A PROJECT to turn offices in Cowley into flats was turned down after councillors decided it went against council planning policy.

GreenSquare Group, assisted by Oxford-based Cantay Estates, wanted to create 27 one-bedroom flats in its building in Barns Road, Cowley.

But a councillor said the project ‘flew in the face’ of city council guidelines and agreed with the authority’s offices who wanted the plan rejected.

He and his colleagues unanimously rejected giving the project planning permission.

Designs showed the revamp would have keep two offices on the ground floor and added an extension onto the building’s roof to create a fourth storey.

But council officers said such a proposal would have ‘underused’ the building if it had been allowed.

In an unusual interjection at a council meeting, a magazine owner based in Oxford said he wanted his company to move into the building.

Christopher Gasson, the owner of Global Water Intelligence, said visiting the building is ‘like going back in time, back into the 1970s. It’s incredibly unattractive for our millennial employees.’

Mr Gasson said he would be willing to pay for changes to update it and had made an offer for the building.

But the building’s owners told the council’s East Area planning committee on Wednesday evening that the bid had been ‘fairly derisory’.

Nigel Chapman, a Labour councillor, said the proposed change of use application was ‘flying in the face’ of council guidelines.

He said: “There is no commitment to affordable housing or social housing, which is central to our housing policy.”

As a result, he said he could not have supported the project.

Council officers said the project ‘represents an unsustainable form of development that would result in the loss of a key protected employment site.’

They added: “Inadequate evidence has been put forward to justify a departure being made from the development plan policies that seek to protect these sites in order to maintain a sustainable distribution of business premises and employment land within Oxford.”

The building is currently being advertised online by commercial property consultants, Kidlington-based VSL & Partners.

It says the building’s freehold price would be £1.4m, while the value of leasehold can be given out on application.

The advert notes the building includes a reception lobby entrance, lift access to each floor, air conditioning, car parking at the back of the building ‘which could potentially be extended’, and male and female toilets on each floor.

The site lies a short walk away from the Templars Square Shopping Centre.