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Permission granted for University housing project

312 flats and bedsits to be built on former railway land
Anna Leszkiewicz on Thursday 1st March 2012
Photograph: Alice Bullough

University plans to build hundreds of postgraduate student flats and bed­sits on a former rail site have been approved.

Planning permission was granted to the University last Wednesday, which allows 312 flats and bedsits over four and five storeys to be built at unused former railway land near the station.

The new buildings will be an ex­tension to student accommodation at Castle Mill in Roger Dudman Way, which provides graduate housing for couples and families, and will include 208 study rooms, 90 one-bedroom flats, 14 two-bedroom flats, 360 cycle bays and three car parking spaces. It is phase two of a scheme that will provide a total of 436 gradu­ate student units.

However, concerns over the build have been raised, particularly as Wal­ton Well Road is expected to be closed during construction, meaning ac­cess only be available through Roger Dudman. Members of the public, in a report to Oxford City’s west area planning committee, have refereed to existing access along Roger Dud­man way as “poor and dangerous” for both pedestrians and cyclists, as well as calling the project “over ambitious in scale”, and expressing worries over noise levels and working hours during construction.

The Cripley Road Allotment As­sosiation, representing holders of allotments neighbouring the site, also noted potential flooding to al­lotments.

But the report also acknowledged that the land was well-suited to the university’s graduate students be­cause of its good footpath and cy­cle links to the city centre, Walton Street and North Oxford.

As part of the development, a new footbridge will be built to Fid­dler’s Island and paths and light­ing in Roger Dudman Way will be improved. The university has also agreed to re-fence Cripley Road Al­lotments.

Tom Arnold, a Balliol DPhil stu­dent currently living in adjacent Venneit Close accommodation, said “So far, the construction hasn’t been too intrusive or disruptive. It’s a good move from the university in that it’s a good location to develop; but I do feel bad for the holders of the neighbouring allotments, as the finished building will overshadow them and construction may well af­fect them.

“The really annoying thing is the closure of the cycle path to Jericho - it was a major advantage of Castle Mill which is now significantly less ‘central’.”

OUSU Graduate Officer Jim O’Connell commented, “It’s great the University is building affordable quality accommodation for its grad­uate students. There will be some dis­ruption during the building process, but we are working to minimise this. However, it’s absolutely crucial the University shows it appreciates the pressures on graduate students right now as well by making sure it does not raise rents by more than inflation this year, especially after last year’s dramatic increases and the freezing of research stipends.”

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said, “The University has received planning permission to con­struct 312 units of accommodation for graduate students on its existing site at Castle Mill which is located to the north-west of the railway station off the Roger Dudman way.

“This development is significant because it demonstrates the Univer­sity’s commitment to attracting the most talented graduate students to Oxford and to relieving the burden on Oxford’s rental market by provid­ing accommodation to hundreds of additional students.

“127 units were built by the Uni­versity in 2001 so this development will expand the amount of accom­modation provided on that site. The new units will be provided within 8 blocks which will be a mix of 4 and 5 storeys.”

In response to allegations that de­velopment of the site began before permission was granted, the spokes­person continued, “Building on the site did not start until planning per­mission was received – there is other non-University construction work happening in the area.”

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