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'We are listening', say Cowley flats developers
DEVELOPERS are being asked to increase the size of community facilities at a controversial 40-home block of flats in Cowley.
Oxford City Council is to ask Haboakus, the developer of the Barns Road development, to increase the facilities from 182 sq m to 210 sq m.
The scheme, backed by Kevin McCloud, presenter of TV show Grand Designs, will see 40 flats, a community centre and ground-floor retail space for charity Emmaus built on the site of the former Cowley Community Centre in Barns Road.
The demand for improvements follows a public meeting last week when about 60 residents grilled developers about the size of community space along with concerns about car parking and the scale of the building.
The former community centre was demolished in 2009, and the city council put the site out to tender, specifying a need for community facilities.
Council leader Bob Price said: “The brief for the community facility does appear to have shifted over the course of the development and we are looking into that.
“The city council has taken on board the size of the community facility and is seeking to enlarge it.”
Haboakus Oxford project manager Marita Ford said: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to present the proposals we have submitted for planning approval to interested local residents and councillors.
“Our presentation demonstrated that we had listened to concerns and made significant changes to our plans before submitting our planning application. We thought this was a very helpful meeting and we will now be discussing the issues raised with Oxford City Council.”
At the meeting, Barns Road resident Julian Lennon, 69, said: “We are being offered a piecemeal compromise of what used to be completely ours.
“It is going to dominate the skyline and increase traffic.”
Mike Roberts, managing director of Hab, part of Haboakus, said: “We were directed to a zero parking scheme because of the location.
“It is very close to local amenities and excellent bus services into the city centre of Oxford.”
He said developers planned to “minimise the problems” by creating bike storage, two car club parking spaces for residents and installing real-time bus information in the flats.
Mr Roberts said developers were also in discussions with the owners of nearby multi-storey car parks about using their spaces.
Architect Paul Ruff said the scheme had been redesigned following public consultations, which began in 2011, to reduce the overlooking of homes in Knolles Road.
The building has been moved away from Knolles Road – and closer to Barns Road – and windows have now been reangled so that they do not face homes directly.
Originally the scheme was solely one and two-bedroom flats, but now the top floor has been replaced with two and three-bedroom flats.
These have been set into the building and, along with the roof garden, have been set back from the edge of the building.
The building has been designed by award-winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, which worked on the Barbican and Saatchi Gallery in London.
Developers said flats would cost between £170,000 and £200,000 to buy, with 20 of them shared ownership.