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Dance school expansion plans on track despite doubt over stadium future
THE fate of Oxford Stadium hangs in the balance, but a group which still uses it says it intends to expand.
Performance troupe Dance Connection wants to create an extra studio inside the premises, which it rents from R&R Frontline Services.
The Greyhound Racing Association (GRA), which owns the stadium, closed it in December.
Several months earlier Galliard Homes, which is linked to the GRA’s parent company Risk Capital Partners, revealed plans for 225 homes on the site.
While much of the furniture, fixtures and fittings were removed from the site and taken to the GRA’s other stadiums, the studios are still in use.
Dance Connection is able to stay at the Sandy Lane venue while the landlords are based there. However, members say the “perpetual limbo” has caused problems and they want a swift solution.
Groups such as Messy Jam have left since greyhound racing ended in December but Dance Connection is asking the community not to forget it.
Oxford City Council wants the stadium preserved and has asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles to intervene in a dispute with planning agent Savills.
The developer wants to demolish the Sandy Lane stadium to build 220 homes.
A decision was expected at the end of July but the application has been held up at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Dance Connection is currently negotiating to rent a new studion so it can expand. It hopes to have it open in January.
The group has 350 children, and manager Sam Clifton says she will not let uncertainty cloud what could be a “break-out year”.
She said: “We are in limbo and haven’t heard anything. We’re looking to build a fifth studio inside the base in January and while we hear nothing we are going to push on with it.
“We’ve been working harder than ever and have lots of events lined up for October, and we are looking at training our dancers up to enter national competitions.
“It’s pantomime season soon and we will be auditioning for that, so while the stadium is there we will be there.”
The complex of four studios runs weekly classes for pupils aged 18 months to 18 years.
Ms Clifton added: “We’ve got loads of success stories and you won’t find anything like this in Oxfordshire or even Berkshire, so we are determined to stay.”
A spokesman for the DCLG said there was “no update” on the situation and no date had been set for Mr Pickles to make a decision.
The stadium was recently added to the Oxford City Council Heritage Asset Register.
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