© 2021Friends of Boars Hill
Friends of Boars Hill Preserving and enhancing our heritage

May ‘21 Foxcombe Hall Application

Friends’ Updated Comments

18th June 2021

We believe that everyone would wish to defend the policies that have served so well to protect Oxford’s Green Belt and its open spaces; which have been valued for many generations as Oxford’s and Boars Hill’s “community lungs”. The problems we have seen during the pandemic have highlighted the importance of these rural escapes and open spaces. As you may already know, for the last few years Peking and HSBC Business School (PHBS) has been trying to open a UK campus at a listed building, Foxcombe Hall, right in the heart of Boars Hill the site of which forms the backdrop to the classic view of the Oxford spires. The application has been posted on the Vale’s website. The details are here. It is, sadly, everything that a development in the Green Belt should not be. However, PHBS is not only influential but has very deep pockets and has employed a top of the range team to advise it how to navigate the ever-weakening Green Belt regulations. As the Friends of Boars Hill, we are a group of entirely unaffiliated individuals who have come together to present the case against these proposals. We would greatly appreciate your support in continuing that fight. Using donations received from local residents, we are taking expert planning advice and present a summary for your information below. Specific planning points in brief are here in PDF form. A change is proposed from a Class F1(a) (non-residential institution) to C2 (residential institution). This is critical because the Government’s own planning regulations (as revised in 2020) recognise the very clear difference between a quiet, non-residential institution and a full university campus with 24/7 live-in students and hugely enhanced activity, both on-site and in the vicinity. The plans do not adequately consider the implications of population growth that this would cause in a rural community which currently has a total population of around 600 adults. The proposal involves at least a further 150 plus students attending on a daily basis. It would increase the local population by 25% during the day and 15% overnight. The impact will be large, damaging and irreversible. Public Consultation The proposal is somewhat disingenuous, because although PHBS has quite properly been conducting a public engagement process, the full details of the change of use in the redevelopment of Foxcombe Hall were never made clear. Instead, emphasis has always been placed upon what was going to be built with no opportunity provided to address the question of how the change from non-residential to residential would impact on the local environment. For example, although no expense has been spared on mock-up landscapes giving attractive visual impressions, no consultation has centred on the crucial problem of what the increased weight of people numbers and concomitant activities will do to this quiet corner of the Green Belt. It might reasonably be said that there has been no meaningful public consultation on the main issue in the proposal Openness of the Green Belt National and Local Policy on a Green Belt site such as this is governed by a general presumption against development except for agriculture, forestry or certain recreational uses. Redevelopment of existing uses is permitted provided the result causes no greater impact than currently exists and is not disproportionate to the original building (in this case defined as that which existed in 1948). At Foxcombe Hall, PHBS argues that redevelopment will cause no greater harm and is thus not inappropriate, despite a proposed 80% increase in volume and the significant impact of 24/7 residential occupation by students. We believe that: The proposed scale and intensification of the development are still too large and will harm the Green Belt. Subterranean work cannot be off-set against volumetric increases and a 43% increase of floor area is excessive in this location. Whilst The Friends accept that PHBS means well in presenting the transport proposals together with rules of student conduct, we do not accept that after a few years of operation, these arrangements and rules will still be rigorously enforced. The resulting, gradual degradation of best intentions will then impose a high environmental burden on one of the most sensitive and renowned Green Belt sites in Oxfordshire. The excavation that the development requires is equivalent to 390 loads of the largest earth moving lorries to take the spoil elsewhere. The environmental impact of this has not been determined and the resulting 780 traffic movements that it implies would be a disaster for the narrow country lane upon which the site is located. No case for very special circumstances National and local Green Belt policy states that such development should not be approved except in “Very Special Circumstances (VSCs).” The applicant put forward social, environmental and economic arguments suggesting that these represent VSCs. The view of the Friends is that there is not sufficient public benefit that would outweigh the harm that would be caused to Oxford’s very narrow Green Belt. Furthermore, there is no evidence of economic benefit that would accrue by virtue of the location of the residential accommodation within the Green Belt. Rather there would be greater benefit if the students lived closer to Oxford with its existing student support network.. Great play is also made by PHBS of the need for the Planning Authority to support education uses. Unfortunately, the regulations quoted are being misused. It is fallacious to take national guidance intended to encourage primary and secondary school provision and equate it with support for higher education. The Local Plan does cover the tertiary sector but stresses the importance of “local need”. The non-compliance with the Local Plan is evident from a simple reading of PHBS’s own description of itself (Statement of Need paras 1.6ff). “The business School has been set up to advance Peking University’s ambitions in the sectors of global economics, finance, and management research. The vision of PHBS is to foster and enable visionary international business leaders for the new global economy by offering a global education with in-depth Chinese and Asian perspectives.” This is not a local organisation acting to promote local benefit. Developers will keep trying to chip away at the planning constraints but should not be allowed to undermine the Green Belt with spurious claims of need. We hope that you can make a strong representation to the Vale that reinforces what we all hold dear. Our analysis: this is not a local organisation acting to promote local benefit. Friends of Boars Hill will continue to defend the Green Belt policies which have served so well to protect our open spaces; valued for many generations as “community lungs”. The problems we have seen during the pandemic have exposed not only the importance of these rural escapes and open spaces also the inadequacy of country lanes to cope with excessive traffic that this dramatic development will bring. Thank you for your strong support of Boars Hill’s interests. Please go to the Vale’s Planning Portal and lodge your comments there.
© 2021 Friends of Boars Hill
Friends of Boars Hill Preserving and enhancing our heritage

May ‘21 Foxcombe Hall Application

Friends’ Updated Comments

18th June 2021

We believe that everyone would wish to defend the policies that have served so well to protect Oxford’s Green Belt and its open spaces; which have been valued for many generations as Oxford’s and Boars Hill’s “community lungs”. The problems we have seen during the pandemic have highlighted the importance of these rural escapes and open spaces. As you may already know, for the last few years Peking and HSBC Business School (PHBS) has been trying to open a UK campus at a listed building, Foxcombe Hall, right in the heart of Boars Hill the site of which forms the backdrop to the classic view of the Oxford spires. The application has been posted on the Vale’s website. The details are here. It is, sadly, everything that a development in the Green Belt should not be. However, PHBS is not only influential but has very deep pockets and has employed a top of the range team to advise it how to navigate the ever-weakening Green Belt regulations. As the Friends of Boars Hill, we are a group of entirely unaffiliated individuals who have come together to present the case against these proposals. We would greatly appreciate your support in continuing that fight. Using donations received from local residents, we are taking expert planning advice and present a summary for your information below. Specific planning points in brief are here in PDF form. A change is proposed from a Class F1(a) (non-residential institution) to C2 (residential institution). This is critical because the Government’s own planning regulations (as revised in 2020) recognise the very clear difference between a quiet, non-residential institution and a full university campus with 24/7 live-in students and hugely enhanced activity, both on-site and in the vicinity. The plans do not adequately consider the implications of population growth that this would cause in a rural community which currently has a total population of around 600 adults. The proposal involves at least a further 150 plus students attending on a daily basis. It would increase the local population by 25% during the day and 15% overnight. The impact will be large, damaging and irreversible. Public Consultation The proposal is somewhat disingenuous, because although PHBS has quite properly been conducting a public engagement process, the full details of the change of use in the redevelopment of Foxcombe Hall were never made clear. Instead, emphasis has always been placed upon what was going to be built with no opportunity provided to address the question of how the change from non- residential to residential would impact on the local environment. For example, although no expense has been spared on mock-up landscapes giving attractive visual impressions, no consultation has centred on the crucial problem of what the increased weight of people numbers and concomitant activities will do to this quiet corner of the Green Belt. It might reasonably be said that there has been no meaningful public consultation on the main issue in the proposal Openness of the Green Belt National and Local Policy on a Green Belt site such as this is governed by a general presumption against development except for agriculture, forestry or certain recreational uses. Redevelopment of existing uses is permitted provided the result causes no greater impact than currently exists and is not disproportionate to the original building (in this case defined as that which existed in 1948). At Foxcombe Hall, PHBS argues that redevelopment will cause no greater harm and is thus not inappropriate, despite a proposed 80% increase in volume and the significant impact of 24/7 residential occupation by students. We believe that: The proposed scale and intensification of the development are still too large and will harm the Green Belt. Subterranean work cannot be off-set against volumetric increases and a 43% increase of floor area is excessive in this location. Whilst The Friends accept that PHBS means well in presenting the transport proposals together with rules of student conduct, we do not accept that after a few years of operation, these arrangements and rules will still be rigorously enforced. The resulting, gradual degradation of best intentions will then impose a high environmental burden on one of the most sensitive and renowned Green Belt sites in Oxfordshire. The excavation that the development requires is equivalent to 390 loads of the largest earth moving lorries to take the spoil elsewhere. The environmental impact of this has not been determined and the resulting 780 traffic movements that it implies would be a disaster for the narrow country lane upon which the site is located. No case for very special circumstances National and local Green Belt policy states that such development should not be approved except in “Very Special Circumstances (VSCs).” The applicant put forward social, environmental and economic arguments suggesting that these represent VSCs. The view of the Friends is that there is not sufficient public benefit that would outweigh the harm that would be caused to Oxford’s very narrow Green Belt. Furthermore, there is no evidence of economic benefit that would accrue by virtue of the location of the residential accommodation within the Green Belt. Rather there would be greater benefit if the students lived closer to Oxford with its existing student support network.. Great play is also made by PHBS of the need for the Planning Authority to support education uses. Unfortunately, the regulations quoted are being misused. It is fallacious to take national guidance intended to encourage primary and secondary school provision and equate it with support for higher education. The Local Plan does cover the tertiary sector but stresses the importance of “local need”. The non-compliance with the Local Plan is evident from a simple reading of PHBS’s own description of itself (Statement of Need paras 1.6ff). “The business School has been set up to advance Peking University’s ambitions in the sectors of global economics, finance, and management research. The vision of PHBS is to foster and enable visionary international business leaders for the new global economy by offering a global education with in-depth Chinese and Asian perspectives.” This is not a local organisation acting to promote local benefit. Developers will keep trying to chip away at the planning constraints but should not be allowed to undermine the Green Belt with spurious claims of need. We hope that you can make a strong representation to the Vale that reinforces what we all hold dear. Our analysis: this is not a local organisation acting to promote local benefit. Friends of Boars Hill will continue to defend the Green Belt policies which have served so well to protect our open spaces; valued for many generations as “community lungs”. The problems we have seen during the pandemic have exposed not only the importance of these rural escapes and open spaces also the inadequacy of country lanes to cope with excessive traffic that this dramatic development will bring. Thank you for your strong support of Boars Hill’s interests. Please go to the Vale’s Planning Portal and lodge your comments there.