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Rethink over size of wharf’s proposed community centre
A COMMUNITY centre which is part of plans for a redeveloped Jericho Wharf could be scaled back after fears were raised about views of a church.
English Heritage (EH) has said the proposed centre is too large and will block views of the neighbouring St Barnabas Church from the banks of Oxford Canal.
Now the developer of the scheme, Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF), has said it will consider changes.
Commenting on the planning application, Richard Peats, historic buildings adviser for EH, wrote: “We would wish to see a reduction in size of this building. Key to delivering this would be reducing the number or size of rooms provided.
“The provision of halls and meeting rooms is very generous and [we] would question whether the need could be met with a more modest building.”
Mr Peats said EH would not recommend approval of the scheme to Oxford City Council until changes were made.
The comments raise further questions about the designs for the building, which have been criticised by the Jericho Wharf Trust for being too costly.
If built to proposed specifications, the community centre would be 70.5ft high, compared to the 73.5ft-high main section of the church. The bell tower is 132ft high.
Responding to EH’s comments, SIAHAF has indicated it would consider scaling back the building’s size.
Spokesman Nick Band said: “Our plans reflect the requirements of the community.
“But of course we would be open to discussions over the scale of the building.”
The community centre designs include a large hall and a smaller one with additional space to lease for offices.
EH also expressed concerns about plans to place solar panels on the canal-facing roof of the centre, claiming they would “marr” its appearance.
Designs for a restaurant were labelled “disappointing” and a children’s play area was criticised because it may also obstruct views of St Barnabas Church from Canal Street.
But in other areas the submission was more positive. Mr Peats said: “In general this is a well conceived scheme which promises to significantly improve the setting of St Barnabas Church.”
The city council was criticised for allowing Oxford University to build the nearby Port Meadow student flats.
Claims the flats obstructed Oxford’s historic skyline prompted the council to create a “design review panel” to allay fears of a repeat incident.
The council is expected to make a decision on the Jericho Wharf application in early autumn.
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