Town and college clash over new accommodation plans

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ST CrossSt Cross has come under fire this week, after plans for new accommodation have met with criticisms from both students and residents.

The proposed buildings, designed by Níall Mc Laughlin Architects, would accommodate 53 students on the St Giles site in 50 cube like apartments. The plans, an extension to the existing 19th century building, also feature five student kitchens, two seminar rooms and a wine cellar.

Currently, of the over 500 students of the graduate college, only 18 per year can live in college.

However, across all its sites the College will have 155 rooms available for the start of term, providing accommodation for 31% of its students.

In its application for planning permission to Oxford City Council, the college stated, “St Cross has a strong reputation for the warmth of its communal life, but its building, though beautiful and central, is too small for a college which now has more than 500 students and 100 fellows.”

It also said that its library had only 12 workspaces, and that “its facilities do not provide the college experience that students rightly expect”.

However, these efforts have come under scrutiny from a few different angles.

Stacey Boorman, a Brasenose historian commented, “It does sound slightly pointless, if they’re adding on only 50 student rooms for a college of 500 people.”

She added: “Also it’s ridiculously Oxford that they’ve prioritised adding a wine cellar when space is so minimal”.

Legally, however, some progress by the college is necessary. Oxford City Council rules state that the university must have fewer than 3000 matriculated students living in private accommodation.

A further line of criticism has been aimed at the design of the buildings. Local resident Judith Kennard, who lives in the nearby Beaumont Buildings, commented to the Oxford Mail that the plans were “horrid”.

She said, “We cannot make sense of it. I don’t think it is appropriate. If that is what is being proposed it has a long way to go.”

However, general student outlook appears to be that the design is a better attempt at modernizing university buildings, in contrast to what one student called “hideous concrete 60s buildings” that have been built throughout the town in recent years.

As the deadline for public comments on the application nears, John Landers, , chairman of the St John Street area residents’ association, has requested that the date be extended to August 15.

He said, “Many residents are concerned not only that the proposed building is over-large for the confined space available, but also that its very contemporary design is too far out of keeping with its neighbours.”

St Cross was not available for comment.