City council green-lights central Oxford’s ‘first new college of the 21st century’

Permission has been granted for three existing university buildings to be converted to form Oxford’s 39th college within the city’s central conservation area.

A visualisation of the new Reuben College - image: FJMT Studio
A visualisation of the new Reuben College - image: FJMT Studio

University of Oxford has gained planning permission and listed building consent to create the graduate-only Reuben College.

The project, designed by the locally-based Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT) architects practice, will transform two wings of the Radcliffe Science Library as well as the underground Lankester Room, the Abbot’s Kitchen and the West Wing of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory in the north of the city’s central conservation area.

In its decision, Oxford City Council said the proposal “would accord with the special character and appearance of the conservation area… and with the special character, setting, features of special architectural or historic interest of the listed building”.

But among 21 conditions for approval, it insisted there should be “no variation of [the approved] materials without the prior written consent... to ensure that the development is visually satisfactory as required by the Oxford Local Plan 2036”, and that sustainable drainage and cycle parking be incorporated, also in line with the local plan.

The council’s decision, made on 31 July, also required that works to install a lift extension should be in accordance with an approved archaeological investigation.

Arranged around a courtyard alongside the Grade I listed University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum, the ground and upper floors will become home to Reuben College, while the underground floors will house a new teaching and research centre.

Funding for the project has come from an £80 million donation from the Reuben Foundation, of which billionaire businessmen David and Simon Reuben are trustees.

Savills acted as planning consultant for the University of Oxford.

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