PLANS to extend a school’s accommodation block have been framed as the ‘next Castle Mill’ by concerned residents.

Private school Cherwell College has applied for planning permission to add a second and third storey to parts of Cherwell House, its boarding house at Osney Lane.

The extension would add 26 new student rooms as well as two one-bed warden flats to the block of flats which sits alongside the west side of the railway tracks south of Oxford station.

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Nearby residents are worried the combined height, length and design of the extended building would be overbearing and would not fit in with nearby Victorian terraced homes.

And they have also expressed dismay at an official report summarising their worries, because they do not think it does their concerns justice.

The New Osney Residents Group has sent a letter addressed to senior members of staff and elected leaders on the city council, including chief executive Gordon Mitchell and council leader Susan Brown.

In the letter, the residents said: “The ‘summary’ of extensive and detailed objections from 61 residents and others engaging with a whole range of issues and relating this to council policy has been reduced to 12 short generic bullet points. This report simply does not convey the substance of the public submissions to the Planning portal.”

They call for the report to be withdrawn and revised ahead of a planning meeting to be held on Tuesday (September 8) which will decide the fate of the planning application.

Oxford Mail:

Cherwell House. Picture: Ed Nix

At one point the letter warns that if the concerns of residents are not fully taken into account, then the plan to add two extra floors to Cherwell House risks repeating ‘the problems surrounding the Castle Mill Development’.

In 2013, an independent review into Castle Mill found that inadequate consultation had contributed to the approval of the Oxford University graduate accommodation block alongside beauty spot Port Meadow.

Though Oxford City Council was found to have carried out its statutory duty by the review’s author Vincent Goodstadt, the five-storey flat blocks have long been criticised as an eyesore.

The 61 objectors to the Cherwell House development have also raised concerns about the sewerage connection from the boarding house, how much extra traffic it might generate, and loss of privacy because of the extra students being able to look over their back gardens from a height.

READ AGAIN about when the plans to extend Cherwell House were announced

Residents also said a previous application for a three-storey building at the site made in 2011 was refused, and that the new scheme does not differ greatly enough from that to warrant a different decision this time.

They have the backing of local MP Layla Moran, who has also written to the council to object to the plans.

In her letter, Ms Moran said: “I ask the Planning Committee to take into account the comments the Planning Inspector made in a previous application and consider whether the current application has the Inspector’s views on board.

“If the current application does not differ from the previous one and the Inspector's comments can be applied to the current application, I ask that the application is refused.”

However, a statement on the design of the building by Adrian James Architects argued the Planning Inspector had only refused the three-storey building because of its design, with a single continuous wall, and was not critical of its height.

Oxford Mail:

An artists impression of the new flats by Adrian James Architects

The architecture firm added: “This is a low-density two-storey development on a site immediately adjacent to the city railway station, within 10 minutes’ walk of the city centre; it is hard to imagine a more sustainable site and one better suited to a higher density development.

“It feels almost immoral that the site is so under-developed.”

And the planning report criticised by nearby residents said the height of the building would not by damaging to Oxford’s heritage.

Oxford City Council’s west area planning committee is due to discuss the plans on Tuesday (September 8).

See more about the proposals at planning reference 20/01139/FUL