John Leon House, Headington

John Leon House, 21 March 2008

The above photograph taken on 21 March 2008 looks down Holyoake Road and shows John Leon House at 138–140 London Road when it was nearing completion. Its fourteen upstairs apartments were exclusively for key workers, and as early as February 2007 30% of them had already been reserved with Connells estate agents.

The developers were BradAndrews (who also developed the Shotover Mound site in Quarry), and the building was designed by Riach Architects


Approved planning application

On 22 February 2005 the North East Area Committee approved amended plans 04/01311/FUL to demolish the former Cotswold Collection shop on the corner of Holyoake Road and replace it with a much bigger and higher one with five floors comprising:

  • Shop (on ground floor, 94sq.m)
  • Offices (on first floor, 108sq.m)
  • 13  flats and 1 maisonette (on top 3 floors)

Attempts to the change the ground-floor
retail shop to an office

First attempt: October 2005

The applicant (then Fisepa 187 Ltd) submitted application 05/02066/FUL to change the use of the permitted ground-floor retail unit (Class A1) to financial and professional services (Class A2). This was rejected because:

The proposed loss of a retail (A1) unit would be contrary to the aims and objectives of Policies RC.2 and RC.4, which seek to maintain and enhance the vitality and viability of the Headington District Shopping centre.

(Policy RC.2 of Oxford’s Local Plan provides that planning permission will only be granted for proposals that seek to maintain and enhance the role of Headington District Shopping Centre; and Policy RC.4 provides that planning permission will only be granted for non-A1 use when the proportion of units at ground level in A1 use is 65% or more.)

Second attempt: June 2007

Fisepa 187 Ltd submitted a second application (07/01473/FUL) offering a swap of usage with the building currently housing Connell’s estate agent at 137a London Road opposite. That was rejected on the following grounds:

Although the applicant has offered to enter into a legal agreement to provide a retail (Class A1) unit at 137a London Road, to compensate against the proposed loss of the retail unit at 138–140 London Road in order to maintain the balance of retail units within the District Centre, it is considered that this would not represent an acceptable like-for-like exchange. Having regard to the location of 137a London Road in relation to the District Centre, the nature of those premises, the extent of the floorspace and width of retail frontage, compared to 138–140 London Road, the proposal would fail to maintain and enhance the role of the Headington District Shopping centre contrary to the aims and objectives of policy RC2 of the adopted Oxford Local Plan 2001–2016.

(Connell’s present office at No. 137a London Road is a small building that in 1963 was tacked on to the end of Westbourne Terrace, a row of sixteen Victorian houses that were all turned into shops from the 1930s.)

Third attempt: March 2008

Connell’s Estate Agents themselves, who had the sole agency for letting John Leon House, submitted application 08/00658/FUL. This was identical to the last application, except that they stood as applicant rather than Fisepa. Not surprisingly this was turned down, and Connell’s was then able to launch an appeal.

The appeal

Connell’s appeal (08/00069/REFUSE) was heard at the Town Hall in December 2008, and the result announced on 12 January 2009. The Planning Inspectorate determined that the new shop on the ground floor of John Leon House 138–140 London Road (on the corner of Holyoake Road) should remain in A1 (retail) use. Planning Inspector Timothy Ball concluded that although the new plan did not conflict with Policy RC.2, it did conflict with Policy RC.4. His report included the following:

I was told at the hearing that the building had been designed to be used for office purposes on the ground floor and had not been actively marketed for A1 use…. I have no reason to believe that the appeal property would remain vacant if marketed.

The proposal would involve a loss of retail floorspace, the loss of a modern shop building, and a less prestigious replacement. I consider that this would not maintain or enhance the role of the shopping centre, in conflict with Policy RC.2. The fact that the Council had approved the current building with a loss of shopping floorspace does not overcome the need to have regard to development plan policies in the current proposal. On the main issue I conclude that the proposal would harm the vitality and viability of the Headington District shopping centre.

John Leon House
John Leon House on 3 February 2007


Ripples Bathroom Showroom opened here in 2008, but went into administration in June 2010. Connell’s, who still own the building, repossessed the ground floor on 2 August 2010.

Cotswold Collection

The former shop on this site

The shop demolished to make way for John Leon House (right) was built in 1908,and was the original G.H. Williams cycle shop, where the Highfield cycle was made.

It was the home of Shergold’s (later Carpenter’s) before the Cotswold Collection took it over.


© Stephanie Jenkins


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