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£35m centre for science ‘will blight castle views’
English Heritage says the proposed Magnet building, pictured in an artist’s impression, would blight the view of the Oxford Castle mound, below
ENGLISH Heritage has attacked plans to build a £35m science discovery centre in the centre of Oxford.
The Government advisory body, which fights to protect the country’s historic landmarks, said the plans would block views of the ancient Oxford Castle mound.
A senior inspector for the organisation has urged planners to reject the Science Oxford scheme.
David Brock, English Heritage principal inspector of historic buildings and areas, says the Magnet building would cause significant harm to the historic area.
He said: “The Magnet is an intensive scheme proposed for a site immediately west of the Mound of Oxford Castle, a scheduled ancient monument.
“Its construction would block the most significant remaining view of the mound from the west, causing harm to the significance of the monument, and would also involve the loss of the Register Office.
“Despite the claimed benefits, we therefore recommend refusal.”
Science Oxford, which hopes the discovery centre next to the Castle Mound in New Road will attract 150,000 visitors a year, has submitted a planning application to Oxford City Council.
Conservationists wanted the Register Office at the corner of Tidmarsh Lane and New Road to be listed to prevent its demolition.
But Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, went against the advice of English Heritage and ruled that the building – constructed in 1912 – was not worthy of protection.
Mr Brock said: “It would be reasonable in this case to see the loss of this building as substantial harm to the conservation area.”
The Magnet, the UK’s first integrated Science Discovery and Innovation Centre, would showcase science and technology expertise from Oxfordshire and the UK.
Science Oxford says the Magnet would generate income of more than £128m in Oxford over the next 10 years and create more than 100 skilled jobs.
About 30,000 schoolchildren a year are expected to visit the range of displays, events and lectures promoting science.
Science Oxford says if planning permission is granted, work could begin early in 2015 and the block could open the following year.
The charity, formerly the Oxford Trust, has so far raised £10m towards the £35m project. It said last night it was working closely with English Heritage on the design of the building.
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