Port Meadow Environment Statement

Hulton Park

13th November 2014

‘Substantial’ harm finally acknowledged and one storey off the buildings is an option! Help us make it happen

For two years, CPRE Oxfordshire and the Save Port Meadow Campaign have been fighting the Oxford University accommodation blocks at Port Meadow and questioning how Oxford City Council could ever have given these monstrosities planning permission.

One year ago, we took the Council and University to court and they finally offered a full retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Now, the University has at last published its Environment Statement, which outlines the impacts of the development and possible mitigation.

The truth about the impacts

The Environment Statement finally comes clean on the impacts of these accommodation blocks on Port Meadow:

It says: ‘the sensitivity of various landscape and visual receptors is judged to be moderate or high, the magnitude of effect is judged to be medium or high, and the level of effect is considered to be moderate or substantial adverse.’

The development also has a ‘high adverse impact‘ on four high value heritage assets: St. Barnabas church; Port Meadow; the river Thames and towpath; and the Oxford skyline.

The proposed options for mitigation

Three possible options are proposed:

Option 1: brick cladding of the buildings and tree planting – the majority of landscape and visual impacts would still be ‘substantial’ with some reduced to ‘moderate’.

Option 2: as Option 1 plus flattening out the roofs – the majority of landscape and visual impacts would still be ‘moderate’ with some remaining as ‘substantial’

Option 3: as Option 2 plus removal of one floor from six buildings – this reduces most of the impacts to ‘slight to moderate’ in winter, and ‘slight’ in summer when plants are in leaf.

Oxford University has agreed to Option 1 but says it cannot afford to do more. We say the University has recently raised nearly £3 billion for prestige building projects so claiming poverty does not wash, especially when they could have acted much sooner and avoided these costs.

Only 38 rooms!

Oxford University, and Oxford City Council officials, also claim that all this damage is justified by the exceptional need for student accommodation.

This is clearly nonsense as there was existing, uncontroversial planning permission for the site that would have provided almost the same amount of accommodation but without anywhere near this level of impact.

Removing one storey from the buildings will only reduce the accommodation by 38 rooms – a ridiculously small number in return for restoring heritage and landscape sites of international importance.

If all the environmental impacts had been properly identified up front (as they should have been), it is impossible to believe that the buildings would ever have been given planning permission. Trying to justify the harm in retrospect is simply not credible.

What happens now?

The Environment Statement is now open for public consultation. It will then go to Oxford City Council for a decision on which Option to take forward. We believe Option 3 is the only justifiable choice – the only one that will make any significant difference in putting the damage right.

What can you do?

1. PLEASE RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION & SUPPORT OPTION 3 – please tell Oxford City Council that Option 3 is the only option that will put things right and that providing a few extra student rooms is not an ‘exceptional circumstance’ that justifies significant harm to national and international landscape and heritage assets.

Email: planning@oxford.gov.uk by 20 DECEMBER

Write to: Head of City Development, Planning Control and Conservation, Oxford City Council, St Aldate’s Chambers, 109–113 St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DS

Find out more, including how to get a free copy of the Environment Statement Summary via the Oxford City Council website

2. If you live in Oxford, you might like to copy your response to your City Councillor.

3. Contribute to the Campaign fund at www.justgiving.com/portmeadow

Cheques payable to “CPRE Oxfordshire (Save Port Meadow Appeal)” can be sent to CPRE Oxfordshire, Unit 1, London Road, Wheatley, Oxon OX33 1JH


Thank you so much for your ongoing support – we’d never have got to this point without you!

Further info on the Save Port Meadow campaign