Latest News from Narnia

I noted at the end of last month in HH367 that nothing seemed to have happened for 18 months on the planning application to build next to the C S Lewis Nature Reserve on a plot in Wychwood Lane, Risinghurst. The original story is in my article “Border Skirmish in Narnia“.

One of the unsatisfactory aspects of the application was that it is made in the name of “The Wychwood Foundation”, an organisation that didn’t exist then and still doesn’t exist now. I say it doesn’t exist: it isn’t a registered charity, nor is it registered at Companies House. Search engines only know about it in the context of this planning application. It is not the same as any of several other “Wychwood” organisations including the Wychwood Project and the Wychwood Trust. Nevertheless, the Wychwood Foundation’s planning application seeks charitable exemption from the statutory development levy (CIL).

Then last week someone who had used the services of Beecher Accoustics sent me this letter they had received. The Beechers are the people behind the non-existent Foundation and here describe themselves as Trustees. One of the several bizarre things about the letter is the invitation to buy a 6 bedroom house adjacent to the plot they want to develop. The house is the one at the top of Lewis Close, number 7, which features in the planning application. This shows an access road into the development alongside this house in Lewis Close rather than from Wychwood Lane (where the Beechers live). I’ve looked at several online property sites and it looks as though the house is not on the open market. Do the Beechers actually own this house as well as the house they gave as their address 18 months ago, 4 Wychwood Lane? If they do own it, why isn’t it on the market? If they don’t own it, what are they doing inviting offers? Obviously it would help their cause if the owners of 7 Lewis Close were supporters of their plans rather than opponents, but what do they expect to happen if someone gets their letter and says they are interested in buying number 7?

Eighteen months ago the Beechers were, and still are, Director and Secretary of Beecher Accoustics Limited, registered at 1 Quarry High Street. Earlier this year (31 January) a new company called Quarry Mews Ltd was incorporated with the Beechers as Director and Secretary, together with a William Blackham, B H G Gadhoke and H Gadhoke. This new company is also registered at 1 Quarry High Street. It gives its nature of business as “Development of building projects”. The Gadhokes in turn are directors of, among other interests, Red Kite Property Investments Ltd which has an address in Lighwater, Surrey. It looks as if the Beechers have taken some partners on board to help progress their plans.

Meanwhile there still doesn’t seem to be any movement towards the planning application coming forward for consideration. It will be interesting to see what happens when it does finally surface at the East Area Planning Committee.

Footnote: Companies House information downloaded from their website on 15 May 2018.

1 Pullen’s Lane care home timeline

Here is a brief history of the proposals to build a care home on the site of 1 Pullen’s Lane. Click here for a location map (the site boundaries are approximate).

March 2014 – Developers Carebase submit a planning application for a 55-bed care home at 1 Pullen’s Lane.

August 2014 – Planning permission refused. East Area Planning Committee said it did not fit with the area’s “rural tranquility”.

Jan 2016 – Frontier Estates submit a new planning application also for a 55-bed care home on the same site.

May 2016 – Frontier withdraw their application.

Sept 2016 – Frontier announce revised plans will submitted to Oxford Design Review Panel before submitting a formal planning application before the end of the year.

April 2018 – Frontier’s planning application validated and published on Oxford City Council website on 30 Apr 2018, reference 18/00870/FUL.

Brookes Development Plans for Headington Hill

Earlier this week Oxford Brookes and their consultant planners Turnberry put on a public exhibition of their latest development plans. This time it concerns the Headington Hill site; one proposal is for the replacement of the Helena Kennedy Building (HK), the other the redevelopment of the residential Clive Booth Student Village (CBSV). I was fortunate to be able to go to a full presentation by Brookes/Turnberry.

New Faculty Building replacing Helena Kennedy
New Faculty Building replacing Helena Kennedy
Picture © Turnberry

They plan to rebuild HK on the same ground plan, but to make a new faculty building which can be used to bring together “specialist functions from Arts, Architecture, Computing, Mechanical Engineering and Built Environment studies under the same roof. The building will become a hub for a variety of teaching, research and practical making activities.”

The plans for CBSV are more radical; they are looking to achieve a net gain of about 500 bed spaces which together with the major student accommodation development at Cowley Barracks will go a long way to getting the number of Brookes students in private rented accommodation down below the 3,000 target required by the City Council. At first sight the declared height of some of the new buildings seems excessive, but I was impressed by the amount of detailed work the consultants had done on both local and long-distance views towards and away from Headington Hill. This aspect will no doubt be subject to great debate once the formal planning applications are submitted and open for public comment.

New Faculty Building replacing Helena Kennedy
Clive Booth Student Village proposed new layout
Picture © Turnberry

Part of the thinking behind the proposals is to make the node point between CBSV and Headington Hill Campus more open, and to encourage students to use the Campus and the HK building as a through route to JHB/London Road/Gipsy Lane and to the sports facilities over the Headington Hill bridge. That way they will avoid the less attractive, poorly lit and potentially unsafe route of Cuckoo Lane and Pullen’s Lane.

For those who weren’t able to get to the public exhibition there is a copy of the display boards on this link (with thanks to Brookes and Turnberry). The two developments will be covered by two separate planning applications; HK will be first in a few weeks’ time, CBSV will follow and is expected to be submitted in early June.