The massive mixed-use Oxford North development has passed the final planning hurdle more than a year after councillors approved it.
Discussions with both the city council and Oxfordshire County Council over the scheme’s s106 agreement have been ongoing since it was voted through by the city’s planning review committee in December 2019.
Those have now concluded and the scheme, put forward by Thomas White Oxford (TWO), the development division of St John’s College, for 936,500 sq ft of laboratories and offices, 480 homes (35 per cent of them affordable), plus shops, bars, restaurant, a hotel and 23 acres of open space across a 64-acre site, can now go ahead.
Construction is due to start in early Summer.
There will be infrastructure improvements and support for local projects through an £8 million Community Infrastructure Levy.
The application includes detailed consent for the first phase in the central area, which will provide 140,000 sq ft of laboratories and office space in three buildings along with the first phase of a new public park.
It means the scheme’s iconic Red Hall building which will provide workspace for start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers, will be one of the first sections to be built along with two connected laboratory and workspace buildings, each of 55,000 sq ft over four floors.
Those will provide space for life sciences businesses to incubate and grow as well as larger organisations which want to be part of the ecosystem.
Prof Andrew Parker from St John’s College said: “The news today that Oxford North has the green light is the culmination of many years of working collaboratively with Oxford City Council, and Oxfordshire County Council for highways, whose vision has been for the area to become home to a science and technology community, with much-needed new homes and vital infrastructure improvements.
“The college is heavily committed to creating a place, not just to facilitate life-enhancing science and technology discoveries, but a new district of Oxford where people want to live, visit and learn.
“Oxford North will connect and enhance the local area physically through open spaces, public art and culture, and immersive experiences. It will be a place for tomorrow’s workforce improving people’s lives, air quality and the environment while delivering a significant boost to the economy. We are proud to be investing in such a project for Oxford.”
William Donger, director of TWO, said: “This is a significant day for Oxford’s future after many years of discussions to unlock a bold vision to transform the area to build a global innovation district for the city.
“We are committed to investing in a place that will enhance people’s quality of life, help to retain and attract Oxford’s remarkable talent and deliver positive socio-economic impacts.”
Charles Rowton-Lee, head of commercial agency for Savills Oxford, said: “Currently in the market we know of very strong demand for new laboratories and Grade A office accommodation totalling 1,275,000 sq ft.
“Oxford is a market where there is very low supply of any good quality space that is currently available. Furthermore, there are lease events between 2021 and 2024, allowing companies to move from existing space to alternative accommodation totalling 1.5 million sq ft.
“With the success of the Oxford University Astra Zeneca vaccine and the soon to be opened Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Harwell, we are seeing strong demand forming for inward investment into Oxford from around the world. University spin outs account for a lot of this interest and companies wish to be associated with the high level of academia in the region.”
Savills is part of a team which includes Fletcher Priest Architects, Gardiner & Theobald LLP, Stantec, Townshend Landscape Architects, Hoare Lea, EDP, AKT II, BSG Ecology and Spacecraft Consulting.
Thames Tap consultant and Oxfordshire resident, Hugh Blaza, said: Of all the major developments destined to bring transformative change to the city over the next few years, this is the first to get the go ahead from the planners.
“It’s been a long and at times bumpy journey but the participants have finally agreed terms for the planning agreement needed to enable the scheme to progress. Intense interest, not to mention speculation, will now be focused on who partners with TWO to deliver it.
“The Oxford North team has certainly worked hard with the councils and Government agencies to achieve an outcome which will provide improvements to the surrounding infrastructure and environment and ensure sustainable connectivity.”
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