Oxford University’s student accommodation at Port Meadow was named amongst the candidates for the 2013 Carbuncle Cup, the Building Design Online prize for the UK’s worst building. However, the award went instead to the New Hall project at University College London.
The series of five-storey complexes, which comprises of 439 units, has received much criticism for obstructing the view of the Dreaming Spires from Port Meadow, a valued green space in North Oxford. Since December 2012, the Save Port Meadow Campaign has been working with members of the community to, at the very least, lower the buildings and repair the landscape.
Matthew Sherrington for the Save Port Meadow Campaign commented that, “The Carbuncle Cup was just a bit of frivolous fun, even if it did heap national media embarrassment on the University. The serious issues are the failings between the City Council and the University in ever building it in the first place.”
A second year classicist responded to the news, saying, “Obviously it’s terrible that Oxford is losing these historic views, but some foresight would have been helpful in not approving the building plans in the first place.”
The Save Port Meadow Campaign is not unsympathetic to the need for student housing in Oxford but notes, “The main concern has been the size of the buildings, exceeding the tree line by two storeys and so ruining both the views and the experience of Port Meadow.”
The Save Port Meadow Campaign is concerned with just that. Sherrington said, “There is now an independent inquiry underway into the whole planning fiasco.” He has partnered with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to assess the legality of the development.
Indeed the £21.5m construction has received an outcry of negative feedback from thousands of community members and the CPRE is scheduled to take the case to High Court on 23 October.
The proposed lowering of the buildings would require an expense in the millions of pounds, at which a recent graduate in English sided with the campaigners, stating “If the council permitted the building to be built in the first place, they should bear the costs of having them reduced to restore the valuable scenery of Oxford.”