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Headington residents oppose international academy plan
PLANS for a 400-student international academy in Oxford have sparked calls for tighter controls on such institutions.
Residents have pledged to fight the newly unveiled scheme, which would see three blocks built in Pullens Lane, Headington.
Plans to redevelop Cotuit Hall are being put forward by the Swiss-based company EF, which acquired the 19th century building from Oxford Brookes University last year.
Residents are unhappy about the scale of the development, which they say is out of keeping with the area.
And they claim it will increase the number of students living in the area, just as Oxford Brookes sets out plans to reduce them.
Residents in surrounding roads and lanes have formed the Headington Hill Umbrella Group to oppose the scheme, with former Oxford Brookes University vice-chancellor Prof Graham Upton a prominent member.
EF is currently completing the redevelopment of the former Plater College, which is also in Pullens Lane and is now a language school for up to 750 students aged over 16. It has 250 residential places.
The two developments would see student numbers in Pullens Lane rising from 250 to 1,150, say residents.
Cotuit Hall, which Brookes sold for £8m on a 125-year lease last year, used to accommodate just over 100 Brookes students.
EF is understood to be planning residential accommodation for 300 on the 1.3 hectare site, with more than 100 living in private rented accommodation.
Prof Upton said: “No-one is opposed to some redevelopment there. It has been in educational use for many years. But the big issue is the mass and scale of the development in the middle of a conservation area.
“These language schools bring a lot of students into Oxford. While there are controls on the number of students which the two universities can have, this sort of development is totally unregulated. Is this proposal right when our local universities are being restricted in their development?
“Oxford Brookes has recently been congratulated on its decision to cut its student numbers to limit the impact on local communities.
“However, the EF group will in effect be cancelling out this development by bringing in almost the same number of new students into the area that Brookes is sacrificing.”
David Armitage, from Rolfe Place, said: “This is a residential conservation area comprising mainly family-sized houses.
“The proposed development will involve the construction of buildings massively out of scale with the character of the area.”
Tess Boswood, from Feilden Grove, said: “What’s the point of having a conservation area if massive developments like this are allowed?”
Philip Waddy, of architects WestWaddy who designed the extension, said: “I would expect some local people to be against any development at Cotuit Hall. But recent consultations have demonstrated there are many who support the redevelopment.
“Our plans retain the original house and three-storey buildings on the site and simply refurbish and refit the interiors. A number of single-storey structures are to be demolished and replaced with three-storey high buildings no higher than the existing buildings.”
He said it would effectively become a boarding school for 16- to 18-year-olds studying for A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate.
There would be 13 live-in staff to minimise any risk of disturbance or antisocial behaviour.
A planning application is expected to be submitted early in May.