Stadium campaigners start drive for cash fighting fund

HOPEFUL: James Lawson, left, with Oxford East MP Andrew Smith MP and county council leader Ian Hudspeth at The Chequers

HOPEFUL: James Lawson, left, with Oxford East MP Andrew Smith MP and county council leader Ian Hudspeth at The Chequers

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

CAMPAIGNERS fighting the demolition of Oxford Stadium have made a rallying cry for cash as they try to stop the site being flattened.

At a public meeting in The Chequers pub in Headington Quarry, the campaigners began raising money to pay for the thousands of pounds they will need to fork out on consultants and lawyers.

It comes after developer Galliard Homes took its fight to bulldoze the greyhound stadium to a government inspector.

The appeal process will require the campaigners hoping to keep it to stump up a large sum of cash – as the developer is appealing the Oxford City Council vote to both reject a scheme to flatten it and to build 220 homes.

Ian Sawyer, who has been leading the campaign, said: “We have got meetings with consultants to get an idea of how much we need.

“There are people who have agreed to look into giving us money like the British Speedway Promoters’ Association but they have to have committee meetings.

“With such support from Oxford City Council, the consultants think we have a good chance.

“I would like to think that if we won the appeal, Galliard would sell, but we cannot make them do it and they might think that if it is rejected it is better to get some money by selling.”

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More than 200 people turned out to hear the fate of Oxford Stadium at Oxford's Town Hall.

At the meeting, a collection raised £500 to get the ball rolling.

Mr Sawyer said the group is currently setting up a bank account so supporters can donate and a number of fundraising events are in the pipeline.

Campaign member James Lawson, 64, from Northway in Oxford, said: “We need the support of people in the city.

“If we don’t do anything now, the houses will be built .”

Galliard’s plan to demolish the 75-year-old stadium and replace it with 220 homes were rejected by the city council last month.

But the company has now launched an appeal against the decision, which means an independent government inspector will rule on the issue.

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that a public inquiry will be held.

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said: “I will keep doing everything possible to save this stadium.

“We have got to keep focused on winning this appeal.

“Win this and I believe Galliard will be forced to sell.

“Then we will get someone owning the stadium who believes in making the most of its incredible potential.”

Two businessmen, Harry Findlay and Paschal Taggart, have already expressed an interest in buying the stadium from Galliard.

After opening in 1939, the stadium was home to greyhound racing until 2012 when the owners said it was no longer viable.

It was also home to the Oxford Cheetahs speedway team until 2008.

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