8.2m Academy Plan looks Set for Approval

Oxford Times

PLANS for an £8.2m business centre scheme at Oxford Spires Academy have been recommended for approval by city planners.

Councillors have been asked by officers to approve the proposals, which mark a new era for the school.

The Reuben Business Centre will house ICT suites, a laboratory, sixth-form centre and a 330-seat lecture theatre on the East Oxford site.

The scheme has been designed by Harwell-based Nightingale Associates, and will be built by Kier Construction, based in Newbury, Berkshire.

In a report to councillors ahead of next Tuesday’s east area planning committee meeting, planning officer Andrew Murdoch endorsed the plans.

He said: “The proposed development would make an efficient and appropriate use of previously developed land in order to improve the existing academic accommodation for the school.

“The proposed extensions and alterations would be of a size and scale that would create an appropriate visual relationship with the built form of the original school grounds and the character and appearance of the wider area.”

He said the extensions had been designed to safeguard the residential amenities of surrounding properties and “would not create any adverse impacts upon the local highway, trees, or biodiversity”.

He added: “The proposed development would therefore accord with the relevant national planning policy and policies of the current development plan. No third party objections have been received.”

The project is being funded with cash given to the school when it relaunched as an academy last year, along with a donation from The Reuben Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuben Brothers’ real estate company.

Academy headteacher Sue Croft, pictured, said she was pleased with the recommendation.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s such an exciting project and it’s going to offer so much for the youngsters and the local community.”

The application was submitted by the academy’s sponsor, the CfBT Education Trust, which selected Nightingale and Kier for the design and build.

CfBT’s head of property services Chris Austin said: “CfBT Schools Trust is pleased to have appointed Nightingale and Kier as part of a ‘batch’ to work on projects relating to our free school and academy portfolio.

“We are looking forward to working with them on the works at Oxford Spires to create innovative education spaces that will see our students thrive.”