Oxford

Oxford University Port Meadow flats: Judge to examine case

The Castle Mill development
Image caption The five-storey accommodation blocks provide 439 units of student accommodation

A campaign group has been granted a hearing to examine the case for a judicial review of the decision to build student flats near a beauty spot.

The £21.5m Castle Mill development at Port Meadow, by the River Thames, has been widely criticised as ugly and spoiling the view of Oxford's skyline.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) will put its case to a High Court judge on 23 October.

The five-storey university blocks provide 439 accommodation units.

The flats overlook a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

CPRE is seeking the judicial review on the basis of Oxford City Council not carrying out an environmental impact assessment.

'Woefully inadequate'

The council has said the challenge was late as the housing had already been built, and it believed the group's claims were unfounded.

Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said the West Area Planning Committee "should under no circumstances be rushed into making further poor decisions".

"We are not yet convinced that the planning condition on contamination has been met," she added.

"And the mitigation proposals currently suggested by the university are woefully inadequate to counteract the devastating impact of the buildings on Port Meadow and Oxford's historic skyline.

"A few trees growing to approximately half the height of the buildings in 15 years' time will not meet the brief of 'hiding the buildings in summer and softening their impact in winter'

"Key issues such as the height of the buildings and light pollution still need to be addressed."

'Discussions ongoing'

A University of Oxford spokesman said it had "thought carefully" about how best to mitigate the impact of the buildings.

"Some measures have already been put in place, and discussions with the city council and others are ongoing about what more we can do," he added.

"The University will be making representations at the interim hearing in October on the procedural issues raised by the challenge.

"In the meantime, we intend to finish and occupy the buildings by the start of the next academic year in October as planned."

The city council said last month it was carrying out an independent review into the case.

An online petition against the development on Roger Dudman Way has attracted more than 3,000 signatures.

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