BUILDING a massive set of student flats was described as 'undermining conservation and neglecting community' as it was pushed through against the wishes of residents in leafy North Oxford.

University College was given permission for the 150 rooms across seven three-storey blocks at Banbury Road by Oxford City Council's West Area Planning Committee on Tuesday night.

The development, named Fairfield but nicknamed 'Stavertonia', also has room for a cafe, a nursery and gym, and includes cycleways and footpaths running through gardens in what has been dubbed a second campus for the college.

But a group of North Oxford residents who spoke at the planning meeting were worried about 'Univ's' plans to but down 132 trees on the land and how the new buildings would look alongside the historical Victorian architecture in the area.

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Objecting to the plan, Stephen Page said: "Your planning officers recommend approval an don't find fault in Univ's army of consultants's plan and the proposals do look pretty with their magically mature trees.

"But hundred of objectors say these proposals damage climate, undermine conservation and neglect community."

His concerns were echoed by three other speakers, who were given extra time to air their views.

In contrast, the college bursar, Andrew Grant, said the plans were 'comprehensive' and had taken into account the views of local people in a long consultation process.

Oxford Mail:

Existing student flats at the site built in the 1960s. Picture: Ed Nix

His argument in favour of the new campus was supported by city council staff, who said that though hundreds of trees were going to be removed, many of them were of 'poor quality' and were not native British species.

They are set to be replaced with a range of new native trees.

A biologist Dr Tim King, had written to the council to contest the college's assuranced that biodiversity would see a 'net increase' after cutting down and replacing trees, but planning officers were not convinced by his analysis.

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Lib Dem councillor Liz Wade asked her colleagues on the committee to consider deferring the application because of worries about flooding.

Ms Wade said there were 'hidden streams' under parts of North Oxford, including the culverted Staverton stream under Staverton Road, many of which Thames Water did not know the location of.

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A 'newsletter' sent out to support the development last week

She said a Victorian map laying out their locations had been lost, and a survey into the potential of flooding needed to be done in light of these hidden streams.

Committee chairman Colin Cook said her concerns had been 'flatly contradicted' by advice from official groups who had been consulted on the scheme.

None of the other committee members agreed with her reasons to delay the application and instead they voted in favour of Univ's plans going ahead.

See planning reference 20/00116/FUL for more information about Fairfield.