APPROVAL of plans for a £60m education centre has been delayed due to an Oxford University offering ‘no evidence’ for why the development needs to be so big.

Planning officers had recommended the Saïd Business School’s proposal to turn Osney Power Station into an executive education centre for approval but at a West Area Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday councillors raised concerns over the size of the scheme.

Along with 121 bedrooms, the building would have four teaching rooms, a kitchen, a restaurant, a bar and a terrace overlooking the River Thames at the back of the power station, which was built in 1892 for the Oxford Electric Company.

Full details about the business school's plans for Osney power station

Ann Sherry, who lives on nearby Arthur Street, however, spoke on behalf of several neighbours who would have the light into their homes impacted by the current designs.

She said residents were broadly in favour of the site being used for education so it did not 'fall into disrepair' but that the school needed to compromise on the number of bedrooms.


Ms Sherry suggested 80-100 would still be a 'significant' increase on the 63 at Egrove Park, near Kennington.

Quizzed by councillors about why it needed to be so big, the business school’s dean, Peter Tufano, said that was the only way to make it viable for the types of short courses and clients it needed to attract, adding in its current form it would 'just about break even'

Officers told committee members that while there was a 'marginal' breach of light-blocking rules this did not outweigh the benefits of developing the unused site.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth praised the 'sympathetic' design but said: “The business school has asserted the scheme would not be viable if it was smaller but they have provided no evidence for that.”

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Sara Beck, chief operating officer at the business school said they were 'naturally disappointed but respect' the committee's decision.

She added: "We will be working closely with our architects and advisors to address the questions raised by the Planning Committee and will refine our proposals accordingly.

"We are firmly committed to being a considerate neighbour in the local community.”