November 20, 2017

In a Stunning Defeat, Oxford City Council Rejects Library Repository

By Andrew Albanese

  • $59 million book depository nixed
  • Locals concerned about flooding and views
  • Oxford must find new facilities for 8 million books

After a public inquiry, the Oxford City Council has affirmed its decision to reject Oxford University’s plans to build a massive £29 million ($59 million) library depository at Osney Mead, to house some eight million books. The rejection marks a stunning defeat for a building Oxford University officials have said was crucial for the libraries.

Director of Oxford University Libraries Services Sarah Thomas said in statement that “tough decisions” would now have to be made. “The library has suffered from over-congestion in unsafe conditions for years because of our inadequate storage,” she said. “The uncertainty over the planning situation has led to considerable expense in outsourcing collection storage, and our valuable books and archives in the New Bodleian remain at risk."

The rejection of the university’s appeal comes after Oxford University was initally given the go-ahead by the Oxford City Council in October of 2007 to move forward with construction of the massive book repository on the banks of the Thames River. But shortly after narrowly gaining approval from the city council’s strategic development control council, a group of 14 council members succeeded in putting the plan on hold, arguing the repository was subject to flooding, following massive floods in 2007—but perhaps more importantly would spoil views of the city’s famous “dreaming spires.”

University officials, meanwhile, countered those claims, insisting the design did not impinge on any views, and insisting the building was safe from flood concerns. Work on the building was expected to be complete sometime in 2009. While the current project now appears to be dead, Colin Cook, Oxford’s executive member for city development, told the BBC he understood the need for a repository. “The council will continue to work with the university to meet their aspiration for a much-needed book depository on another, more suitable, site,” he told reporters.  

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