13 February 2017
Having obtained planning permission to redevelop its site in Iffley Road to provide new student homes, Wadham College is taking steps to ensure that the site is vacant by 27 February so that pre-demolition work can begin.
Wadham College and Mid-Counties Cooperative have agreed to the termination of the Co-op’s lease. As a result, control of the site has passed to Wadham College, with a group of 20 homeless people still in occupation. As a procedural step, Wadham College has instructed the Co-op to issue the homeless group with a notice to quit, in line with the Possession Order granted in January.
Wadham College’s intentions and time-line remain the same as previously and consistently stated. From the start of the occupation, we have made it clear that the squatters could not remain beyond 27 February, when the site is required for pre-demolition works. We welcome the renewed commitment from representatives of Iffley Open House that, as they have always promised us, they will adhere to this time-line and vacate the property by this date. Iffley Open House will also be expected to honour the conditions on good conduct that they agreed with the Co-op as part of the Court Order for the remainder of their stay.
Wadham would like to reiterate its profound sympathy for the plight of the homeless in Oxford. We continue to be in dialogue with Iffley Open House representatives, members of the local council and local housing charities to encourage their attempts to find alternative accommodation for this homeless group, whom we have been happy to shelter temporarily at the Iffley Road site for several weeks.
25 January, 2017
Planning permission has been granted for the development of Wadham College’s Iffley Road site at a meeting of Oxford City Council which took place on Tuesday 24 January.
Wadham is constructing a 135 bedroom development to provide homes for second year students who currently live out of College due to insufficient accommodation on the Wadham site in Parks Road. The timeline for redevelopment, including asbestos removal, demolition, decontamination of the site and subsoil, construction and commissioning will take two and a half years and has to be commenced in March 2017 so that the building is ready for the start of term in September 2019. This pre-demolition work is due to start at the end of February 2017.
Over the last two years since the building was purchased, Wadham College, its architects and project managers have undertaken extensive consultation with local residents, planning authorities and students to design a development which is sensitive to the local area and provides the housing that our students need.
Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC, commented: “We are very excited to have this opportunity to provide our students with the very best accommodation, helping to ease the pressure on the local rental market. This is a complex project which we have been preparing over the past two years and it is critical that we meet our deadlines in order to provide student homes for September 2019. This project will provide particular support to our students of more modest means for whom private rentals are prohibitively expensive.”
Wadham College has profound sympathy for the plight of the homeless in Oxford, and is in discussions with representatives of the homeless group, Iffley Open House, who have been occupying parts of the property since New Year’s Eve. Iffley Open House representatives have indicated that they would not seek to occupy the building beyond a date that would interfere with Wadham’s development plans, and in those circumstances there should be no need for the existing possession order to be enforced.
Wadham is in contact with various local homelessness groups and the City Council in order to help find an amicable solution for the homeless people who need to find alternative shelter before the end of February.
20 January, 2017
We understand that a Possession Order for the Wadham College owned Iffley Road site (former VW Showroom) was granted to our leaseholder, The Midcounties Co-operative, following a court hearing this morning (20 January, 2017).
As we have made clear in discussions with Iffley Open House representatives and other parties, and in our public comments, whilst we have deep sympathy with the plight of homeless people, any solution must not delay the redevelopment of the building as homes for students.
Subject to planning consents, the pre-demolition process for this site is set to begin at the end of February 2017 in order for demolition to start in March.
Wadham has explained this to the squatters’ representatives in face-to-face meetings, during which they indicated to us that they would not seek to occupy the building beyond a date that would interfere with Wadham’s development plans.
Instead, they expressed their desire that they should be permitted to remain in the building until the date when Wadham requires possession (which is currently 27 February 2017). Out of consideration for the Iffley Open House we have already delayed and rescheduled essential preparatory work.
We will continue our discussions with all parties in the hope of resolving this amicably and are seeking help from local homeless support groups and charities to help find longer-term accommodation for these homeless people.
12 January 2017
Wadham College has met with representatives of the Iffley Open House and is working to reach a consensus on how best to resolve this matter. The College would prefer to resolve the situation amicably.
Wadham College is profoundly sympathetic to the plight of homeless people in and around Oxford. The College has a longstanding relationship with The Gatehouse and has been raising money to support a variety of local homeless groups for many years. However, as a charity and part of the University of Oxford our obligation is to our students. We purchased the Iffley Road site to provide a home for these students, many of whom find the cost of living in public rented accommodation in Oxford prohibitive.
We are obliged to ensure that the College’s assets can be used to their fullest extent and, in relation to the Iffley Road property, to construct new student accommodation, which will be particularly important for students of more modest means. As part of that process the College will be contributing over £900,000 towards affordable housing and infrastructure in the Oxford area. Subject to planning consents, the pre-demolition process for this site is set to begin at the end of February 2017 in order for demolition to start in March.
The ground floor of the property is currently let to The Midcounties Co-operative Investments Ltd who we understand are taking steps to recover possession. We are seeking to establish a constructive dialogue with all of the interested parties. We have met with representatives of the Iffley Open House and are working to reach a consensus on how best to resolve this matter. The College would prefer to resolve the situation amicably.
The following letter was sent to Iffley Open House on 11 January
From Wadham College Bursars
11 January 2017
To: Iffley Open House
We would like to begin by stating that the College is sympathetic to the issues of homelessness that exist in and around Oxford. The College has a longstanding relationship with The Gatehouse and has been raising money to support a variety of local homeless groups for many years. Our planning application for the development of the Iffley Road site also comprises provision for a contribution of more than £900,000 towards affordable housing provision in Oxford.
- We must warn you of serious safety issues for anyone visiting or remaining within this old and dilapidated building which is not considered safe for residential use. In particular, the building contains significant amounts of asbestos (which is due for removal), has open inspection pits which are a hazard, fire alarm systems that are not functioning, and we also believe that fire extinguishers are not present in parts of the building that have the highest fire risk. The roof has not been recently inspected and we are uncertain about its safety. In light of the current state of the building (which is set for demolition) there may be a number of other safety issues. Please be clear that if you continue to remain in any part of the building, the College can accept no liability whatsoever for any injury or harm that may be sustained.
- As a charity, the College has to fulfil its obligation to protect its assets, including this building which is intended to be developed as a home for our students. We are advised as owners that we must make clear our own legal entitlement over the building. This issue is complicated by the fact that although the building appears unoccupied it is actually tenanted with a lease to a third party (The Midcounties Co-operative Investments Ltd) and we understand that they have already issued proceedings to recover possession. The College does not have direct control over the existing proceedings, but we are willing to liaise with the tenant in order to seek a joint approach to the current position.
- As part of the University of Oxford we have an obligation to our students. The cost of rented housing in Oxford is often prohibitive. For this reason we purchased the Iffley Road site so that we could provide College accommodation for our students throughout their time studying with us. In order to fulfil promises made to our students, funders and contractors we are obliged to keep to the timeline set out for this project. Subject to necessary consents, the pre-demolition process for this site is set to begin at the end of February 2017 in order for demolition to start in March and for construction to commence soon afterwards.
- We need to continue talking. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at any time via email@example.com or by calling the College Communications Officer, Julia Banfield, on 01865 287453 to set up a meeting.
09 January 2017
Wadham College has been contacted by an organisation requesting the use of the old VW garage on Iffley Road as a temporary shelter and we are aware that some homeless people have entered various parts of the building.
Wadham is investigating the ramifications of this move, with particular concern for the safety of those who are sleeping rough in an old and dilapidated building, including in areas that are not designed for residential use.
The College will be making every effort to speak to representatives of this homeless group as well as local residents, safety experts and the site developers.
Wadham is currently awaiting planning permission for redevelopment of the site as student accommodation, significantly relieving pressure on local housing stock. As part of this project, Wadham College has undertaken to contribute more than £900,000 towards social housing provision in Oxford. Wadham College is particularly concerned about the problems of homelessness in Oxfordshire and to this end has a longstanding relationship with the Gatehouse homeless project. The College regularly fundraises for homeless organisations and we donated much of the furniture from the Iffley Road site to a homeless charity.