Univ North - a new collegiate community for University College Oxford

Our planning and heritage teams have worked closely with University College Oxford gaining planning permission, in just ten months, for what is classed as the most significant expansion of the Colleges footprint since the 18th century.

Univ North is proposed as a forward-looking, landscape-driven and multigenerational community that embraces the Fairfield Residential Home, a long-standing assisted living facility. It will become a second fully-fledged collegiate community for University College Oxford, comprising of seven new three-storey buildings, as well as internal and external alterations to existing buildings on site, accommodation for undergraduates, postgraduates and fellows – to assist in meeting the pressing need for the provision of new student accommodation - and a children’s nursery. The site will also house a small student café, a gym and ancillary study rooms and a multipurpose common space for College events.

This expansion is not intended to increase student numbers as such, instead the growth is intended to benefit the student experience, with accommodation enabling a greater proportion of students to stay for a longer period of their study. Which in turn will benefit the City by reducing pressure on the local housing market.

The development preserves and strengthens a strong sense of place through the creation of a series of buildings and spaces continuing the historic concept of ‘villas and gardens’ found throughout this part of the North Oxford. There is a special emphasis on ecology and conservation with plans set to rejuvenate historical orchards and gardens, increasing bio-diversity. The landscape design creates delight and diversity of the adjoining functions; promoting access, use and interaction between different users – this being a fundamental premise throughout the design of the spaces and buildings - encouraging young and old to come together, gently mixing nursery school children with care home residents, and graduate students and families.

ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE HAS BEEN A TOP PRIORITY THROUGHOUT THE PROPOSALS. THE LANDSCAPING INCLUDES SIGNIFICANT TREE PLANTING, AN INCREASE IN TREE CANOPY COVER AND A NET BIODIVERSITY GAIN AND HIGHLY EFFICIENT BUILDINGS WITH A FABRIC FIRST APPROACH TO MINIMISE HEAT-LOSS WILL SEE A 40% CARBON REDUCTION. ALL THESE POINTS EXCEED LOCAL PLAN POLICY AND WILL CREATE A NOTEWORTHY POSITIVE CHANGE TO THE WIDER AREA. THIS NEW MULTIGENERATIONAL DEVELOPMENT WILL UNDOUBTEDLY PROVIDE AN EXCITING NEW WAY OF COLLEGE LIVING.

Nick Paterson-Neild, Partner

Project Details

  • Landscape driven multigenerational community
  • Accommodation for undergraduates, postgraduates and fellows
  • Children’s nursery
  • Student café, gym and ancillary study room
  • Multipurpose common space for college events

Located within the North Oxford Victorian Suburb Conservation Area and within the setting of a number of designated and non-designated heritage assets. This historically sensitive backdrop to the site required careful consideration and a robust understanding of the heritage constraints from the outset. Our heritage experts in addition to our town planners worked closely with the project architects (Níall McLaughlin Architects) and Oxford City, developing a proposal sensitive to the context of the surrounding townscape character. Particular care was taken to the design of the proposed buildings to ensure that they represent sympathetic additions to the site in their respective immediate context. 

The planning application submission followed thorough pre-application engagement with Oxford City Council across several meetings which ensured that the proposal was developed and refined in conversation with the Council and Oxfordshire County Council (highways officers) as the proposals were developed over the course of a year. In addition, the proposals have been the subject of two separate public exhibitions and presented to the Oxford Design Review Panel also on two separate occasions. The Design Panel concluded that “This project has the potential to be an exemplar for a whole new wave of developments coming forward in the north Oxford Victorian Conservation Area.”

The engagement with officers, the public, the Design Review Panel, locally elected members, and other relevant stakeholders, much of which was held virtually, made a significant contribution to shaping the proposal and aided the Councillor’s support of the proposal at planning committee.

Images: Níall McLaughlin Architects