RESIDENTS fighting a 400-student international academy in Headington say the scheme would be in breach of planning rules.

Consultation on the scheme, for a private school for international students in Pullens Lane, comes to an end this week.

Objectors claim the Swiss-based company EF are effectively proposing a change of use for the sensitive site, without the correct planning application.

The Headington Hill Umbrella Group, formed by local residents’ associations, commissioned a report from property consultants Kemp and Kemp that it is submitting to Oxford City Council.

The report claims creating a boarding school on the site would amount to a change of use, with EF’s planning application based on the “false premise” that existing permission allows the site to be used for teaching.

EF acquired Cotuit Hall, a 19th century building, from Oxford Brookes University last year. For many years it operated as a student hostel but HHUG claim “no provision for regular teaching and learning” exists.

HHUG spokesman Tony Besse said: “We regard the proposal to create a residential school for 408 on the site as a change of use for which EF should have been required to make an application before submitting its present planning application. The application is also contrary to the city’s development plan which states explicitly that student accommodation cannot be changed for use for other educational purposes.”

The planning application would see three blocks built in Pullens Lane. Residents are unhappy about the scale of the development, which they say would be out of keeping in the area. And they claim it would increase the number of students living in the area, just as Oxford Brookes was planning to reduce its numbers.

The residents have now won the backing of Oxford Preservation Trust and Oxford Civic Society.

EF say that “a considerable level of misinformation” had initially resulted in people wrongly believing a language school was being proposed, when it was in fact a private secondary school.

EF project manager Anna Ireland was unavailable to comment on the latest claims.