Science centre plans scrapped

The original plans for the Magnet science centre were scaled back

The original plans for the Magnet science centre were scaled back

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Oxford Times Chief Reporter. Call me on 01865 425434

PLANS to build a £35m science and innovation centre next to Oxford’s Castle Mound have been scrapped, we can reveal.

The Magnet was to have been a landmark building attracting 150,000 visitors a year.

But it will not be going ahead, following opposition from heritage groups unhappy that the striking new building would spoil views of the mound and mean the demolition of the 100-year-old Oxford Register Office.

Science Oxford, the charity behind the scheme, had considered scaling down the scheme, dropping designs for a world-class planetarium.

But faced with a drastically reduced scheme, the charity has decided the Magnet is no longer a viable proposition.

Science Oxford had spared no expense over six years in its bid to deliver an iconic building next door to Oxford Castle to celebrate science in Oxford and provide a home for 50 small businesses.

Designs were produced by Foster & Partners, whose work includes the German Reichstag and Beijing Airport. The scheme would have seen the demolition of Macclesfield House, an unloved office block in New Road.

Steve Burgess, chief executive of Science Oxford, said: “The decision has been taken because of a combination of factors. Planning restrictions have limited the use of the site.

“A crucial part of the plan was to acquire the Register Office from Oxfordshire County Council. However, it has became clear the earliest this would be available would be mid-2016.”

With the charity receiving no central Government, council or Lottery support, he said the delay and need for a new application, would have added significantly to the cost.

The original plans submitted to Oxford City Council led to objections about the impact on the mound, one of Oxford’s most historic sites, from English Heritage and Oxford Preservation Trust.

Mr Burgess said Science Oxford could still consider creating a science and innovation centre if a suitable site could be found.

But he said that it would not be going it alone, and would be looking for financial partners in any future scheme. No decision has been taken about the Macclesfield House site, which the trust acquired from the county council for £3.5m. Mr Burgess said there would now be little incentive to pull down the 1960s building, which, as the existing Oxford Centre for Innovation, houses more than 20 firms.

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The council was really excited by the plans for the Magnet and had supported Science Oxford in their work to make the vision a reality. ”

Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust, had said of the original Magnet plans: “The Mound is just too important for such treatment.”

But Ms Dance and the trust were much more supportive of the revised proposals.

She said this week: “We have worked closely with Science Oxford. We are disappointed that we won’t see the site redeveloped and will continue working with them.”

Comments (6)

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9:20am Thu 16 Jan 14

oxchris says...

Great news but a shame a compromise couldn't be found. I hope they can find an alternative site.
Great news but a shame a compromise couldn't be found. I hope they can find an alternative site. oxchris
  • Score: -44

9:57am Thu 16 Jan 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

So we get to keep Macclesfield House instead...

Refurbishment, new cladding and new glazing and it would make a fantastic Premier Inn.
So we get to keep Macclesfield House instead... Refurbishment, new cladding and new glazing and it would make a fantastic Premier Inn. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -58

12:43pm Thu 16 Jan 14

birket says...

News like this makes me want to leave Oxford.
News like this makes me want to leave Oxford. birket
  • Score: -88

1:25pm Thu 16 Jan 14

oxresi says...

So while a valuable new facility for Oxford by a world-class architect which would have had a net positive effect on a lacklustre part of town has been brought to a halt, a genuinely disastrous development permanently despoiling Port Meadow gets through with barely a protest . Something seems to be wrong with the planning system (and people's priorities) in Oxford.
So while a valuable new facility for Oxford by a world-class architect which would have had a net positive effect on a lacklustre part of town has been brought to a halt, a genuinely disastrous development permanently despoiling Port Meadow gets through with barely a protest . Something seems to be wrong with the planning system (and people's priorities) in Oxford. oxresi
  • Score: -64

8:43pm Thu 16 Jan 14

alu355 says...

Very strange that they submitted a planning application for this recently but didn't have the funding to see it through nor the foresight to realise that there would be objections to it.
Hopefully another site can be found, the Science Oxford site in St Clements worked well and it is a shame that had to close.
Very strange that they submitted a planning application for this recently but didn't have the funding to see it through nor the foresight to realise that there would be objections to it. Hopefully another site can be found, the Science Oxford site in St Clements worked well and it is a shame that had to close. alu355
  • Score: -118

9:33am Fri 17 Jan 14

oxresi says...

alu355 wrote:
Very strange that they submitted a planning application for this recently but didn't have the funding to see it through nor the foresight to realise that there would be objections to it.
Hopefully another site can be found, the Science Oxford site in St Clements worked well and it is a shame that had to close.
They probably anticipated Oxford's notion of preserving 'Heritage' would be more nuanced. What is the heritage of Oxford if not the creation of buildings housing world-class educational facilities?
[quote][p][bold]alu355[/bold] wrote: Very strange that they submitted a planning application for this recently but didn't have the funding to see it through nor the foresight to realise that there would be objections to it. Hopefully another site can be found, the Science Oxford site in St Clements worked well and it is a shame that had to close.[/p][/quote]They probably anticipated Oxford's notion of preserving 'Heritage' would be more nuanced. What is the heritage of Oxford if not the creation of buildings housing world-class educational facilities? oxresi
  • Score: -63

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