Planning application to demolish the Westgate and River Hotels

What's planned

Christ Church have put in a planning application to replace the Westgate Hotel with a new hotel which is about three or four times the size. The existing convenience store (opposite Mick's Café) will be replaced by a new shop opening onto Mill Street which is less than half the size.

The same planning application involves the demolition of the River Hotel and its replacement by seventeen two bedroom flats. As with the Westgate Hotel, the new building will have considerably more volume and larger footprint than the existing one.

Why the application has gone in now

The planning regulations change during the next year and will make the "change of use" implicit in these applications less easy to achieve. We might speculate that Christ Church could be trying to slip these two applications in as one under the current rules. (The lease on the River Hotel doesn't revert until 2006 or 2007.) Christ Church say that they are putting both these applications in as one so that the loss of hotel space in one is cancelled out by the increase in the other.

What people don't like about the applications

Parking

There will be no allocation of WO parking permits to the new flats. Depending on your point of view, this will (a) reduce the number of cars in West Oxford, or (b) increase the number of cars chasing the same number of spaces.

The River Hotel currently has 20 spaces, and uses them all, but there will (I think) be only 11 for the new hotel. The impact of this will be as for residential permits (see above).

Shopping

The existing convenience store is a critical facility because it is the only place open at odd hours in the district. It will not be viable in the new premises because of the reduced size. Moving the entrance to Mill Street will reduce the passing trade and make it even less viable. This is particularly aggravating given that the hotel building which hosts it will double in size.

Conservation

Nobody is going to care about the Westgate Hotel, but the River Hotel has an interesting history and is actually the finest domestic building between the station and North Hinksey Manor. It would look a lot better were it not badly run down and had not been re-roofed in the wrong materials. We have been assured that Christ Church have considered renovating the building but commercial considerations (i.e. doubling the internal square footage) clearly point to a demolition and rebuild.

What you can do about it

There are a limited number of things that the planning committee are allowed to take into account when determining the fate of this application. As I understand it these seem to be limited to:

  1. The Local Plan provides a presumption that buildings of local interest should be retained irrespective of listing status. The River Hotel clearly meets this criterion; the Westgate Hotel does not. The objection should therefore recommend a split decision in favour of Westgate and against the River Hotel development.
  2. The proximity of the River Hotel to the Osney Conservation Area means that its replacement will have an impact on that conservation area and therefore this is allowed to be taken into account.
  3. The Council has a policy of encouraging more short stay accomodation on the arterial roads into Oxford. This application does not meet that requirement as the total provision is expected to fall if it were approved.

Whom to write to

Michael Crofton-Briggs
Ramsay House
10 St Ebbe's Street
Oxford
OX1 1PT

Quoting reference 04/01996/FUL

If you prefer to use email, his address is mcrofton-briggs@oxford.gov.uk. His phone number is 01865 252360. Also, Councillor Susanna Pressel would appreciate a copy to spressel@Lmc.co.uk.