Grave situation

The Blavatnik School of Government’s controversial new building on Walton Street  was granted planning permission this week.

This is despite the building project requiring the disinterment of several hundred dead bodies

The planning application was approved in a Council meeting, with seven of the nine committee members voting in favour.

The building will now go ahead on the site of the graveyard of the former Radcliffe Infirmary, which is thought to contain between 500 and 700 dead bodies, all of which will need to be disinterred.

Most of the debate in the committee meeting was centred around the height of the building, which stands at 22 metres, four metres taller than the usual 18.2 metre restriction on the height of buildings in central Oxford.

Yet the building was approved, with councillors feeling that in this case, the exceeding of the height restriction was appropriate.

Calum Miller, Chief Operating Officer of the School, commented: “We are delighted that the Councillors have voted to approve our planning application.

“Throughout the consultation process, we made strenuous efforts to engage with the community and provide clear and detailed information to explain the rationale behind the building design and respond to concerns and questions raised.”

However not all Jericho residents felt this was the case. The building has provoked strong opposition, in particular from David Freud, of the family who own Freud Cafe. The new Blavatnik School building will be situated next to the former Church of St Paul, now home to Freud’s.

He expressed his feelings that the building had been approved, in his opinion, without due process: “There wasn’t a proper consideration of the merits of application, it was quite clear to everyone that was there that the decision to approve it had been taken irrespective of the arguments.”

He criticised the behaviour of the employees of the Blavatnik School of Government, who attended the meeting to support the application: “I was frankly, also, saddened and depressed, that people from the Blavatnik School of Government should have thought it was appropriate to pack the meeting and cheer as if it were a circus instead of letting reasoned debate win the day.

“The building is not only going to be higher, but it’s going to be lit up…and that’s quite a major change to a city like Oxford.”