Bloxham residents up in arms over expansion by private school in the heart of the conservation area
Dozens of households in Bloxham have made fierce objections to plans for a zinc, timber and glass boarding house building in the heart of the village's conservation area.
Bloxham School wants to build the construction in the grounds of historic Stone Hill House, which acts as a boarding house for female students. The school wants to make the site a focus for girls' boarding.
But neighbours and other residents wanting to preserve the heritage site say the site is completely unsuitable on a narrow access road. They say a two-storey building in the middle of the conservation area goes against planning guidelines and the proposal contravenes the Neighbourhood Plan. In addition, the materials do not meet the criteria for the area, they say.
"There are real concerns about traffic because of the notorious junction with the High Street, yards from the shops," said one resident. "It would remove the only bit of off-street parking in the road, which is where school staff park their cars.
"It will harm the setting of all the listed buildings in Stone Hill and it breaches planning law, because extensions with windows, in Cherwell, have to be more than 14 metres away from other properties. This is only 12 metres away and will overshadow and overlook other homes which are also listed buildings.
"The building will be timber, glass and zinc - a modern building breaking all the rules of the Neighbourhood Plan which says any building should match the existing historic buildings," he said.
Residents say they were excluded from meaningful consultation, with only Bloxham School properties notified of the application. They say they were not informed until three weeks before a delegated decision was due - today (Tuesday) - and that they had insufficient time to request it to be considered by the full Cherwell planning committee.
Details of the school's application were featured in an article in the Banbury Guardian earlier this month. The school said it has collaborated with a variety of technical consultants to develop the proposal which is needed to accommodate the forecast growth in pupil numbers and girls’ boarding in the coming years.
Richard Gouldern, who lives opposite the site, commissioned a professional heritage report on the proposal. In it, conservation professional James Edgar, a former English Heritage team leader and historic buildings inspector, describes heritage assets such as Stone Hill House and its neighbouring properties as 'buildings of historic value... an irreplaceable resource (which) should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance'.
Mr Edgar says the proposed building would harm the fabric of the listed buildings at Stone Hill House, harm the settings of nearby listed buildings and harm the character and appearance of Bloxham Conservation Area. Improvements to a former outbuilding are welcome but would not offset the harm caused by linking it with the house and by the erection of a large dormitory and common room block.