Green light for 400 apartments and a hotel at Thornhill Park Oxford Development

Artist impression of plans for Thornhill Park Oxford Development
Artist impression of plans for Thornhill Park Oxford Development

Plans for more than 400 apartments alongside a hotel, gym and restaurant at Thornhill Park, Oxford, have received unanimous backing from Oxford City Council planning committee.

City councillors debated some of the potential pitfalls for more than 40 minutes, including the strength of the build-to-rent status of the apartments. Other matters, such as highway safety, connectivity and sewage capacity, were also discussed.

But councillors were told these could not be material considerations because the responsible bodies – Oxfordshire County Council for highways and Thames Water for sewage – had not raised the same concerns.

The plan will see the development of 402 flats in 10 separate blocks, which will be between three and six storeys high – between 10 and 21 metres tall.

A four-storey, 133-bed hotel, including a cafe and gym facilities, will be built to the north of the site, with flexible office space also incorporated as part of the development.

Read more: Proposal unveiled for 400 homes in Thornhill Park Development

Planning officer Jennifer Coppock highlighted how the scheme had been amended to deliver less imposing heights, particularly on the edge of the site, with the number of flats reduced from 456 to 402 and the number of rooms in the hotel reduced from 252 to 133.

She added that a parking enforcement plan to allay the concerns of nearby residents would form part of the conditions – there will be only 95 car parking spaces but provision to park more than 900 bicycles.

The amended plans still saw 41 nearby residents raise concerns over the potential for an increase in crime as a result of a footpath being reopened and objections to the need for parking restrictions in Risinghurst.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth (Lab, Carfax & Jericho) wanted an “explicit planning condition” that “all properties, not just the social ones”, would be kept as build-to-rent. It was later agreed that council officers would have delegated authority to decide the best way to reflect his wish.

Councillor Hollingsworth added: “I think the developers need to be congratulated, as does our planning team, on taking forward a scheme which I had quite a lot of correspondence over when it was initially proposed.

“The view was that it was slightly overambitious in terms of scale. We now have a rather good scheme given the constraints of the site and challenges it faces.”

The wider concern over the ability of Thames Water to handle foul water from new developments proved a thorny issue.

Proposal for Thornhill Park Oxford Development - Gallery Image 03
Artist impression of plans for Thornhill Park Oxford Development

Councillor Laurence Fouweather (Lib Dem, Cutteslowe & Sunnymead) asked that the condition of foul water be factored in whether Thames Water has enough capacity at its treatment works.

He was told by planning officer Andrew Murdoch that it was “not reasonable”.

Councillor Fouweather replied: “The issue is there could be 1,000 people generating quite a lot of wastewater. Yes, that will be carried away by the pipes, but what is Thames Water going to do with it? Are they just going to dump it in the river like they have been doing all over Oxford?

“Sooner or later, we have to do something about it.”

Mr Murdoch responded: “The point I am trying to make is that Thames Water is a statutory consultee, they deal with foul water, and they have recommended this condition.

“They are satisfied this condition can be imposed to mitigate the impact. They haven’t asked for further works to the sewage treatment plant to ensure there is capacity.

“We don’t condition on the basis of ‘I think’. We condition to mitigate the development. That isn’t something that is in your gift. Conditions have to meet tests, they have to be relevant, necessary, enforceable and precise, and we don’t have the information to say it meets any of those tests.”

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