RENTED homes could be freed up for residents when students move into a new university accommodation block on the River Thames.

Plans to knock down part of the Geoffrey Arthur Building, a complex owned by Pembroke College, and build a three-storey block of 77 new flats in its place will go ahead, after approval by Oxford City Council's west area planning committee.

The application was stalled in January so privacy concerns of residents living near the student block could be addressed.

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At the committee's meeting on Tuesday night, Mike Naworynsky, the bursar of Pembroke College said he had spoken to residents of Baltic Wharf on several occasions since the last meeting, and had agreed to obscure windows which would overlook their homes.

One of the residents, Matthew Reece, spoke at the committee's meeting in January to raise his concerns about how students would be able to look out of their windows and see into his home.

The committee was shown a series of diagrams explaining how blurred or darkened screens over some of the windows would allow light through, but would prevent the students living in the building from being able to peer into Mr Reece's home or garden.

They were also told that desks fixed to the wall would stop students from being able to get close to the windows and look out at other Baltic Wharf homes.

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Ed Nix.

Mr Naworynsky added the new building would be used to house some of the 600 graduate students the college has on the books, most of whom are currently living in privately rented homes or flats.

He said: "This is hugely important to the college in terms of moving graduates into the college. If we are successful with going forward with the project we will be able to house 60 per cent of our graduate community."

The bursar stressed the college was not trying to grow its student population, but just bring the existing numbers into college-owned flats.

He also said residents had been worried about a new gate which would allow cars into an area south of the building, but had assured them this would be used by emergency or delivery vehicles and was not for students.

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The college prevents students from bringing their cars to Oxford if they are living in college-owned flats or in halls.

The new block will replace the existing Damon Wells building, which is used mainly as a communal area.

Alongside the 77 flats, a new four-storey building will be built at the west side of the GAB site, containing eight studio flats.

Oxford Mail:

Views of the new studio flats from across the River Thames. Picture: MICA Architects.

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 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.