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Oxford professors slam student residences scheme

A student accommodation scheme in Oxford has been heavily criticised by senior professors at both the city’s universities

The Castle Mill project, designed by Kent-based practice Frankham, will create 312 residential units for post-graduate students in the Port Meadow area.

But the four and five-storey blocks have been slammed by campaigners and academics for blocking views of Oxford’s famous skyline.

Oxford University professor of history of the church Diarmaid MacCulloch wrote in The Times newspaper: ‘Modern bureaucrats in their unlovely offices in Wellington Square have been putting up a Stalinist row of graduate accommodation blocks along the edge of Port Meadow, looming arrogantly above its tree-line, rudely hogging the views towards the dreaming spires.’

Ian Davis, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes Univeristy’s School of Architecture, wrote to the same newspaper backing Diarmaid’s views.

‘There have been some architectural triumphs at Oxford,’ he wrote. ‘But the new Port Meadow horrors join the ranks of some horrendous university failures. Shame on Oxford University for this new evidence of its disregard for the noble art of architecture and its responsibility to its city.’

Oxford University said the Castle Mill project would provide accommodation for hundreds of students, reducing pressure on housing in the city.

A spokesperson added: ‘We take our role as guardians of the beauty of Oxford seriously. Every significant development project in Oxford, whether involving the collegiate university or others, requires a careful balance of interests and needs—and only proceeds, as in this case, after full official scrutiny and approval.

‘The skyline of Oxford is a constantly evolving blend of the old and the new, the natural and the built. We recognise that the development has aroused some strong feelings and that these have every right to be heard. Concerns about the view of the buildings from Port Meadow have been and continue to be reflected in discussions with planning officers.’

The south phase of the Castle Mill project completed in 2005 and Oxford City Council granted planning permission for the north phase which is now on site one year ago.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Ed Arthur

    As a past student (architecture) of Oxford Brookes University, I fully concur with Ian Davis. The housing issue in Oxford is a problem worsening every year, but a group of ugly and intrusive blocks are a dumb and poorly thought through way of alleviating this issue.

    If this scheme and others like it go ahead, Oxford will be hidden in the midst of yet more generic residential and mixed use buildings, and will become no different from many other UK towns and cities.

    Oxford has grown organically for many hundreds of years. Let's not fill it with buildings that will come down in 20-30 years. Let's give it something worthy of adding to the tapestry.

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