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Heritage lobby forces Mather to rethink Ashmolean Museum plan

Heritage campaigners have forced changes to Rick Mather Architects' proposals for the redesign of Charles Cockerell's Grade I-listed Ashmolean Museum.

The Oxford Civic Society and the Victorian Society have successfully lobbied both the practice and council planners to alter plans for the museum's entrance and lobby. But the groups still have reservations about the project - which goes in front of Oxford's planning committee next week.

If the scheme gets the green light it will include the remodelling of the galleries and the museum's entrance facilities, leaving untouched the controversial exterior access work carried out by Stanton Williams in 1998.

However, the conservationists have forced Mather to rework the original proposals, and retain Cockerell's celebrated semicircular apsidal entrance.

Victorian Society case officer Richard Holder said he was pleased to have won the concessions from the museum but that 'there is still a long way to go'.

'They still want to demolish a large amount of the listed galleries and for me there is no evidence that this is a necessity, ' he told the AJ. 'There are also important views through these galleries that need to be preserved.

'The new Mather interiors will be rectangular spaces with no architectural merit. It seems the museum wants modern spaces for their own sake.'

But the Oxford Civic Society's chairman Tony Joyce said he was 'delighted' to have won the changes, adding that he now feels he can support the proposals.

'We were very concerned about what was left of the original Cockerell buildings, ' he said. 'But now we have won these concessions, we believe that the project is in a strong position to win planning permission.'

Rick Mather Architects' project director Gavin Miller agreed, saying the practice was 'always prepared' to listen to the heritage lobby.

'We have received their concerns and looked at their thoughts, ' he said. 'We have stated that we are more than happy to enter into a discourse and make changes. This is what we have done and we now feel confident about the future of the scheme.'

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