Tourist center with virtual reality at castle site among latest plans for Oxford

A unit at the Oxford Castle site could become a tourist center complete with virtual reality area. File image

PLANS to introduce a tourist centre, air source heat pumps at a university college, and storage for a food bank at a church are among the latest plans in Oxford.

• Tourist ‘discovery centre’

A unit at the Oxford Castle site could become a tourist center complete with virtual reality area.

The proposal is to use the former La Tasca tapas restaurant as a tourist ‘discovery centre’.

Plans state that inside the entrance, there will be a welcome from the guest presenter, a holographic ‘celebrity in a box’, which will change over time.

The remaining ground floor will also change over time but will provide displays showing ‘current lifestyle and technological innovation in Oxfordshire’, including the Covid vaccine development.

Meanwhile, the first floor will be a virtual reality area offering up to 10 experiences based on local inventions from the last 200 years.

There will be ‘ancillary food and beverage’, but no hot food.

A cover letter written alongside the application states: “Whilst Oxford continues to be a major draw to tourist visitors with over 26,000 visitors a day at the height of summer (pre-pandemic), the city lacks a major commercial visitor attraction, that supplements the more traditional tourist offer.

Gateway Attractions Ltd is a new leisure company that is seeking to fill this gap, taking several long-term unlet listed retail units in the Oxford Castle Quarter, and turning them individually and holistically into a new visitor destination.

“Sitting alongside the Oxford Castle and Prison, it is hoped that these newly proposed visitor attractions will further revitalise and regenerate the area.”

Reference number: 22/00129/FUL

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• Air source heat pumps at university college

Wolfson College has applied to have 36 air source heat pumps installed across its buildings.

In 2020, an energy report for the college resulted in a list of proposals that would be most effective in reducing heat loss from buildings.

The college has applied for funding from the Government, with areas of work identified including the replacement of gas boilers with air source heat pumps.

A design and access statement states: “Air source heat pump units should service each building independently to keep the size of units and therefore visual impact to a minimum.

“The location of the units should be as visually discrete as possible, either at the side or rear of the property, using existing garden features.

“The location of the units should be as close to the old boiler location as possible to minimise the amount of trenching needed.”

Reference number: 22/00199/FUL

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• Food bank storage at church

Planning permission is being sought for a food store at an Oxford church.

The single-storey rear portable cabin at St Francis Church in Hollow Way would be used for Oxford Community Emergency Foodbank (CEF).

Temporary planning permission was granted in November 2015, with this renewed in November 2018.

However, due to an oversight, no application was submitted to renew the permission by the November just gone.

Therefore, full planning permission is being sought for the existing portable building, for storing food on space behind the church.

A design and access statement states: “CEF is a registered charity and operates a twice-weekly distribution of food parcels from the St Francis church hall to those in need living in or near Oxford.

“It has been doing so for the last 12 years.

“This portable building is an essential part of the work CEF does.

“The store minimises the work involved in transferring food from the store to the church for the twice-weekly distribution sessions, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“Food is stored on racking, either in tins or packets, and is monitored closely to ensure customers only receive food within its sell-by date.

“No fresh food is involved.”

Reference number: 22/00249/FUL

For the latest planning applications, visit the Oxford City Council website.

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