Models show pulling power of The Magnet

From left, chief executive of Science Oxford, Ian Griffin; trustee, Science Oxford Jonathan Welfare; and chairman of Oxford Civic Society Peter Thompson with James Edwards from architects Foster and Partners

An artist's impression of the new building

First published in News

A STATE-OF-THE-ART science centre will help inspire a generation, exhibition visitors claimed yesterday.

Members of the public viewed the plans for The Magnet, which is proposed in the shadow of the Castle Mound in New Road, and had their say on the scheme for the first time.

The £35m science, discovery and innovation centre will combine the roles of visitor attraction and beacon of knowledge.

But the potential loss of the 100 year-old Register Office, on the corner of Tidmarsh Lane and New Road, has already upset Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, which is seeking to have the building listed.

At the consultation, at Science Oxford, Peter Thompson, chairman of Oxford Civic Society, said: “I think the proposals are very exciting in terms of what the centre is setting out to do.

“This is completely consistent with Oxford being at the centre of scientific innovation. It will inspire the population in general and children in particular. That’s a key part of it all.”

Jan Penrose, 58, of Oxford, while impressed with the plans shown, was disappointed with the loss of the Register Office.

Ms Penrose said: “I think it is a very beautiful development but I am sad about the loss of the Register Office. I know a lot of people who got married there and it is a shame in a way. Otherwise, I like the juxtaposition of something modern and exciting next to the site of the castle.”

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The centre would house the UK’s most advanced planetarium, capable of bringing the sky at night to life.

With about 150,000 visitors a year expected to visit the centre, The Magnet xould generate income of more than £128 million in Oxford over the next ten years and is expected to create 100 jobs.

The organisation behind The Magnet is Science Oxford, formerly known as the Oxford Trust, a charity set up by the founder of Oxford Instruments, Sir Martin Wood and his wife Lady Audrey.

Ian Griffin, chief executive of Science Oxford, said: “Britain’s future success depends on science and innovation and The Magnet will reinforce Oxford’s position at the heart of that future whilst also generating jobs and income. We’re proposing a world class building.”

To create it, the charity charged architects Foster and Partners with creating an iconic building on the 0.47 acre site it bought from Oxfordshire County Council for £3.5m.

Mr Griffin said: “We have now reached the stage where we believe, to make it work and meet our purposes, both the existing buildings on the site will have to be demolished.

“The Register Office is a nice building. But we believe the benefits of what we are proposing significantly outweigh the potential harm of demolishing it. We wanted to retain as much as we could but we wanted to create something amazing, delivering benefits well into the future.”

A planning application will be submitted before the end of the year.

  • Plans for The Magnet will be again on display on Saturday from 10.30am to 5.30pm at Macclesfield House, New Road.

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