MERTON has announced plans for hundreds of new student rooms, after ending a court dispute with Oxford City Council. The buildings, announced in collaboration with McLaren Property, are to be reviewed at two public consultation events scheduled for later this month.The development comes after a High Court legal challenge last year in which Merton and McLaren led several other colleges in opposition to Oxford City Council’s social housing charge. The court case was brought after a proposed development to provide accommodation for a further 298 Merton students at Manor Place was deemed not viable by the college due to the scale of the charge. The Council’s policy of demanding a financial contribution for social housing, in return for permission to build new student accommodation, meant that the building project would cost £1 million more than planned.Stuart Black, the Development Manager of McLaren, had criticized the policy stating, “The plan would stop dead student accommodation in Oxford that is done on a commercial basis”.However, new proposals announce that “both partners have now withdrawn legal action and have stated their intention to work with the Council and local stakeholders to devise a scheme which fully complies with current planning policy and meets local need for student accommodation”.Stuart Black of McLaren Property said, “McLaren has made a commercial decision to proceed with a revised plan which reflects the requirements of Oxford’s planning policy and helps to meet the growing local need for new student accommodation in the city.“It is very important for us to create a scheme which meets local needs while respecting the rich heritage of the local area and the comfort of residents neighbouring the site.”There have been further instances of disputes between the University and Oxford City Council over planning, most notably over the £20 million Castle Mill development. The University was recently found at fault by an inquiry which criticised them for not providing adequate public consultations.The controversty over Merton’s plans follows the news that St Cross College’s attempts to enlarge the West Quadrangle were rejected after being recommended to the council for acceptance. Nevertheless, this issue seems to be of more interest to lawyers than student. One commented, “I honestly could not give less of a toss. Merton’s loaded, they’ve got the money to cover these extra costs and I don’t see why they need more accommodation anyway. I’m pleased they’ve stopped sniping in the courts and are just getting on with it”. Another criticised the focus on planning in Oxford, “Ever since Port Meadow, it feels like the University and colleges have been at odds with the council over so many building projects. I’m glad they’ve got it sorted out”.