77 student rooms as well as communal areas.

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This would replace the existing Damon Wells building, a small student block at the east of the site, which would be demolished.

Alongside this, a new four-storey building would be built at the west side of the GAB site, containing eight studio flats.

Oxford Mail:

Highlighted in green: the new part of the GAB site which will replace current accommodation. Picture: MICA Architects.

All of the new rooms would be aimed at graduate students of the college, to give them somewhere to live in Oxford without having to rent from a private landlord.

There are also plans to improve access to Long Ford Close, a road south of the GAB, for pedestrians and vehicles.

The west area planning committee is recommended by council staff to approve Pembroke College's plans for the new accommodation block.

As part of a legal agreement with the college, the council is asking them to transfer ownership of land at the nearby Grandpont Bridge.

This would allow the council to build 'step-free' access to the footbridge.

The authority is also asking for £80,000 from Pembroke College to help build this step-free access.

London-based MICA Architects is responsible for the design of the new building at the GAB site.

In planning documents, the firm says: “The Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building site presents the opportunity to address the security and access issues with the public realm particularly to the eastern boundary of the site.

“Design proposals seek to open up the space, giving more space back to the public realm and widening the existing public route, whilst improving the lighting and crucially providing passive surveillance along the route.”

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Ed Nix.

MICA Architects is also responsible for the design of the ongoing £36m redevelopment of Jesus College’s Northgate House in Cornmarket Street.

It also designed Keble College’s H B Allen Centre, which opened in October last year.

Members of the public living on nearby streets have raised concerns that the new buildings planned for the GAB might have an impact on their homes.

Leanne Kelly of Whitehouse Road, raised concerns about the lack of details around access in the area if construction work takes place.

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Writing to the council, Ms Kelly said: "The application gives no detail on access to the site. This is not an easy site for works as it is directly on the river and next to residential properties.

"I think that is a really important element to considering the application as it will have an enormous effect on lots of residents and our roads, which are already in terrible condition."

Oxford Mail:

How the new studio flats will look, from across the Thames. Picture: MICA Architects.

Pembroke College's main campus is on Pembroke Square, a mile away from the GAB, where it has accommodation for undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Oxford City Council has a policy its new local plan to reduce the number of university students living in private rented accommodation.

Instead, the council wants students at Oxford University colleges and Oxford Brookes to largely live in university accommodation.

The council's local plan, which has just faced an examination from government inspectors, had details about the maximum number of students it wanted living in private rented accommodation.

In the draft plan, the council aimed to have no more than 6,000 students in private housing.

The local plan is currently subject to changes recommended by the two inspectors.

The GAB is named after a former master of the college and diplomat, who held his post from 1975 until 1984. His successor was Sir Roger Bannister, who was in post at Pembroke College until 1993.

For more information see planning reference 19/02032/FUL at the Oxford City Council website.