New drive to protect views of Oxford’s dreaming spires

Bob Price, and the view of Oxford’s dreaming spires from Raleigh Park, North Hinksey

Bob Price, and the view of Oxford’s dreaming spires from Raleigh Park, North Hinksey

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

PROTECTION for Oxford’s world famous views of the dreaming spires is set to be updated following a major study.

It comes in the aftermath of the controversy over Oxford University’s Castle Mill student blocks scheme, which campaigners say has blighted historic views of the city from Port Meadow.

It has been carried out by Oxford City Council and Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT), with funding from English Heritage.

And residents are now being asked for their views about the city skyline study, with the consultation running for six weeks until Friday, July 25.

OPT director Debbie Dance said existing policies to protect views of Oxford were outdated, with “a better tool” needed to ensure famous views were not spoilt by lack of proper understanding.

She said: “Oxford’s views are known across the world and are an important part of what makes the city special.

“But all Oxford currently has is designations in the Local Plan and 10 triangles on a map. That is simply not sophisticated enough.

“This will serve as an important back up and lead to better planning decisions.”

The city council introduced its high buildings and so-called ‘view cone’ policy more than 50 years ago, which has helped shape development plans in sensitive city sites ever since.

Ms Dance added: “The study will help us understand the views of Oxford and their character but no one is suggesting that you cannot see change. The views of Oxford, for example, will change as a result of the Westgate development.”

City council leader Bob Price said the study would provide an opportunity to reassess the value of views, opening the possibility of the protected list being amended.

He said: “It will review if the view cones are up to date, whether there are view cones that are more important or less important and whether some of them can be amended or deleted.

“Obviously as time has gone on the city has changed and the area around it has changed and whatever one does on the housing front they will remain iconic views of the city of Oxford. The views on the hills around the city such as Boars Hill and Raleigh Park are important, but the question is how many of them you should have. You could have more or less of them.”

Recent years have seen a series of controversies about the impact on Oxford’s famous dreaming spires from such schemes as the proposed Bodleian Library book depository in Osney Mead.

The study can be seen at oxford.gov.uk/viewconessurvey

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