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Port Meadow Judgement finalised

Following months of campaigning against the construction of student accommodation near Port Meadow, a High Court judge has ruled that there will not be a judicial review of the decision.

The legal claim, launched by The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) earlier this summer, concerned the environmental impact of the £21.5 million Castle Mill development.

Mr Justice Lewis said in the hearing that, “the intervention of this court is not necessary because it is going to be addressed by the Council and the University realises it will have to co-operate.” The case was heard in Birmingham.

The development, part of a larger scheme to house more of the University’s graduate students, comprises a series of five storey blocks, providing 439 units of student accommodation.

Campaigners worry that the buildings will damage views of the city skyline from the adjacent Port Meadow reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There are also concerns that the development will have adverse environmental effects on the surrounding area.

Oxford University and Council is now composing a voluntary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the site. As the basis for the CPRE case was to complain about the lack of an EIA, in the judge’s view, the campaign group have effectively succeeded in their case.

Toby Porter, spokesperson of the Save Port Meadows campaign group, commented that despite the decision:  “Overall, we are really pleased with the outcome.”

He added: “The Council’s claim for costs against us of £8,500 was refused by the judge, which we take as clear evidence that he respected the merits of our legal case.”

On their website, Oxford University state that they are confident “both that the site is fully environmentally suitable for residential use and, after taking independent legal advice, that we are acting reasonably and responsibly in using the accommodation for its intended purpose.”

However, CPRE have expressed concerns over the lower standards of safety students are having to settle for regarding the levels of decontamination of resident sites prior to their use.

Referring to the earlier stages of planning permission for the development, Oxford City Council spokesman Louisa Dean told The Oxford Mail: “When planning applications are submitted, there is a consultation period for the public to submit their objections.”

“For this application no objections were received by the council raising concerns about the impact of the development on views from Port Meadow.”

CPRE now wait to hear when the public consultation aspect of its EIA will be held.