CONTROVERSIAL plans by a Chinese university to open a B&B opposite its campus near Oxford have been refused.

The change of use application for Ripon Lodge, which is within the Oxford Green Belt, had been recommended for approval by planning officers from Vale of White Horse District Council, despite objections by dozens of Boars Hill residents.

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But at a planning committee meeting on Wednesday the scheme, designed to house visiting academics, was rejected, with councillors stating it was ‘considered to cause harm to the character of the area and to the purposes of the Green Belt’.

Ripon Lodge is a private residential home based on land at the northern side of Jarn Way, opposite Foxcombe Hall.

Oxford Mail:

Ripon Lodge. Picture: Google Maps

Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) bought the Grade-II listed hall in 2016 from the Open University and has been working since then to transform it and the surrounding 15-acre plot into its first base in the UK.

An initial application for the site, including a lecture theatre, gymnasium and rooms for almost 100 students, was withdrawn in August last year, with a revised scheme expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

The Ripon Lodge accommodation would have been able to house up to nine guests as well as the owner/manager.

No structural changes or external alterations were proposed to the house, which was bought by PHBS in May, 2018.

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The planning officers' report noted there had been 53 objections from residents, include campaign group Friends of Boars Hill, but said officers had 'carefully weighed' the effect of the proposal on the area, and on the area’s contribution to the Green Belt, against the 'great weight' encouraged by national and local policy for supporting educational uses.

It also said the initial application, originally submitted in February, had been made 'much more' specific to include use only by visiting academics to the campus.

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Concerns raised from residents included the principle of converting a house into a B&B in the Green Belt, fears over increased traffic as well as the view the application was 'piecemeal' and should be included in the full application by PHBS for the entire site.

Councillor Val Shaw, ward member for Wootton who called in the application, said the Ripon Lodge plan was 'inextricably linked' to the one due to go in for Foxcombe Hall and would not be needed if not for the university opposite.

Councillor Jerry Avery added he believed it was the 'thin end of the wedge' and all six committee members attending the meeting voted to refuse the application.