Homeless dance academy bids to save old church hall home

Sarah Livingstone and her daughters, twins Megan, left, and Ruby, right, three, and Ella, seven, who all dance. Mrs Livingstone has collected more than 300 names on a petition for a new hall

Sarah Livingstone and her daughters, twins Megan, left, and Ruby, right, three, and Ella, seven, who all dance. Mrs Livingstone has collected more than 300 names on a petition for a new hall

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

DANCERS want to save their home of 30 years from being demolished for housing as they say they will not be able to use the replacement building.

The St Mary’s Church’s hall building in Barton, Oxford, has closed and is to be knocked down as it has fallen in to disrepair.

The church is planning to sell the land the hall is on and use the cash to adapt the church itself so groups can use it instead.

But Isis Dance Academy will not be able to use it as the floor is tiled and difficult to move on.

Margaret Moss, who ran the dance school from the Edgecombe Road hall for 30 years, said: “That hall was our home.

“It is a huge loss to the community. It would be a very bad idea to put houses on there.”

The 1960s hall – which has also been used by groups including Guides and Scouts – was said to be falling into disrepair after an Oxford Diocese survey in 2012 and parishioners were told it would cost more than £500,000 to repair.

The church has since adapted the building, by replacing the fixed pews with 100 removable seats.

It is also planning to fundraise for a new kitchen, toilets, and a small space for meetings and activities.

Rev Maggie Thorne said the church would love to see a community group take on the building a redevelop it, but she said they could not give it away.

She said: “We are not a rich parish. We have not got the money for what we would like to do, which is to rebuild the hall. We have to sell the land to make the church work for the community.”

The dance school, which has more than 80 students, held a final curtain call at the hall last month when it performed the annual show, this year entitled Finale.

Sarah Livingstone, who has three daughters at the school, has collected more than 300 signatures on a petition against any plan to build homes on the site.

The 31-year-old, of Waynflete Road in Barton, said: “(People) are in uproar.”

Mike Rowley, Oxford City Council member for Barton and Sandhills, said it would be nice to retain a similar facility.

He said: “As it is there is a gap now in the community in Barton and I do think something better can be provided for them.”

But he said the church development would be important, adding: “It will still be a much valued community facility and it is time the church was updated.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he would take up concerns with the council’s planning department.

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