Lincoln pitches “surplus to requirements”

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Lincoln pitchHousing policy proposed by Oxford City Council reveals that Lincoln College considers its sports ground to be “surplus to requirements”.

The Sites and Housing Plan, which was drawn up in February last year, identifies Lincoln’s pitches in Bartlemas Close as a potential site for residential development with the College, claiming that “there is a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years”.

The draft policy aims to tackle the housing shortfall in Oxford by committing to build 8,000 dwellings by 2026 and lists 44 sites including the Bartlemas Close sports ground. The document explains that the “loss of the majority of the sports facility is considered justified because of the need for and benefits of new housing.”

While The Oxford Student understands that Lincoln College has no immediate plans to develop the site, the proposed policy would grant planning permission for the construction of houses at the sports ground.

Lincoln students expressed concern about the proposals. Michael Zhang, the Sports Rep for Lincoln JCR, said: “As a small college, in terms of sports, we punch above our weight, and we are now competing toe-to-toe with the biggest colleges.

“Developing on our sports ground would be a major setback to Lincoln sport, and an unnecessary one. Lincoln is doing well financially and it seems quite short-sighted.”

According to the proposal, Lincoln would share Jesus College’s adjacent pitches should any redevelopment take place.

But Alec Gower, captain of Lincoln’s football first team, added: “The Lincoln community draws great pride from its sport, and to lose ‘Fortress Barties’ would be a terrible shame, as well as being impractical.”

A Lincoln student, who did not wish to be named, added: “If this decision did go through, Lincoln students would be very unhappy about this. Sport means a lot to the college.”

The Council’s assessment of the soundness of Lincoln’s proposal stated: “The College control the space and use the facilities, so it is their decision whether the open space is needed or not.”

However when addressing how soon the site could become available for development, the assessment continued: “The site is owned by Lincoln College who proposed the site during the Call for Sites in 2009 indicating that the site is available now”. It continued: “The site could be delivered in the short term (first five years).”

A statement submitted to the Council on behalf of Lincoln College in July 2012 by JPPC Chartered Town Planners claimed: “In accordance with the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), the site is available for development now, is within a suitable location for development and there is a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years.”

A consultation process took place between 10th February and 23th March last year to gather comments on the proposals listed in the policy.

Potential residential development was opposed by the Oxfordshire Green Party, which submitted a statement to the Council voicing their concerns.

They stated: “This proposal will reduce open space in East Oxford as well as reducing playing field space… We would oppose the loss of open space in this area and consider less environmentally sensitive sites.”

However the independent planning inspector’s report, published on 2nd January 2013, stated: “The loss of some of these open spaces has been criticised and the evidence base supporting their allocation has also been questioned.

“But in principle, I consider that all of these allocations are supported by proportionate evidence, including that contained in the Oxford Green Spaces Study and the Playing Pitch and Outdoor Sports Strategy 2012-2026, and are sound.”

The report also clarified that a cricket pitch must be retained at the Bartlemas ground “unless alternative provision is made”.

According to the Oxford City Council website: “The Sites and Housing Plan will be able to be taken to Council on 18th February 2013 for adoption.”

Lincoln College was unavailable for comment when contacted by The Oxford Student.

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