Boost for Controversial Níall McLaughlin Oxford Student Scheme as Planning Officers Back Proposal

Oxford Student Scheme as Planning Officers Back Proposal

Oxford planning officers have shown their support for a contentious student scheme designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects, despite objections from heritage bodies. The proposal, which includes a 130-bedroom development next to the Grade II-listed Gee’s Restaurant on Banbury Road, has been recommended for approval by principal planner Sarah de la Coze in a report ahead of an upcoming planning committee meeting.

The Stirling Prize-winning architectural practice, Níall McLaughlin Architects, submitted the application last year on behalf of the University of Oxford and Hertford College. The scheme aims to transform the plot in north Oxford into student accommodations, a mixed-use pavilion, and a departmental building for the newly established South-east Asian Studies Centre (SASC).

The proposed development is located less than half a mile away from the firm’s previous Univ North project, which involved expanding University College Oxford. The current plans involve converting a detached villa on Banbury Road from academic to residential use, as well as constructing six new blocks.

While Historic England acknowledged that the proposals would result in a “modest degree of harm” to the setting of Gee’s Restaurant, eroding its historical villa garden setting, it also recognized that the harm would be less than substantial. The organization stressed the importance of considering the conservation of heritage assets.

The Victorian Society raised objections to the scheme, citing potential harm to the significance of the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area. Meanwhile, the Victorian Group of the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society described the proposals as “grotesque overdevelopment” and “destructive desecration.”

However, planning officers concluded that the benefits of the project would outweigh any potential harm. They emphasized that the proposal aligned with the overall aims and objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework, which serves as a significant material consideration in favor of the development.

The decision by planning officers to back the Níall McLaughlin Architects student scheme signals a potential boost for the project, despite the objections raised by heritage bodies. The upcoming planning committee meeting will ultimately determine the fate of the proposal, taking into account the various viewpoints and considerations brought forward during the process.


Project data

Location Oxford
Local authority Oxford City Council
Type of project Academic building, student accommodation, and study and social spaces
Client Oxford University and Hertford College
Architect Níall McLaughlin Architects
Landscape architect Kim Wilkie
Planning consultant Carter Jonas
Structural engineer Smith & Wallwork
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Sustainability consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Project manager CPC Project Services
Heritage consultant Donald Insall Associates
Principal designer Bureau Veritas
Gross internal floor area 12,250m²
Form of contract and/or procurement To be confirmed
Annual CO2 emissions To be confirmed
Total cost To be confirmed

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