THE environment and historic character of North Oxford could be under threat if plans for a new student campus go ahead, residents have claimed.

University College has submitted plans for seven student accommodation blocks with 150 rooms, as well as a nursery, cafe and gym, on a site at Banbury Road known informally as 'Stavertonia.'

Oxford City Council's planning website has been flooded with comments from nearby residents, worried about the impact of the development on the local area, especially as 132 trees will need to be cut down to make way for the new flats.

One resident said the size of the development needed to be reconsidered to 'suit the urgent realities of the 21st century not the 19th.'

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University College submitted the plans for the seven three-storey buildings earlier this month.

Most of the building work would be concentrated in the south eastern portion of the college-owned land, and would take part in two phases.

There are also plans to extend and refurbish Fairfield House to house students.

Fairfield House was vacated by the Fairfield residential care home in 2018 for a new building nearby.

Oxford Mail:

Red: The boundaries of the site at Banbury Road owned by University College. Blue: The site where most of the new construction will take place. Picture: Google Maps.

The plan is currently open to public comments as part of a consultation which lasts until March 7, before Oxford City Council makes a decision on the scheme on May 15.

A total of 35 public comments had been submitted from residents of nearby streets at the time of writing, many of whom were concerned about the size of the proposed buildings.

Jonathan Fox of Rawlinson Road wrote to the city council to say he was worried about access to the site, especially due to new traffic from the planned nursery on the western side of the site at Woodstock Road.

There will be only one vehicle entrance to the new flats from Banbury Road, though there are two pedestrian access points planned.

Mr Fox said: "The nursery should not be allowed. There are major safety concerns around traffic and parking on Rawlinson Road for the nursery.

"In order to build the nursery, the garden suburb character of the plot proposed will be severely compromised. "

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Sophie Heard of Banbury Road said the new buildings would 'disfigure' the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area.

The conservation is one of 18 across the city, and extra planning controls are often used to maintain the special characters of these designated areas.

Ms Heard added: "The proposal will increase the population density in our area having an impact on the traffic already at its maximum capacity.

"The other point in this over development that strikes me at totally against the whole city council approach towards protection of the environment, even declaring it a climate emergency, is that it will approved the fell of 132 trees destroying 132 environments."

Oxford Mail:

Picture: Niall McLaughlin Architects/ University College

In agreement with Ms Heard was Woodstock Road resident, David Paroissien, wrote to the Oxford Times to say the plans needed to be re-thought to consider their environmental impact.

His letter said: "Rather than deny climate change, why not trim the scale to suit the urgent realities of the 21st century not the 19th?"

Mr Parossien added the trees throughout the old Fairfield site were of value because they helped to soak up carbon emissions, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Government agency Natural England declined to comment for the public consultation, but said it had standing advice for priority wildlife areas, like the trees at the Banbury Road site.

Part of this advice is for Oxford City Council to employ specialist environmental advice on the scheme.

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A report on the effects of cutting down the 132 trees around the site by Forbes-Laird Arboricultural Consultancy said: "Assessing arboricultural impact simply on the basis of number of trees for removal can be highly misleading as it does not provide the full picture.

"At this site many trees proposed for removal are small or of low quality with poor future prospects, and frequently removal is proposed to enhance the landscape, either to provide improved views or to facilitate new structured tree planting of high quality."

In a design statement, University College said the purpose of the site would be to house more of its students within college-owned accommodation, rather than them living in private rented accommodation.

Oxford City Council set limits on the number of students living in private rented accommodation.

University College was given planning permission for a development called the 'Six Pavilions' on the south eastern area of the Banbury Road site in 2015.

But it rowed back on the plans because of residents worries and said the new scheme had been designed to address earlier worries.

To view the proposals in more detail search for the application reference 20/00116/FUL.