ONE of the most controversial planning applications sent to the council this year has been refused.

A whopping 227 people had their say on plans for the Irving Building and land around it on Hertford Street in Oxford, with the application attracting a record number of online comments.

The idea was to completely overhaul the site into three distinct areas: the Irving Building, a new community building facing onto Hertford Street and nine new homes facing onto Essex Street.

The Irving Building, which is a large two-storey Victorian build, is a former infant school which has been empty and unused for several years.

It was first built in 1869 before it was extended in 1899. In 1991, a huge fire destroyed part of the walls which had to be rebuilt.

Most of the Irving Building, as set out in plans online, was to stay the same, with space on the top floor to be let out to businesses, charities, and local groups.

On the bottom floor, a new café was planned to go near the hall which is used for mother and baby groups, prayer groups, Sunday schools and parties.

Oxford Mail: The plot of land from the skies. The plot of land from the skies.

Part of the site, which is Grade II listed, is still a school now – known as the Comper School - in which a nursery and reception class are run by Oxfordshire County Council.

Next to the Irving Building is space where developers had hoped to build a new community building.

The building, earmarked for an area that used to be a canteen before it was demolished in 2005, would have become the new home for the Magdalen Road Church to use as a place of worship.

In earlier plans for the community building, there was also a roof terrace but in the latest application this was removed after complaints from neighbours.

Other concerns raised included one from the Comper School, which said that the playground used by the children would be overshadowed by the new community building.

The land in front of the Irving Building was previously used as a large playground and old school car park, but in the new plans, the idea was to redevelop this into nine new homes facing Essex Street.

Of those, three would become three-bedroom homes and six would be two-bedroom homes.

But the plans were not met with enthusiasm, and last month, Oxford City Council refused them and in documents online.

They explained that the benefits would not outweigh the ‘harm’ done due to the significance of both buildings – which are considered local community assets.


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