Oxford Castle Mill Port Meadow flats: Report criticises planning

The Castle Mill development The five-storey accommodation blocks by the River Thames provide 439 units of student accommodation

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An independent review of how student flats came to be built near an Oxford riverside beauty spot has criticised planning procedures in the city.

The £21.5m Castle Mill development at Port Meadow has been widely criticised as ugly and spoiling the view.

The review found the development could have been better co-ordinated and consultation was inadequate.

The city council said it accepted the report and would improve public consultation over planning issues.

The five-storey accommodation blocks on Roger Dudman Way, with 439 units of Oxford University graduate accommodation, overlook a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The independent report carried out by Vincent Goodstadt, a former President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said the council has carried out its statutory obligations in handling the planning application.

However it said the authority failed to consult with those most closely affected by the scheme and how the visual impact of developments is assessed should be improved.

"The controversy created by the Roger Dudman Way development lies in series of separated but clearly inter-related individual decisions, assumptions and judgements made at each stage of the planning process. The combined effect resulted in inadequate consultation on the proposals; and a less detailed assessment of the proposals than there could have been," the report concludes.

'Organisational incompetence'

Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council, says: "I agree with the report that, with the benefit of hindsight, the Council and other organisations could have done more in this particular case."

He said an "action plan" would be prepared to implement the report's broader findings.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said the review contained "very damning findings" and failed to address issues including why an Environmental Impact Assessment was not carried out.

"Even with the most positive spin the city council can put on it, this still adds up, at the very least, to severe organisational incompetence and a lack of checks and balances in the current planning system," it added.

In October, a High Court judge ruled there would not be a judicial review of the planning decision.

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