November 20, 2017

Oxford Finds a New Repository Site, and Once Again Controversy Follows

By Andrew Albanese

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  • City Council blocked it last year
  • New site 28 miles away
  • City Council members still upset

(This article first appeared in the March 24 issue of the LJ Academic Newswire.)

After being blocked in 2008 by the Oxford City Council from building a massive £29 million (at the time, a $59 million project) library depository nearby at Osney Mead, Oxford University (OU) officials announced they have found a new site for the repository—and once again, controversy has followed the project.
 
OU officials said they will purchase a 15-acre site some 28 miles away in Swindon. The repository is key to a plan for a new Bodleian Library, set to begin in 2011—as some eight million books will be moved to free up space for student use and for new exhibition space for the library’s treasures.

But after blocking the library’s initial site at the eleventh hour, Oxford City Council members are now criticizing the university’s plan—saying it will deprive Oxford of jobs and will be bad for the environment because it will increase traffic on the “already busy” road from Swindon to Oxford. “We needed a site that was capable of being expanded and we were looking for somewhere that already had planning permission,” Director of Oxford University Libraries Services Sarah Thomas told the Oxford Mail. “We couldn’t spend more time looking and being uncertain about the eventual outcome.”

Jobs move down the road, too

Thomas told reporters that traffic concerns were unfounded. Books stored in the facility would be low-demand items and that there would be just two deliveries a day to Oxford. Still, Oxford City Council members expressed their displeasure, expressing concerns about the university’s new plan. “There were other places in Oxford where they could have gone,” Green group leader Craig Simmons told the Oxford Mail. “The reason they haven’t is nothing to do with lack of space.” Another called the announcement “very sad.”

Thomas said in statement last year that in the wake of the council’s rejection of plans to build at Osney Mead that “tough decisions” would have to be made. Oxford University was initially 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.”

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