Shrinking feeling for science centre

Chairman of Headington Neighbourhood Forum, Mike Ratcliffe, left, with Patrick Coulter, of Highfield Residents Association, at the site where Oxford University plans to build a £45m Big Data Centre.

Chairman of Headington Neighbourhood Forum, Mike Ratcliffe, left, with Patrick Coulter, of Highfield Residents Association, at the site where Oxford University plans to build a £45m Big Data Centre.

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Oxford Times Chief Reporter. Call me on 01865 425434

OXFORD University has reacted to pressure from residents by redrawing plans for its new science centre in Headington.

The university says it is to reduce the size of the £45m Big Data Institute by almost a quarter with more landscaped areas, following concerns about the scale of construction on the new campus.

The news came as Oxford University this week revealed its total spending on building schemes will reach £1.8bn over the next decade.

The Big Data Institute will be the flagship development on the science and research campus taking shape on the Old Road and Park Hospital sites, where nearly 3,000 people will be employed.

The university says it will create more open spaces, without having to cutback on the jobs created or the pioneering work undertaken.

But the university is sticking with plans for a 460 car-space car park, despite concerns about the impact on congested roads Spokesman Matt Pickles said: “After feedback received at the two consultations, we have made some changes to the project.

“The most significant development has been in the landscaping where we are providing a greater proportion of planting.

“This will soften the overall appearance of the development and provides external spaces for people to enjoy. We have now reduced the scale of the Big Data Institute by 22 per cent.

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The basement has been reduced by 664 sq m and central features of the building have been moved in.

“To ensure the space feels active we have also increased of area of clear glazing around the entrance to allow better views in and out of the building.”

More than 400 people will be employed in the Big Data building.

A detailed planning application is expected to be submitted early next month, with the university hopeful of starting work in October.

Patrick Coulter, of the Highfield Residents’ Association, said: “In principle we welcome any changes which help to reduce the impact of the development on the local environment — hopefully the proposed additional landscaping and reduction in scale of the Big Data building will do this.”

Many residents, however, will be disappointed that the building’s height is not being reduced.

Sietske Boeles, of Divinity Road Residents’ Association, said: “There has been a change in attitude with the university friendlier and ready to listen to suggestions.

“But it is really a plaster on a sore wound. There is no real change in the building itself.”.

The university secured outline planning permission for the campus in July.

The Big Data Institute has been funded with a £20m gift from the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

During a visit Prime Minister David Cameron said it would put the UK at “the forefront of revolutionising healthcare through big data and better drug discovery”.

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