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Oxford University’s £57million plans to build two new research centres in Headington have provoked concerns among local residents.
Three buildings will be demolished on the Old Road site to make way for a new Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine and an Institute of Rheumatology.
The latter would essentially be a relocation of the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology from London, bringing with it almost 150 personnel, as well as research students from Oxford.
Administrator Angela Truesdale from the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, which is currently adjacent to the proposed site in Headington, said: “The building of this centre will be very complementary to the work we do here.”
Local councillor Ruth Wilkinson, however, said she has been approached by members of the local community who have issues with the proposed development: “There are certainly concerns, and the principal one seems to be that the building is too high, and the issues of light pollution in the area.”
These are sentiments echoed by Harry Edwards, the Planning Secretary of the local Residents’ Association: “There are concerns over the size of the building and its relationship with its neighbours. The key problem, though, is traffic: there are three hospitals, the Brookes’ campus and the Oxford University campus all in a quite small area of Oxford.”
Edwards and Patrick Coulter of the Headington Action group insisted, however, that discussions with the University’s Planning Consultancy have been constructive, and that the latter share their worries.
“There are no set plans as of yet, just proposals, and so I am very grateful for the opportunity of being invited to look at them at such an early stage,” said Edwards. “The traffic issue is one that’s frustrating everybody, not just the residents: it’s the Council, the managers of the local hospitals, as well as the University. They have hopefully gone away from their meeting with us and taken our comments on board.”
Colin George, the University’s strategy manager for this project, insisted that the planning team is fully aware of the issues that have arisen, and that they are “looking for some way in which to help”. Suggestions include maximising the joint benefits of an improved public transport system, with particular focus upon cycle routes.
Once a more fixed position been reached on these matters, a planning application will be made to the Council, which George hopes will be around March. If the bid is successful, it is likely that building will start in the late summer.