By Philip Stevens, local resident and retired Planning Officer
For more than 6 years the Vale has planned for a redevelopment of the centre of Botley. A large redevelopment was proposed by Doric which would have been a very large jump forward for Botley; this met considerable public opposition and was turned down by the Vale’s Planning Committee.
Mace took over and held discussions with various groups and agreed to leave Elms Parade, the Vicarage and Field House. The Vale produced a Supplementary Planning Document setting out policies which would be acceptable in planning terms for the centre of Botley. Mace have followed the main principles of the SPD, including by proposing the highest buildings on the east side of the site, fronting Westminster Way. After some 9 months of discussions, planning application P16/V0246/FUL was submitted.
I have studied the plans and documents on a number of occasions and have considered what are the advantages of this proposal and do they outweigh any disadvantages.
- 149 new residential apartments helps to meet the desperate need for housing units in the Vale and also in Oxford City which has great pressure for housing. It also helps the argument for protecting the Green Belt.
- More retail space for new and some existing stores, shops and restaurants.
- The Community ‘Hub’ contains a larger Community Hall (Seacourt Hall); a larger Library and a new Baptist Church and Hall. There will also be a café and space for flats and possibly on the second floor.
- There would be a hotel on the eastern boundary with 122 rooms. This would be accommodation in the style of a Premier Inn or a Travelodge, which is much needed on the west side of Oxford.
- There is accommodation of 262 units of academic related rooms and apartments. Mace’s documents clearly state that it is intended for postgraduates and academic staff, with some larger flats for married couples and families. Proving there is proper management I see this provision is a definite advantage.
- The occupants of the residential flats, the academic rooms and the hotel can bring life to the shops and restaurants in the evenings as well as during the daytime.
As the site is smaller than for Doric this has consequences for the viability of the site. The buildings inevitably have to be higher, but the highest buildings are on the eastern boundary where they have least effect on West Way and Arthray Road.
The number of parking places on the site are limited, but free parking is proposed for the first 2 hours. Beyond that charges are proposed in order to deter long term parking. The occupiers of the residential flats could have parking vouchers.
There are several changes which I would like to recommend, such as public toilets in the main part of the development, and a discussion about parking charges.
Overall, this is the best proposal we have seen and I fear that we could not get a better one within at least the next 10 years. The present centre is struggling from very little investment over the 60 years of its life. Botley deserves a new centre which will be able to thrive; I believe that a new centre will have to be appropriate for the next 30, 40 or 50 years.
Therefore, I am supporting the present proposals, but subject to several comments.