AN OXFORD University college has appealed against a planning decision that halted a new accommodation block in a conservation area.

St Cross College wants to build 53 student bedrooms, a lecture theatre and library at the north-west side of its St Giles campus.

It would result in a second quadrangle being created, with the new L-shaped building at the back of the college along its boundary walls with Pusey Street and Pusey Lane, in Oxford’s central conservation area next to the Grade II listed Pusey House Chapel.

The college has hired property consultancy firm Montagu Evans to oversee the project.

It says it needs more accommodation and is currently only able to house 18 students on site.

But Oxford City Council’s West area planning committee blocked the plan in October because councillors feared the size and design would impact on the character of the area.

The decision went against recommendations made by the council’s officers.

College officials have now appealed, asking Government inspectors to review the decision.

In a statement, the college said: “We believe the design would be an appropriate and interesting addition to the city.

“By housing more of our students in the college, the scheme will ease the burden on Oxford’s rental market.”

West area planning committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen said the college was “well within its rights”.

But he added: “The council is sure its decision is the right one and we look forward to the inspector upholding it.”

The design was created by Níall McLaughlin Architects, which said it aimed to fit it in with the existing 19th century buildings.

But Oxford Civic Society opposed the work.

Chairman Peter Thompson said: “We have no objections to development on that site, but we felt there was no synergy between the proposed designs and the older buildings.

“It would have been detrimental to surrounding architecture, boundary walls and the college chapel.

“We have huge respect for the architects, but we do not feel the design produced was appropriate.”

The appeal commenced on March 19 but no decision date has been announced.

St Cross College, founded in 1965, is an all-graduate college named after St Cross Road, site of the college’s first buildings.

The St Giles campus became its main home after officials acquired a 999-year lease from the Dr Pusey Memorial Fund in 1981.