PLANS for new student accommodation buildings have been approved, despite a war of words between two Oxford colleges.

The two student blocks, totalling 72 rooms at St Hilda’s College, were given the green light by Oxford City Council’s planning committee amid fears raised by Christ Church College and the possible impact on the college’s popular meadow.

The existing principal’s lodgings at St Hilda’s will be demolished, alongside the gym, car park and storage units.

In their place will be the two new accommodation blocks, plus a replacement gym, principal’s lodgings building and offices.

READ AGAIN: New drawings submitted for two new student blocks

However, in June 2021, Christ Church raised its objections when commenting on the application.

The comment, submitted via the city council’s online planning portal, read: “Christ Church is a close neighbour of St Hilda’s College and indeed sold the site of the proposed buildings to St Hilda’s.

“The proposed development will have significant implications for the setting of the college.

“In particular, Christ Church owns the 40-acre meadow, a rare open space and historic managed landscape at the heart of Oxford.

“The redevelopment, will, we believe, have a significant adverse impact on the setting of the Grade I Christ Church registered park and garden.

“We believe that St Hilda’s proposals are driven by a desire to create a certain number of student rooms with little or no consideration or sympathy for the way they will be seen form Christ Church Meadow and thus their impact on the historic landscape.”

thisisoxfordshire: File photo of Christ Church Meadow. Picture: Ed NixFile photo of Christ Church Meadow. Picture: Ed Nix

At the planning meeting, St Hilda’s bursar Chris Wood said: “In 2014, St Hilda’s set out an ambitious plan to offer all undergraduates accommodation for the duration of their degrees. This latest project will fulfil that vision.

“Importantly its design seeks to minimise visual impact using ceramic cladding across multiple buildings.

“We have thought carefully about our immediate environmental impact and in preparing this submission, we have consulted widely and in depth with amongst others, your officers, Historic England, the Botanic Garden, The Twentieth Century Society and the Oxford Civic Society.”

thisisoxfordshire: GV of St Hilda’s College in Oxford. Picture: Ed NixGV of St Hilda’s College in Oxford. Picture: Ed Nix

A report prepared for councillors praised the application for freeing up housing for the open market.

The report noted: “The development would make best and most efficient use of the land to provide purpose-built student accommodation for St Hilda’s College and release housing back to the open market.

“There would be no significant adverse impact on neighbouring residential amenities as a result of overlooking, loss of privacy, overbearing, visual intrusion, noise or overshadowing.

“Subject to relevant conditions, the development would not result in an adverse impact in terms of flooding and drainage, land quality, noise, and air pollution.”

The plans are the second stage of providing new student rooms at St Hilda’s, taking the total on-site to 318, with 44 bedrooms off-site.

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

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