City Council approves extension of Conservation Area boundary

Published: Monday, 3rd June 2019

Oxford City Council has approved an extension to the Oxford Central (City and University) Conservation Area following public consultation – helping to preserve Oxford’s history.

Conservation Areas are defined as areas of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ which are to be protected and improved. The allocation of a site as a conservation area identifies areas where change should be managed to prevent harm to the existing character.

Designation within a conservation area doesn’t mean every building will be preserved and that no changes will be allowed, but instead helps to ensure changes respect the area’s character and appearance. Designation does not introduce additional planning controls on non-residential buildings, other than to require planning permission for demolition or part demolition, and to require a flue to be fitted on the rear or side elevation where practicable.

The City Council has a duty to review these boundaries and has recommended the extension of the boundary based on the advice of specialist consultants and feedback from public consultation.

The Central Conservation Area was originally designated in 1971. In September and October 2018, the Council consulted the public and stakeholders on the first stage of the appraisal of Oxford Central (City and University) Conservation Area. A number of responses suggested changes to the boundary to include other areas of special architectural or historic interest. A second stage of consultation on revised proposals followed, earlier this year.

The areas which have now been approved for inclusion within the Oxford Central (City and University) Conservation Area are:

  • St Thomas’:  39-42a Hythe Bridge Street; and two blocks south of Park End Street and Frideswide Square, (fronting Park End Street, Frideswide Square, the northern half of Becket Street, Hollybush Row, and 1- 5 Osney Lane.)

    This area is one of the earliest suburbs outside of the city walls. Its inclusion within the conservation area will ensure that the collective character of the buildings is maintained. The buildings in this area illustrate Oxford’s built development, historical motoring trade, and the buildings’ close relationship to the nearby waterways.
  • University Science Quarter: This area is a physical demonstration of the commitment to scientific research within the city during the mid-19th century and beyond. Each building within the University Science Quarter is of its time, reflecting its original use while also reflecting the changes in research since that time. The area’s inclusion in the Conservation Area will ensure that the high standards of architecture that the university is known for is maintained and that the historical importance as a science area is maintained. Buildings which are no longer fit for purpose as modern science teaching spaces will be able to be adapted or replaced with high quality science buildings, as they are now, taking into account the character of the area, which is the promotion and teaching of scientific excellence.
Central Conservation area map


The revised boundary was approved by the Council’s Cabinet on 29th May, and came in to immediate effect. Work now continues on a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, which will make the purpose of the designation clear and a range of stakeholders including the University as a significant landowner are engaged in this process.

Oxford has 18 Conservation Areas which represent a range of qualities ranging from the city centre to Headington Hill, and Wolvercote with Godstow. All of the allocated Conservation Areas contain features which contribute to Oxford’s history.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport said: “Central Oxford is blessed with one of the most important concentrations of historic buildings and physical and human history in the UK. It’s also the living and breathing centre of a very vibrant city that has evolved over hundreds of years and will continue to adapt in the future. Our updated City Centre Conservation Area designation will provide a clear framework for new development without being onerous. It will enable Oxford’s city centre to continue to change and thrive, but in a way that ensures that its character that is a key part of what makes it special is not harmed. ”