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Developer rethinks St Clement's plan
MAJOR concessions by developers could be the key to getting plans to build student flats above Oxford’s St Clement’s car park off the ground.
Traders celebrated after controversial plans to build blocks to house 140 student rooms were turned down by councillors last month for the third time, almost two years after the scheme was first proposed.
Business owners had raised concerns over the impact the loss of parking would have on customers.
But developer Watkin Jones and Oxford City Council – which owns the car park – have now proposed a phased approach to construction, meaning car parking will be available throughout the building work.
The revised plans are due to be debated by councillors at a meeting at Oxford Town Hall on Friday at 6pm, with a recommendation from planning officers to approve the revised scheme.
Traders who previously objected to the scheme, due to concerns about the loss of parking, have welcomed the change of heart.
But restaurateur Clinton Pugh said he could not understand why the changes had not come earlier.
He said: “Anything is better than nothing, but think what would have happened if we hadn’t carried on fighting – we would have had an awful site. “What I don’t understand is why they didn’t do this earlier.
We suggested a phased approach more than a year ago and we could have saved a lot of time and energy if they had listened.” Alan Grosvenor, who closed his St Clement’s business A-Spires Audio Visual earlier this year, also expressed his disappointment that a compromise had come so late.
He said: “We raised this with the council, but we were basically stone-walled by them and told it wouldn’t work.
This was something we’ve always argued for, so it kind of sticks in the back of your throat a little bit after you’re told something will never going to happen, and yet here we are.”
And Ashley Woodward, manager of the Age UK Oxfordshire charity shop in St Clement’s, said: “I think it’s better than closing the car park for a long period.
I get a lot of business from people who park their cars and then walk through St Clement’s, so I’m happy to support the new plans.” The proposals would mean that at least 28 parking spaces would be available during construction.
Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “Although the proposed design has not been changed, the proposal now includes additional details showing a phased construction. This would enable the provision of public car parking spaces on-site during the construction period.
Antonia Bance, who will chair Friday’s planning review committee meeting, said: “I’m looking forward to hearing from residents and the developer.
“Lots of people have been in touch, and a decision will be taken on planning grounds.” The changes have been welcomed by Green Party councillors, who had also called for a phased approach to the development earlier this year.
Craig Simmons said: “It’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long and didn’t form part of the consultation, but we welcome the U-turn.”
Any written submission on the revised proposals must be submitted to the council by today. St Clement’s city councillor Graham Jones, who voted against the plans presented last month, said: “The car parking issue was only one of the issues that led me to vote against the revised plans and the same applied to at least three of my colleagues.
“I certainly still wasn’t satisfied about the overbearing nature of the development or its impact on the environment and its relationship to the conservation area.”
“We want a build which will be useful and which will meet the requirements of the neighbours and housing need in the area.
“So car parking is an issue but it’s not top of the reasons why I voted against the plans or how I would vote if this came up again.”
STEP BY STEP
- Phase One (12 weeks): Foundations will be dug and drains will be diverted. 28 parking spaces will be available.
- Phase Two (19 weeks): Blocks three and four will be built on one half of the site. 50 parking spaces will be available
- Phase Three (19 weeks): Blocks one and two will be built on the other half of the site. Thirty-three parking spaces will be available.