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Call to use campus site for housing
Plans for a St Hilda’s College development, above, on a site in Chapel Street, East Oxford, have been dropped
A RESIDENTS’ group has called for a major East Oxford development site to be reviewed after college campus plans collapsed.
St Hilda’s College has told developers it no longer wants to go ahead with multi-million pound expansion plans on a former builder’s yard in Chapel Street, just off Cowley Road.
The news has prompted calls for the site to be used for family housing.
The development would have included accommodation for 166 students, a courtyard, sunken gymnasium and single-storey pavilion amphitheatre.
The college had been working on the scheme for the last four years, with planning permission granted in the autumn by Oxford City Council.
St Hilda’s is understood to have still been discussing plans in November with the developers .
But the college has now written to the council to say it has had a late change of heart.
The letter said that the college governing body had decided it did not want to commit “to such a large financial risk” in the scheme’s present stage of development.
The scheme on the site of the Travis Perkins builders’ yard would have been one of the biggest Oxford schemes in recent years and a major expansion of the formerly all-women college, whose main campus is set in four acres of gardens on the banks of the River Cherwell near Magdalen Bridge.
The scheme upset some local residents, who claimed that the three and four-storey blocks were too big in a residential area, largely made up of two-storey Victorian homes.
With Travis Perkins having already vacated the site, developers Ardant/WE Black said they still hoped development could go ahead.
Richard Gamlin, a director of Ardant, said the site was being marketed both nationally and locally with planning permission for student accommodation.
Mr Gamlin said: “This was a major project for St Hilda’s and for us.
Travis Perkins moved from Chapel Street this week.
“We had been working with the college on this scheme long before it received outline planning consent.But St Hilda’s says an internal decision has been taken not to proceed.
“We have already had a lot of interest in the site.
We might develop it ourselves or sell it for another party to develop.
“We are presently looking at what opportunities there are.”
St Hilda’s bursar Mr Richard Berry declined to comment on the reasons for pulling out.
He said: “You need to speak to the developers. It is nothing to do with us.”
East Oxford campaigner and Divinity Road Residents’ Association member Sietske Boeles believes the scheme now needs to be looked at again, and family housing should be considered.
She said: “One of the reasons the scheme was approved is St Hilda’s promised to vacate houses occupied by its students on Iffley Road, so housing would be freed up for the general housing market.”
She said properties would no longer be vacated by St Hilda’s, while there was a real possibility of the Chapel Street site accommodating language school students or others, swelling further the student population in East Oxford.