Statement on county-wide planning strategy

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Rex Knight, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, outlines Brookes' submission to Oxfordshire's long-term planning strategy

Rex Knight, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, outlines Brookes' submission to Oxfordshire's long-term planning strategy:

Oxford Brookes University has made a submission to the Oxford Core Strategy Examination, which is a long-term planning strategy for the county.

You may have seen some coverage on this issue in The Oxford Times including a suggestion that we plan to 'abandon our Harcourt Hill and Wheatley campuses.' This suggestion is entirely inaccurate. The University has redevelopment plans for all our campuses and has no intention of moving student facilities from Wheatley and Harcourt Hill.

As part of our submission, we identified potential sites near our Headington campus that could, in the long-term, be developed for halls of residence. The Core Strategy covers a 17-year period and we have looked at all potential sites which could enable us to meet the city’s requirements that we provide more purpose-built student accommodation to relieve pressure on the private rented market.

The Core Strategy Examination is in no way related to the planning application for the new library and student services building at Gipsy Lane.

Brookes’ concern is that the Core Strategy clearly states that education will be a key growth and innovation area for Oxford, but fails to determine how, where and when the accommodation that is necessary to realise this objective will be provided.

Our strategy involves identifying sites within a 1.2km to 1.6 km radius of our main campus.

Two of the sites we have identified are Warneford Hospital land and the allotments owned by the Morrells Trust, which is next to the Clive Booth Halls of residence.

The Warneford site generally has long been designated for Brookes student accommodation. We believe that land near the hospital continues to be a suitable site for Brookes. The site we have identified is not the Warneford Meadow, which was recently subject to a Town Green application, but a brownfield site next to the hospital.

The allotments site off Pullens Lane is the right size for halls of residence, and in a very good location, next to our campus. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever become available given the emphasis the city places on preserving allotments, but it was important for us to put down a marker about potential use for student accommodation should the site cease to be used as allotments in the future.

We are often criticised for not providing enough dedicated student accommodation. There is no lack of will on behalf of the university to reduce the number of students living in private rented accommodation.

We can only achieve this if the local authorities are willing to plan for suitable sites close to the Brookes campus to build new halls.

Clearly, a range of sites needs to be identified as many of them will not become available during the life of the Core Strategy - as has been the case with the current Local Plan.