‘SIGNIFICANT changes’ have been made to plans for the multi-million Blackbird Leys regeneration project after local people voiced their concerns.

The estate is currently undergoing plans for a £100 million redevelopment to provide at least 250 new homes, new shops, and updated community facilities to the area.

The city council is in the process of delivering the masterplan with its development partner Catalyst. However, following a public consultation in November, aspects of the plan have been altered.

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During a Blackbird Leys Parish Council meeting last week, Roo Humpherson, who is Oxford City Council’s regeneration manager, confirmed many important changes had been made, based on resident’s feedback.

These changes included reducing the height of the proposed block of flats off Knights Road as residents were concerned that this would obstruct views from their houses.

Mr Humpherson said: “The first proposal suggested three or four-story blocks of flats; we are now looking at two-story houses and the whole centre of development at Knights road has changed to include additional greenspace.

“It may not be what some residents want, but Catalyst have made significant changes to the planning as consultations have gone on.”

The process to create the main masterplan is still ‘ongoing’, and there will be more opportunities for the public to express their view on the redevelopment before a planning application is expected to be submitted in May.

Mr Humpherson said: “Catalyst are still going over a number of errors with developing the design, with the view to trying to get a design freeze, where the principles of the regeneration are set by the end of February or the beginning of March.”

Other improvements include making conversations between the architects, the council and estate residents more accessible.

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During the next series of online consultations, ‘breakout’ rooms will be provided so residents can ask consultants at Catalyst more specific questions.

The consultation will also be more ‘widely advertised’ in places such as shop windows, so those who do not have a digital presence will be able to express their views on the project.

Mr Humpherson also said that more one-to-one sessions will be provided.

Some residents who attended the meeting, however, still had questions and concerns about the redevelopment project.

Imade Edosomwan, parish councillor for the Blackbird Leys ward, asked what the ‘benefits’ of the regeneration project were for residents on the estate.

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Mr Humpherson said: “The centre of Blackbird Leys is struggling, the shops are really struggling, they need regeneration, they need work, they need renewal.

“We want to do that and replace it with better facilities.

“In parallel with that, we have a massive shortage of affordable housing.

“If you won’t invest in a place, over time it will deteriorate, bring £100 million worth of investment into the estate will bring regeneration.”

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Several residents also said they were concerned that the community centre will be greatly ‘reduced in size’.

The regeneration manager said that the intention is to make the community centre more ‘viable’ to the estate.

He added:“ It will be one that looks towards the future, that is in the heart of Blackbird Leys.”

Current plans mean that the community centre will no longer have a sports hall and could be smaller than the previous site.

Councillor Linda Smith said regarding the community centre that the sports hall is no longer needed, due to the ‘amazing’ new leisure centre on the estate.

“We really want to look after the Blackbird Leys Boxing Club who use the sports hall. It is a brilliant institution that do brilliant work with young people and adults and the council is working to support the club and build their own premises.”

Throughout the meeting, the positive aspects of the regeneration project were continuously highlighted.

The benefits of the multi-million investment included improving the road and cycling network to help get better links for the estate across the whole city.

These improved transport routes, the council representative said will help access to more jobs.

The project is also said to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.

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Mr Humpherson added: “The new flats are going to be incredibly sustainable, affordable, in the wider sense, effectively zero-carbon to run, which means lower bills, it will give choice for people on the estate that otherwise would have to leave.”

Catalyst has said the current round of on the initial planning application will end in May, just before the planning application is submitted, however, consultation on the scheme will continue through ‘the life of the project’.

A Catalyst spokesperson added: “We’d like to thank all that have taken part in the consultation so far, and following feedback on our webinars we will be working with Oxford City Council to see if we can improve our engagement and carry out more one-to-one, online sessions with local residents.

“Our next round of consultation will focus on the community centre and retail spaces and we’ll be sharing more details on how local residents can get involved in the coming weeks.

“We will also be sharing our latest plans in the near future, highlighting areas that have been changed or altered following feedback from local residents and stakeholders.”

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