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Shame on you

Monday, 29 February 2016 08:44

Shame on you

Oxford City Council accepts University’s mitigation offer on Port Meadow, failing to tackle damage to landscape and heritage.

City Council rolls over

At its meeting earlier this month, Oxford City Council’s West Area Planning Committee voted to accept Oxford University’s offer of mitigation in relation to the damage caused by its obtrusive accommodation blocks at Port Meadow.  

Known as ‘Option 1’, this offer includes some cladding of the  buildings and tree planting.   However, even the University’s own retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment (forced by the CPRE court case) says that this option will mean that the majority of landscape and visual impacts will still be 'substantial' with some reduced to 'moderate'.

Both CPRE and the Save Port Meadow Campaign Group argued strongly for more effective mitigation, but in the end it seems that councillors were too concerned about short-term costs to worry about long-term damage.

Next steps

The University did make a legal commitment to deliver the mitigation within a certain timeframe, and will bring forward a planning application for consultation before July, with a further round of public consultation beyond that.   They also agreed to the Planning Committee’s request that measures are included to address the sun-glare off the roofs, and the continuing night-time light pollution.

We will clearly keep a watchful eye on the application as it comes forward.

Achievements

Sadly, we didn’t achieve the goal of getting a storey or two knocked off the buildings, but that was always going to be a challenge.   However, with your amazing support, we have managed to shine a spotlight on the overly close relationship between the University and the City Council’s Planning Department.  We have highlighted bad practice and forced changes in procedures within both organisations, including the introduction of the City’s Design Panel.

And whilst Option 1 clearly does not deliver what we feel it should, it nonetheless provides what the University says will be £6million of improvements.    That’s £6million that would never have been on the table were it not for our campaign.

Thank you

A huge thank you to all of you who have put time, effort and hard cash into this campaign - we really couldn’t have done it without you.   We have been particularly proud to work alongside the members of the Save Port Meadow Campaign Group, who have been a role model for effective campaigning.   It has been a great example of how CPRE’s expertise and knowledge, combined with passionate and committed volunteers, can challenge even the mightiest of institutions when they get it wrong.

We can only hope lessons really have been learnt.

© CPRE Oxfordshire, 20 High Street, Watlington, Oxfordshire OX49 5PY - phone 01491 612079 - email campaign@cpreoxon.org.uk 

CPRE Oxfordshire is a registered charity, number 1093081, and company limited by guarantee, registered in England, number 04443278

Registered Office: CPRE Oxfordshire, 20 High Street, Watlington, Oxfordshire OX49 5PY