AN OXFORD college wants to increase the number of bedrooms available to students at a prominent riverside spot in a multi-million pound project.

Pembroke College, Oxford has applied to demolish an accommodation block at its Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building (GAB), which sits aside the River Thames in Long Ford Close.

It would then build a bigger three-storey building in its place as part of an effort to build 83 new student rooms.

The college also hopes to build a taller unit to include four new studio flats in a corner of the complex.

It wants to provide more accommodation within college buildings for its 241 graduate students. About a quarter of those are typically housed by Pembroke.

It already tries to provide rooms for all of its 390 undergraduates, whether at the GAB or its main site in Pembroke Square.

Architects said the plan would enable the college to tackle security worries, largely centred on the site’s proximity to a footpath next to the river.

The GAB currently contains 97 bedrooms and was opened in 1990.

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London-based MICA Architects state in planning documents: “The Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building site presents the opportunity to address the security and access issues with the public realm particularly to the eastern boundary of the site.

“Design proposals seek to open up the space, giving more space back to the public realm and widening the existing public route, whilst improving the lighting and crucially providing passive surveillance along the route.”

The same firm is also responsible for the design of the ongoing £36m redevelopment of Jesus College’s Northgate House in Cornmarket Street. It also designed Keble College’s forthcoming £45m H B Allen Centre, off Woodstock and Banbury Roads.

Pembroke College’s plan to build more bedrooms will be welcomed by Oxford City Council. It has sought to cut the number of university students in private rented accommodation over recent years.

In the council's Local Plan, which it hopes is passed by planning inspectors later this year, it has stated it wants a maximum of 6,000 full-time taught degree students from the city’s universities living in private accommodation.

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That would involve a limit of 2,500 Oxford University students and 3,500 Oxford Brookes University students living outside the institutions’ accommodation by the time the policy is adopted.

But the council could reduce that further to 1,500 Oxford University students and 3,000 Brookes students by 2022 ‘because of the number of new rooms expected to come forward in the next few years’.

This summer, inspectors told the council its policy might have the ‘potential to prevent the further development of important academic, research and administrative activities which are unconnected to student numbers’.

They continue: “Such development is important for economic growth and the health of the local and national economy. Where such growth is unrelated to the number of students, the policy would appear not to be fairly and reasonably related to the development.”

Last month, the council responded, stating: “It is considered that the policy approach has successfully ensured that the universities continue to take responsibility for meeting the housing needs that their own students generate, in a way that allows other housing accommodation needs to be met.”

The plan remains with the planning inspectors awaiting their conclusions.

Pembroke College’s graduate accommodation currently includes eight rooms within the GAB, at its Pembroke Square site or in houses in Alexandra Road and Hill View Road. Both of those are off Botley Road in West Oxford.

The GAB is named after a former master of the college and diplomat, who held his post from 1975 until 1984. His successor was Sir Roger Bannister, who was in post at Pembroke College from 1985 until 1993.