City’s latest laboratory building given nod by councillors despite questions over suburban setting

NBBJ’s proposals to replace two retail sheds in Oxford with a five-storey life sciences building have been given the green light.

Designed for developer Mission Street, the plans have stoked some controversy due to the 1.1ha site’s partly suburban setting on Botley Road on the western edge of Oxford.

The practice admitted in planning documents that the new 16,700 sq m building would “clearly be of a scale not typical of the immediate vicinity”, resulting in its appearance being carefully managed to reduce impacts on neighbouring properties.

NBBJ Oxford 1

The five-storey building will replace two retail sheds in a partly suburban area of Oxford

Following talks with the council, NBBJ submitted revisions in October to set back the top floor and adjust the facade.

The building will replace two 1990s buildings occupied by retailers Carpetright and DFS, who are both due to move out in April next year.

NBBJ described the existing buildings as of “poor design quality” and said they detract from the aesthetic of the area, which is a key route into the centre of the city.

In a report recommending approval, planning officers said the scheme was of a high quality design and would positively enhance the character and appearance of the Botley Road area.

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The new laboratory-enabled building is intended for research and development, and has space for a cafe, collaborative work and a communal atrium.

It will add to a growing number of life sciences facilities in Oxford, including several schemes under construction or recently approved.

Fletcher Priest, Wilkinson Eyre and Gort Scott were all given the go ahead for facilities at the £700m Oxford North campus in September, where Fletcher Priest’s Red Hall scheme is currently being built by Laing O’Rourke.

A huge cancer research campus designed by Foster & Partners was approved in April and will be built by Laing O’Rourke, following approval for Scott Brownrigg’s £150m building at Oxford Science Park, to be built by Mace, in February.

Other schemes at Oxford Science Park include Bogle Architects’ three-storey life sciences block, which had to be moved to a different part of the site following an archeological discovery.