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University building ‘is threat to city skyline’
CONCERNS have been raised over a proposed £30m addition to the Oxford skyline.
With Oxford University facing criticism over the impact of student accommodation blocks on historic views from Port Meadow, questions are now being raised about the proposed five- storey Blavatnik School of Government.
Opponents say the 22-metre-high building in Walton Street exceeds the height limit introduced by the city council to protect Oxford’s famous skyline.
Under the city’s planning policy, no building within a 1,200-metre radius of Carfax Tower should be allowed to exceed 18.2 metres.
But after submitting a planning application for the circular building, the university said the structure should be viewed as “unique”.
The flagship building on part of the former Radcliffe Infirmary site, created thanks to a £75m donation from billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, is designed by celebrated Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.
But Peter Thompson, chairman of Oxford Civic Society, warned against a repeat of “the hideous” Castle Mill student block, which acquired planning permission.
He said: “We are concerned about the height of the Blavatnik building, particularly the top floors which consist of two drums. The designers have attempted to justify the height by saying that it will contribute to the skyline, but it is not interesting enough to do that – it could just be the top of a block of flats. It is high enough to be visible but mundane in its design.”
David Freud, owner of Freud Bar next door to the site, said: “We only became aware of the planning application a week ago. Our building looks quite grand in its setting, but it is going to be completely overwhelmed.”
Helen Bunting, spokesman for the Blavatnik School of Government, said: “This is a unique project and we hope that local residents will distinguish between it and other developments. We are confident the city planning authorities will consider the application on its own merits.
“One part of the Blavatnik School of Government building will exceed the height limit by four metres. This part is stepped back from Walton Street so its main impact will be on the centre of the University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter site, not on Jericho residents and businesses.
“Where the building is visible we believe it will enhance the skyline. The variation in the building’s height means it will be in keeping with the variability of Oxford’s historic skyline.”