Worry over building plans by St John’s and Worcester

A consortium formed of St John’s, Worcester and Keir Ventures have proposed a new project to build 500 homes, a business park, and a large hotel in a greenfield site in North Oxford.

These plans have already come under fire from local campaign groups.

Helen Marshall, director of the Oxford branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Traffic and air pollution in the area are already atrocious and CPRE’s concern is that the proposed development will make things worse, badly affecting Port Meadow and other sensitive sites nearby and posing an increased risk to human health.

“A Planning Inspector previously made it clear that these issues should be resolved by the Area Action Plan.   Now, the City and County Councils are trying to kick the ball further down the line and not consider the problems until the planning application stage.”

Ms. Marshall further expressed concerns over the visual problems of the development, particularly the five-storey buildings proposed on higher ground: “Coming hot on the heels of the University’s commitment to ‘do better’ following the lessons learnt from the Castle Mill accommodation blocks, it is worrying to see that St John’s and Worcester Colleges, who own much of the land, may still not be giving adequate consideration to the visual impact of their buildings.’”

The consortium’s submitted plans will propose developing the ‘Northern Gateway,’ an area of Oxford comprising the fields north west of Summertown, including part of Pear Tree Park and Ride.

Although other institutions such as Oxford City Council and Merton College own parts of the land, the three consortium members are pioneering the development.

Just weeks after the controversy surrounding the Castle Mill accommodation, the consortium opened the project to Oxford residents by holding a public exhibition at Oxford Hotel where issues could be discussed. Plans given at the exhibition suggested multiple consultations with the public over the coming months, followed by an application to the planning commission in July.

Work is not expected to start before 2017.

As the members of the consortium have agreed not to comment on issues individually, Worcester College could only reply that studies relating to transport and air quality will be presented at the next consultation event (occurring in March). Other concerns have been aired over the need for another primary school, and the fact that homes surrounded by traffic will create a ‘slum’.

Neither Oxford City Council nor the consortium press office replied to requests for comment.

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