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Sec of State refuses to list Oxford Register Office despite English Heritage’s recommendation

Science Oxford plans to demolish the Registry to make way for The Magnet science centre

The Victorian Society is surprised and concerned that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, has decided not to list Oxford’s Register Office which is on the proposed site of “The Magnet”, the planned science centre - thus paving way for its demolition.

English Heritage recommended the Register Office (built in 1911-12) be listed, noting that: "The building makes a real architectural contribution to the area and has been in public use for decades, as well as forming a group with nearby municipal buildings such as the Grade II* County Hall, the castle ruins and the prison. It forms a positive focus of several key long and short views in the area, at this ‘gateway to Oxford. Its demolition would cause significant harm to the conservation area.”

In a very unusual move, the Secretary of State rejected the application to list the Register Office arguing that its “architectural presence and civic dignity” are not sufficient to be worth protecting.

Kathy Clark, Conservation Officer at the Victorian Society said: “We are extremely surprised at the Secretary of State’s decision not to list the Registry. Whilst the creation of the science centre will clearly have benefits for Oxford, English Heritage has recommended that this important civic building should be given the protection of listing.

The Secretary of State is only allowed to consider the architectural and historic interest of the building when taking her decision and English Heritage has provided clear advice on that.”

Kathy Clark warns that: “Failure to list paves the way for its demolition which would be a real loss to the area and indeed a great sadness to the many thousands of couples who were married in Oxford Register Office.”

The Oxford Registry was designed by local Oxford architect WA Daft. It makes the most of this important corner site by using contrasting local materials (pale Cotswold stone walls, detailing in vivid ironstone and a Stonesfield slate roof.) It features a handsome Palladian window above a beautiful carved stone entrance, giving the Oxford Register Office the gravitas that was typical of a period when local government was in the ascent.

The Planning Application to demolish the Registry and build the new Science Centre is currently in the hands of Oxford City Council. The Victorian Society urges Oxford City Council to consider the impact of demolishing the Registry on the area and its civic history.

Wednesday 15 May, 2013

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