ELMS Parade should be considered a heritage asset, according to an English Heritage expert.
Had the 1930s row of shops in Botley survived unaltered, it would meet the criteria to be officially listed, a report by Dr Kathryn Davies states.
But despite the changes, it says the shops still have “sufficient significance” to be considered as a non-listed heritage asset.
Dr Davies, a historic buildings expert for English Heritage, produced her report for pressure group West Way Community Concern.
The group is fighting Doric Properties’ £100m plan to rebuild the shopping precinct.
Campaigner and Botley resident Chris Church said: “By commissioning our own research using nationally-recognised measures, we are showing there is a character to Botley which is not industrial estates and seven-storey buildings.
“Elms Parade has a heritage value in the eyes of people in the area, and an English Heritage officer has agreed this is the case.”
Dr Davies’ report quotes English Heritage’s manual, Conservation Principles, and says: “The significance of the site can be expressed as the sum of its heritage values.”
The report goes on to list some of the values including historical and communal.
Dr Davies said Elms Farm once stood on the site and could reveal information about historic farming in this area.
She said it has historic value because it illustrates the rapid growth of Oxford in the 20th century to surrounding villages and because it was formerly owned by the Earl of Abingdon.
Her report praises the parade’s aesthetic value as an example of Art Deco style, and its communal value as a centre still in use by the community.
Mr Church said the report would be followed by another document about the character of Botley, again using English Heritage assessment measures. This will be unveiled at the next community concern meeting on Thursday.
Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said the trust agreed with the report.
She said: “Thank heavens someone has recognised its value before it’s too late.”
The Howse family, which owns Elms Parade, has reiterated that it has no wish to sell the buildings to Doric.
In a statement, the family said: “Our position has not changed and, as before, we have no need or desire to sell Elms Parade.”
However, campaigners fear that if Doric receives planning permission, Vale of White Horse District Council may decide to issue a compulsory purchase order on the family.
English Heritage has said it does not wish to comment on the planning application.
Doric Properties director Simon Hillcox said: “Doric undertook an extensive pre-application consultation on its regeneration proposals for Botley. The council is now consulting widely through its own process, which includes consulting English Heritage directly.
“English Heritage’s professional team have responded formally to the consultation and have confirmed they have no objection to the plans.”
A POTTED HISTORY OF ELMS FARM
- An extract from Dr Kathryn Davies’ report: s Built in 1937 to meet the needs of the 1930s suburb, Elms Parade is a good example of a typical 1930s parade of shops designed to be a focal point of the growing community. It takes its name from Elms Farm, on whose land it is built.
- This was a large mixed farm dating from at least the 17th century, situated around two miles from the centre of Oxford. It was bought by the Howse family in 1920 from the Earl of Abingdon.
- The farmland was gradually developed to create housing to meet the needs of the growing city.
- Elms Rise and other 1930s development attracted people from Oxford who wanted to move out of the city centre to the more open healthier suburb. The farmhouse itself survived and was used as the community library until this was redeveloped in the 1960s.