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Castle Mill activists aim to prevent students moving in
Buy this photo » Campaigner Toby Porter with the Castle Mill development behind
CAMPAIGNERS are calling on councillors to stop students moving into Oxford University’s new Castle Mill accommodation.
But it would mean councillors ignoring the advice of officers, who say that they are satisfied with measures taken by the university to deal with concerns about contamination and landscaping.
An officers’ report to the city council’s West Area Planning Committee, which meets on Tuesday, assesses the issue of contamination on the site at Roger Dudman Way where the university has built accommodation for 312 students on former railway land, along with remedial action taken by the university.
It also considers a diesel leak on the site from a tank in April during building work, which resulted in elevated levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) being found in the groundwater in nearby wells.
Other issues looked at by officers included tree planting, car parking, noise levels from the nearby railway line and the management of a badger sett.
But officers found that the university is in compliance with all outstanding planning conditions, effectively clearing the way for the university to move in its students this month as planned.
Normally confirmation of compliance with planning conditions would be dealt with by officers, but in the face of ongoing controversy over the blocks on the edge of Port Meadow, councillors will decide themselves.
Toby Porter, of the Save Port Meadow Campaign, said: “The conditions on ground contamination and landscaping have not yet been satisfactorily met.
“We would expect councillors not to approve all the outstanding conditions, and send a clear message to the university that the buildings should not be occupied.
“It is seven months since the same committee councillors asked city planners to open negotiations with the university to reduce the size and impact of the buildings. There is still no clear offer on the table.
“We already know that the mitigation plan is likely to involve some more tree planting, which we are told will mean better screening for half the year in 15 years’ time.”
Meanwhile, planning expert Vincent Goodstadt was named by Oxford City Council as the man to carry out an inquiry into the student housing in Roger Dudman Way.
Mr Goodstadt, a former president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, will be meeting all the parties involved in the issue, including the council and Oxford University.
City councillor John Goddard, who was chosen to be the convenor of a working group which will collaborate with Mr Goodstadt, said: “His rigorous approach emphasised the requirement to ensure that as broad a range of views are heard as possible.”
There has been widespread outrage about the construction of the buildings next to Port Meadow after it emerged they had obscured the “dreaming spires” view from the ancient common land.
A judicial review bid has been launched by the Campaign to Protect Rural England but the city council has also pledged to look into its own planning process.
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