Congregation to debate Port Meadow

Hulton Park

9th February 2015

In a potentially historic debate, members of Oxford University’s Congregation will tomorrow, 10 Feb, be considering a resolution to take off the top floor of its hugely unpopular development of flats overlooking Port Meadow.

The motion has been proposed by celebrated TV Historian Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University.

It follows the findings of the retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which the University was forced to undertake after CPRE took Oxford City Council to court over the issue in 2013.   The EIA found that the accommodation blocks had caused significant harm to landscape and heritage assets such as Port Meadow, the river Thames, St Barnabas Church and the Oxford skyline.   It says that removing a floor is the only option that makes a difference to the worst affected and highest value landscapes.  (Read more here.)

If passed, the motion would force the University to lower the height of the buildings, and bring an end to two years of bitter protest in Oxford. 

The University has said it would cost around £30m to remove one storey off the buildings, a sum not seen as credible by campaigners and which has been questioned by the City Council itself.

The Save Port Meadow Campaign Group believe the University is exaggerating the costs of fixing the damage it has caused, in order to scare dons into voting against the motion ,and insist there is a principle of accountability and governance at stake, as well as the protection of Oxford’s heritage.

CPRE Oxfordshire hopes that Congregation members will do the right thing and vote in favour of lowering the buildings, marking a first step in the re-building of the University’s reputation.

The final decision is not likely to be known for a little while, as either side can request a postal vote after the debate.