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Office site earmarked for student homes
6:00pm Saturday 30th June 2012 in News
PART of Oxford is set to get more student housing after the city council received an “offer it could not refuse” for one of its buildings.
Harcourt House, opposite the new Islamic Centre in Marston Road, has been earmarked as a potential student housing site.
The building is leased to the Department for Work and Pensions on a 75-year lease, which expires in 2029.
But last year the DWP agreed to work with the council to sell the site, most of which is now unused.
Any sale would have to be agreed by the council’s executive board. But it said a “commercially advantageous offer” has come from the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, which is building its new home across the road.
The precise details of the offer are being kept confidential.
But city councillor Ed Turner, executive member for finance and efficiency, said the money would be very helpful in funding the council’s “ambitious” capital programme.
He said the offer was highly advantageous and he thought the council would be letting council taxpayers down if it did not accept it.
Mr Turner said the site was earmarked for student housing or teaching accommodation in the local plan but would need specific planning permission.
Pullens Lane resident Graham Upton, of the Headington Hill residents’ associations umbrella group which is fighting more student development in Pullens Lane, said: “I would not think turning Harcourt House into student housing would be a problem because it is on a main road.
“There is no residential accommodation around the site so it is an ideal place.”
The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies last night declined to comment on any deal involving Harcourt House.
Registrar Richard Makepeace said: “We have interests in many potential property investments.”
If the site is sold, part of the land could be leased back to the city council to provide a temporary car park if proposals for student flats on part of St Clement’s car park go ahead, following traders’ concerns about the impact of closing the car park during the work.
Other student housing planned in the area includes: the Cavalier pub site in Copse Lane, Marston, demolished to make way for 35 student rooms; plans have been submitted for 140 student rooms on the St Clement’s car park; a campus for 190 students is planned for a former builders’ yard in Chapel Street; private education company EF has applied for planning permission to extend Cotuit Hall in Pullens Lane, to house 300 students.