Northgate House demolition and redevelopment on Oxford’s Cornmarket ‘will create Market Quarter’

The current Northgate House is not viewed by civic leaders as being of any architectural merit

Landowner Jesus College’s plans to demolish and rebuild Northgate House in Oxford’s Cornmarket Street have been welcomed by civic leaders, who say it could ‘reinvigorate’ Oxford’s historic Covered Market.

The college submitted the plans to redevelop Northgate House, on the corner of Market Street, and split it up into smaller units to create a ‘market quarter’.

Oxford Civic Society has backed the scheme and said it would increase street activity and have a positive impact on retail.

The new building would provide additional uses for landowner Jesus College and help create a ‘Market Quarter’ for Oxford

Civic society president Clive Booth said the project could inject new life into the area.

He said: “It is a bold proposal to replace Northgate House and create a new quad for Jesus College.

“It would provide the college with more residential, meeting, teaching and social facilities at the same time as reinvigorating the retail facilities facing Cornmarket and Market Streets.”

The college hoped the new facade in Market Street would help turn it into a destination and not just a thoroughfare and Mr Booth was equally optimistic.

He said: “The street serves as a route connecting Cornmarket to Turl Street: it struggles to appear as a destination, even for the Covered Market.

“These changes would provide a more visually interesting streetscape as well as more street activity.

“This presents an opportunity to invigorate retail activity not only in the street but also in the Covered Market which would become a more obvious attraction.”

He added that the flexible retail approach was ‘encouraging’.

Next and River Island both moved out of the ground floor of the 1960s building last year, leaving Fat Face and Carphone Warehouse, whose leases are believed to run out by 2020.

But ‘uncertainty’ over the future of retail in the city centre due to the Westgate Centre led the city’s design review panel to ask Jesus College to put forward flexible plans for a number of smaller units spread over three floors.

The upper floors would contain teaching rooms, a cafe and 68 student rooms for postgraduates.

Bob Price, the city council’s board member for economic development, described the existing building as a ‘monstrosity’.

Historic England agreed that the proposals would be a much-needed improvement.

Richard Peats, an inspector of historic buildings at the organisation, said: “We have no concerns about the demolition of the existing Northgate House, which is not of architectural merit.

“Its proposed replacement is, in our view, a well-designed and careful contemporary response to its context, which presents much better frontages to Market and Cornmarket Streets.”

Last month Covered Market traders, including Oxford Cheese Company boss Baron Robert Pouget, hit out at the management of the market and said it had ‘lost it soul’.

Last month Covered Market traders, including Oxford Cheese Company boss Baron Robert Pouget, hit out at the management of the market and said it had ‘lost it soul’.

A decision could be taken next month.

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