Central Conservation Area Boundary Review
OCS response to the consultation
6 March 2019
Oxford City Council has called for comments on its proposals to modify the boundaries of the Central Conservation Area. The City’s proposals are in this report; here are our comments.
In general, the recommendations seem to be very thorough and well- judged and, subject to what is said below, we support them.
The inclusion of the Science Area would ensure that replacement buildings on the site, if the needs of science research or teaching require them, would be of high-quality design and appearance, as befits this iconic university area. The University is fully capable of delivering such buildings but that should not be left to chance.
As to whether the Keble Triangle should go into the Central Area or the North Oxford CA, we think it should be included with the Central Area, with its boundaries altered as proposed, as its more distinctive buildings are clearly associated with the university teaching area. While it is true that many of the buildings in the North Oxford CA are now used for university teaching or office purposes, they are in the style of the domestic North Oxford suburb and are often conversions from domestic use.
We are disappointed that the whole of the former Radcliffe Infirmary (RI) site is not proposed for inclusion in the Central Conservation Area. Given the listed (or visually important) buildings on both the east and west sides of the RI site, we urge reconsideration of the recommendation to include only a small number of these buildings, including the original Infirmary, in the Central Conservation Area. Nearby are the listed Radcliffe Observatory and St Paul’s Church. The existence of the new Blavatnik School of Government building does not detract from the argument that the whole RI site should be included in the Conservation Area. Modern buildings such as that contribute importantly to the context of the Conservation Area.
A Conservation Area should form a coherent spatial whole so that conservation policies can apply to the whole area and not just the setting of the more important buildings. As the former RI land that is currently undeveloped will undoubtedly be developed soon, it is important that it should be considered as a significant part of a cohesive Conservation Area. Our strong preference is thus for the whole of the former Radcliffe Infirmary site to be included in the Central Conservation Area.
We also think that the wider designation of the St Thomas needs urgent implementation, as moves to develop in that area get under way, and we urge that the City adopts a continuous approach to reviewing the overall Conservation Area map and designating areas deserving CA status.