A GROUP of ambitious community activists wants to buy a Headington-based outdoor education centre and turn it into a “co-operative community”.
Oxford Cohousing has put in a bid for the Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre, which is being sold by Birmingham City Council. Commercial bids on the site ended on May 14.
The 20 activists hope that if successful, they can create “a cohousing community for people from all walks of life”.
Cohousing is a set of purpose-built houses where residents work together as a co-operative to share childcare, cooking and gardening, and socialise as a collective.
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It is the first time Oxford Cohousing has attempted to buy land to create such a community.
Member Sarah Westcott said she was “excited” by the bid, which she thinks could offer a partial solution to Oxford’s housing crisis.
The 66-year-old said: “We’re not offering particularly cheap housing but we hope we would be able to get some part-ownership and social rent tenants.”
The New Marston resident could not reveal the offer the group had made to Birmingham City Council as the bidding process was still ongoing.
She also said the group had spoken to banks about getting a mortgage on the land, and some would be willing to put their own money into the pot to secure a deposit on the land.
Birmingham City Council closed the Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre in July last year.
Previously the site had been open to school children from Oxfordshire and Birmingham to learn outdoor skills and use the 17-acre woodland to find out more about wildlife.
It was established by the Rev Canon John Stansfeld, a parish priest, doctor and philanthropist Vicar of St Ebbe’s from 1912 to 1926. He donated the land to Birmingham in 1933.
The centre, which takes up 0.5 acres of the site, is a designated community asset but could be used as land for development.
Most of the woodland is a site of local interest and nature conservation (SLINC), which cannot be built on.
Members of the Friends of Quarry previously raised concerns over the sale of the site, as it wanted the woodland to be preserved for the community.
Member of the Friends of Stansfeld Phil Siswick, said: “We have been informed by Birmingham City Council that five bids have been submitted and expect that discussions and negotiations will be required with some or all of the bidders to achieve the aims of the group to ensure the woodland area is protected in perpetuity.”
Birmingham City Council has said it is not able to comment on the bid as the application process is ongoing.
Headington residents will meet to discuss the possible sale of the Stansfeld centre on June 4 at 7.30pm in Headington Quarry Village Hall, Quarry Road. All welcome.