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Parks College plans emerge

Radcliffe Science Library - smallMore information has emerged on the University’s plans, announced last year, to create its first new college in several decades.

Parks College, as it is provisionally known, will be a graduate college focusing on interdisciplinary research in the 21st century. The move responds to the University’s five-year strategic plan, which calls for an increase in the intake of graduate students by up to 850 per year. The aim is for the new college to accept its first students in autumn 2020. The project is being overseen by Professor Lionel Tarassenko, who currently heads the Department of Engineering Science.

Estates Services staff are closely involved with drawing up plans for the new college and integrating them with the existing plans for the refurbishment of the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) building. For example, the Space Management team are playing a key part in working out how it can share space with the Radcliffe Science Library, enabling both to use the same space flexibly at different times of day. Student accommodation is expected to be located elsewhere in the city owing to a lack of space on the RSL site.

The Radcliffe Science Library site will need extensive work to provide facilities such as common rooms, offices for college staff and spaces for activities such as data visualisation and public engagement with research. The plans involve the creation of formal and informal study space for students; there will also be dining facilities for the college.
Plans for the college are being drawn up and will go before Council and Congregation over the coming months. They have also been considered by the Strategic Capital Steering Group (SCSG) and the Buildings and Estates Sub-Committee (BESC).

New Residential Lettings website goes live

The Residential Lettings team has launched a new website designed to promote the University properties it lets to private tenants across Oxford and in Wytham village.

The site is the first use of new branding the team have developed to provide a more coherent and attractive visual identity. It will serve as a single convenient place where current and prospective tenants can find relevant procedures and documents as well as information on local services.

Also hosted on the site are two promotional videos the team produced last year, with drone footage providing a stunning aerial tour of Wytham village and of Overford Farm, a recently completed project converting disused agricultural outbuildings into high-quality housing.

Consultation launched on Oxfordshire Plan 2050

Oxfordshire Plan 2050The Oxfordshire Growth Board has launched a consultation on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, which will provide a large-scale strategic framework for the county’s development in the decades leading up to mid-century. It will follow on from the policies in the set of District Local Plans that are currently being agreed by the various local authorities in Oxfordshire.

More information on the Plan is available at It is being prepared jointly by the six Oxfordshire local authorities as part of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreement with central government. It will set out a long-term planning and development strategy, focusing on the period between 2030 and 2050.

The consultation seeks feedback on the Plan’s initial components – a draft vision, a set of aspirations and objectives on particular topics and seven potential space scenarios. It opened on 11 February and will continue for six weeks until 25 March.

The University will submit a collective response, which will be approved by the Buildings and Estates Sub-Committee (BESC) on 14 March. This is currently being prepared by Rebecca Horley, Town Planning Manager ( and Michael Crofton-Briggs, Planning Consultant (, who can also provide more information about the Plan or the consultation if needed. Any comments for inclusion in the University’s response should be sent to one of them, although staff are also free to respond to the consultation in a personal capacity.

More electric vehicles enter service

Facilities Management staff at the University offices at Wellington Square have new eco-friendly transportation after four old vehicles were replaced with highly energy-efficient modern electric equivalents.

Three electric vans that were several years old were replaced with new models, while an old diesel van has been replaced with an electric car which is better suited to the tasks usually demanded of it. The vehicles will be used by the University Mail Service and other parts of FM including the Void Buildings team. They will significantly reduce the environmental impact of these teams’ work.

Wytham exhibition focuses on Citizen Science

Wytham citizen science exhibitionA new exhibition opened recently in the Wytham Woods room at the Museum of Natural History, focusing on Citizen Science – a hot topic at the moment, and an area in which the Woods team are already leaders.

Citizen Science is when members of the public help gather data for scientists to use in their research. A great deal of it already goes on at the Woods – visitors can pick up a kit telling them how to record the butterflies they encounter on their walk, or use the recently-developed phone app to record sightings of ash dieback disease. Many more opportunities are on the way in 2019 – the team are planning to launch numerous new ways in which people can help gather the information scientists need, and the ash dieback app will be formally launched in April.

The exhibition opened in January and will continue until around early June. In spring it will be accompanied by a free talk on pollinators and how to protect them by naturalist and insect expert Steven Falk, who wrote the Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland. This will take place on 19 March from 7-8pm – you can book tickets online.

DLO Plumbing team simplifies its service commitments

After a successful trial of committing to respond to all work requests within three days, the Direct Labour Organisation’s plumbing team have adopted this approach as standard across the jobs it does.

This is much simpler for customers compared to the old Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which contained a great variety of different timescales depending on the exact nature of the problem. Some of these specified four weeks or even longer for an initial response, leading to confusion and frustration among building users.

Once the change has been reviewed by the DLO board and checked for customer satisfaction, other DLO maintenance will move onto a similar standard SLA – the mechanical team is expected to do this over summer and the building maintenance team at a later date.

Joiners restore Havel’s Place in the University Parks

Havel's place after restorationThe DLO joiners have been at work in the Parks to restore the furniture at Havel’s Place.

The installation is one of several around the world that are dedicated to the memory of Vaclav Havel, the author, human rights activist and former President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

Originally added to the Parks in 2014, it includes two chairs and a small table built around a young Linden tree, and is meant to provide a modest place for rest and contemplation.

The wooden parts of the table and chairs have suffered badly from exposure to the elements in the last few years. Their replacements, however, should last much longer as they are made from Accoya, a high-tech softwood that has been treated with preservative to make it extremely resistant to rot – indeed, it is guaranteed to last 50 years.

Sheldonian Theatre renews VisitEngland accreditationVisit England

The Sheldonian Theatre has undergone the annual re-accreditation of its VisitEngland Award, gaining high overall marks and receiving glowing feedback on the helpfulness of its staff.

The VisitEngland assessment scheme helps tourism businesses promote and improve the quality, accessibility and sustainability of the services they offer.

The Sheldonian team, part of Facilities Management, have held the accreditation since 2014 and continuously seek to use the reports from its assessors as a benchmark for improving visitors’ experience.

Improvements over the years include better staff training, the launch of guided tours and the introduction of new signage.

What’s happening in the University Parks

Aerial view of ParksThe University Parks gardeners have been carrying out winter pruning, tidying up climbing shrubs and mulching with the compost produced from waste plant matter grown in the Parks and elsewhere in Oxford.

This winter they have also been renewing various borders around the Parks. Many of the plants in the Pavilion borders were old and tired; they have been dug up and will be re-planted after the addition of compost to increase fertility. The Hayrick Border’s northern end is also being worked on; the team have removed aging plants and will monitor the border over summer, removing perennial weeds as they appear before re-planting in autumn; next year the procedure will be repeated on the next section of border, with the aim of replacing worn-out plants and removing long-term weeds.

Finally, the West Walk is also receiving attention; staff are filling in gaps left by last year’s very hot, dry summer, which killed a number of plants. 

Parks weed brush trialThe team have been increasing their use of electric equipment after successful trials last year – they have bought more hedge trimmers and leaf blowers. They have also been testing a new ‘weed brush’ designed to remove algae, moss and grime from paths and paved areas without damaging the surface beneath. The petrol-powered device is lighter and more agile than the team’s existing leaf sweeper and offers the ability to clean paved areas quickly and thoroughly.

Elsewhere around Oxford, Parks gardeners have been working in Oriel College, where they have replaced wires for climbing shrubs to grow up, and have continued landscaping around the new Innovation Building at Old Road Campus. 

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