A RIFT between a developer and a Jericho residents’ group could threaten the £20m redevelopment of the Castle Mill boatyard.
The scheme, which would create a new community centre, boatyard, nursery, restaurant and 22 homes, will be considered by Oxford city council on Tuesday night.
Officers have recommended to approve the plans that would also see the creation of a “piazza” square between St Barnabas Church and the Oxford Canal.
The project is the fifth attempt to redevelop the site, so far derelict for a decade.
But the Jericho Wharf Trust – an alliance of community groups – will ask councillors to reject the planning application after failing to agree with developer Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHF) on a deal to finance the centre.
Trust chairwoman Phyllis Starkey confirmed negotiations with SIAHF had stalled since last month when plans were due to be considered.
The group wanted a legal agreement to lock the developer into building the community centre and urged councillors to put off a decision until one was obtained.
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But yesterday Mrs Starkey said talks with the developer had gone cold.
In a statement drafted for the west area planning committee that will decide on the plans, the trust wrote: “The likely outcome of approving the application as it stands is that there would be a lucrative private housing scheme, a breached affordable housing policy and little likelihood of compensating community benefits.”
The cooling of relations between the trust and the developer first emerged when plans for the scheme were made public last June.
The trust claimed the cost of the community centre was pushed from £5m to £6.6m because it was placed above the planned boatyard.
Since then it has tried to secure compensation from the developer for the estimated increase. It is understood the group was seeking a commitment that the boatyard and foundations of the centre would be built, as well as a cash contribution of £1m.
But this week Johnny Sandelson, chief executive of SIAHF, said “trust had broken down” between the two sides.
He said: “They came to me with unrealistic financial demands and let it be known that if I didn’t agree they would object to the scheme.
“It is a complicated site to develop and stakeholders need to know they can trust one another. ”
Yet it emerged this week that St Barnabas Church Parochial Council could step in to help find a solution .
The church is at the centre of designs for the square.
It also owns the current community centre in Canal Street to be replaced.
Father Jonathan Beswick said: “The developer has asked to have a conversation with us, so if we can be of help then we will do our best.
“The church is the most significant stakeholder in the scheme and we are keen for people in Jericho to have good public facilities.”
He added: “It has taken a long time to get to this stage.
Who knows how long it would take to get here again.”
The west area planning committee will meet at 6.30pm on Tuesday in Town Hall, St Aldate’s.
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