Can the Oxford Stadium campaign relax now house plan is off agenda?

Oxford Stadium

Oxford Stadium

First published in News

Last week Galliard Homes dropped its appeal against Oxford City Council’s decision that the former greyhound stadium could not be flattened and turned into homes. It also has put the site up for lease as a leisure facility. Some expressed cynicism about how good the news really was, so we ask: Can the campaigners relax and declare that the war has been won?

Oxford Mail:

  • YES says Save Oxford Stadium campaigner David Martin

December 28, 2012, is a day that is etched in my mind forever. The day that my beloved Oxford Stadium closed the gates for the very last time.

To me this did not make sense. The stadium was always well attended. It had lucrative contracts bringing in nearly £1m a year.

But Galliard Homes had been to the council and told them that greyhound racing would be defunct in two years’ time. The company said they were now losing money and could help the council out by putting 220 houses on the site.

I was heartbroken. This is where I had my social life as well as my job.

They said that there were no buyers out there for it. That was proved wrong straight away.

The head of greyhound racing in Ireland had expressed an interest in it. They were taken aback by how much support there was for retaining this fabulous multi-purpose stadium.

We set up a group on Facebook and the support was fantastic.

So many people have worked hard on this cause – it is their employment, passion, leisure.

We were delighted to get all council parties involved. All of them were in agreement that this site should remain as a leisure facility.

This stadium is for any age, colour or creed, it has no barriers. It is one of a few places that all these people feel very comfortable in these surroundings.

With Robert Tyrell already expressing his desire to purchase this stadium at the price it is now worth, I think they should certainly sit down and begin talks.

A purchase is what every campaigner wishes would happen, so a long lease would be the next stage.

The night we see those greyhounds, speedway bikes, smiling kids coming out of the dance school with trophies... That will be the night when every one of the campaigners can finally see that all the hard work rightly paid off.

Many other businesses may well come to this site as a result of a new owner, as it is surely better to maximize its potential.

This will help out local community with employment in the area, where jobs will become available.

Oxford Mail:

Last week’s developments on the stadium, with its owners withdrawing their appeal against refusal of their housing plans, and putting the site up for lease are welcome. But it has to be a cautious welcome at best.

I would like to thank all those who have backed the Save Oxford Stadium campaign. You have made your voices count.

But we are going to need to keep up the campaign in a situation which still remains uncertain.

That is because the owners – Galliard Homes and Risk Capital – have evidently not given up on their bid to put housing on the site. The danger is that they are staging a tactical retreat to buy time to come up with another scheme.

As for their marketing a lease on the site, the devil will in the detail of the terms on which they are prepared to lease it. Anyone taking the stadium on is going to have to put in significant investment to get it up and running. The danger is that the owners may demand too high a price or too short a lease, and then it is either not worth an operator taking the risk, or there are too many obstacles in the way of their making a success of it.

The owners could then use this as false evidence that the stadium was unviable.

As one interested bidder has already made clear, no one really wants the present owners as a landlord, given their lack of commitment to the stadium as a recreation facility, and their record in running it down in the first place.

It is disappointing, but also revealing, that the owners are so unwilling to tell local people through the Oxford Mail, or other local media, what their plans really are.

It would be much better if Galliard and Risk Capital were to recognise once and for all that the stadium is staying. They should sell it to someone who believes in its future as a top-class recreation facility, not only providing dance, karting, motorcycle training and community facilities, but getting back greyhound racing and speedway.

One thing is certain. The massive public support the Save Our Stadium campaign has won is not going away. The city council remains firmly committed to the retention of this site for leisure purposes as was agreed at the time of the Local Plan.

All of us who care about the stadium will keep up the pressure to get the facilities local people want and deserve.

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