The Wheatley Campus of Oxford Brookes University is proposed for redevelopment as the university brings together facilities within the city. FPCR provided the masterplanning , landscape and arboricultural advice for the project. The site is currently in the Green Belt, protected by TPO and includes a range of buildings including an 11 storey tower block. Heritage sensitivities include a moated site scheduled monument in the site and a number of listed buildings within the adjacent Holton Park. The site was allocated in the local plan for 300 dwellings, but the with sensitive masterplanning a scheme for 500 dwellings was developed. Despite a recommendation for planning approval by the officers, the scheme was refused consent by the council and taken to appeal. FPCR provided expert evidence at the appeal on Green Belt Openness and Landscape.
The scheme received consent in 2020 following a decision by the Secretary of State. The effect on the Green Belt and openness was a very important part of the planning appeal.
Inspector Young noted in his report; “Overall, the proposed dwellings would be smaller in scale than the current educational buildings and would be more appropriate to a countryside edge location. Notwithstanding the increased footprint and encroachment into areas that are currently open, the Masterplan and photomontages demonstrate that the spacing and scale of the dwellings would be appropriate to the site’s rural setting and clearly preferably to the existing scenario. All the housing especially that in the south-west quadrant would be visually contained with little impact on the wider landscape. The development would read as a logical northern extension to Wheatley albeit separated from it by the A40. There would be a significant visual benefit from the removal of the existing buildings. These benefits along with on-site mitigation in the form of additional planting and landscaping and large areas of open space would be in my view be sufficient to secure an overall net-gain in landscape and visual terms over the wider area.” The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector on this.
The SoS examined a range of other considerations but concluded “that the overall benefit to the openness of the Green Belt alone would be enough to outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness. Like the Inspector.., he considers that the ‘other considerations’ …clearly outweigh the ‘definitional harm’ to the Green Belt by virtue of inappropriateness identified in this case. He therefore concludes that very special circumstances exist, which would justify development in the Green Belt”