THREE years after Oxford Stadium was closed, the city council has come up with an ambitious plan to seize back control of the site.

So far attempts to revive the site have ended in failure, with owners GRA Acquisition and parent companies seemingly not responding to bids or requests for talks with the council.

Now with the help of Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, lawyers are looking at the prospect of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), which would allow them to obtain the land without owner GRA Acquisition’s permission. Mr Smith has had research conducted into the idea at the House of Commons Library.

City council leader Bob Price said: “We have had a detailed analysis of CPO powers back from the library. The advice we got was very interesting and we are talking to lawyers about it.”

It is the latest twist in an ongoing saga at the site.

In April 2013 the council refused Galliard Homes planning permission to build 220 homes on the site, adding it to its heritage asset register that July, meaning parts of the site can only be used as sport and leisure facilities.

It was also listed as a conservation area in April 2014, protecting it in law against “undesirable changes”, and an asset of community value in June 2015, making it very difficult for developers to demolish the site for homes especially without the input of the community.

But despite since approaching owners with a compromise, Mr Price said he has struggled to make contact with GRA Acquisition or its parent companies, Risk Capital Partners and Galliard Homes.

He said: “We have pointed out that there is room for development around the margins of the site. With a bit of imagination there could be housing, and also a stadium.

“Galliard have been very reluctant to make any concrete propositions, other than saying they wanted to proceed with the housing application.

“We tried to make a date with Chris Duffy [of Galliard Homes’ asset management team] last June but it never got set up. There has been no sense of dialogue at all.”

In the past three years it is understood five bidders, all with the intention of restoring the stadium to its former use, have said they have contacted owners with “credible” bids.

But both Galliard and NAMA, the Irish bank to which GRA Acquisition owes £52m, have insisted that no bids have yet been received.

Steventon farmer Bob Tyrrell claims he has entered three separate bids since 2013, to no avail. He said: “It has all gone quiet.

“I don’t think they will give up until they get permission for houses. I had a conversation with Clive Feltham and he said ‘Wait and see’. For how long?”.

As the owners of a heritage asset, GRA Acquisition is expected to have a ‘maintenance plan’ in place for the site to prevent it from falling into disarray.

It is understood no plan has yet been produced. Ian Sawyer, chairman of the Save Our Stadium campaign, said volunteer groups have not been granted permission to enter and tidy the site. He added: “No volunteers can get access. We have a group ready to go in, paint and de-weed, and we asked for permission and never got a reply.”

Mr Price, pictured, said he believed GRA Acquisition and directors were waiting for Government policy to move favourably in their direction. Last year it was announced new ‘automatic planning permission’ could be extended to developers wishing to build on brownfield sites, as part of Government policy to build 3m new homes by 2020.

Referencing the fact that GRA Ltd – the original Greyhound Racing Association – had sold the stadium on to Risk Capital Partners, he added: “One of the tragedies of the whole thing is that the GRA, which you would have thought would be the guardians of greyhound racing in the UK, aren’t operating that way.

“They are operating clearly as asset strippers making money out of property assets, rather than supporting the sport.

“It’s difficult to know what their intentions are but I can’t think it is very far from just wanting to knock everything down and build houses.”

GRA Ltd, GRA Acquisition Ltd, Risk Capital Partners and Galliard Homes did not respond to the Oxford Mail’s requests for comment.

High hopes from campaigners to bring back stadium's glory days

Oxford Mail:

  • Oxford Cheetahs speedway riders and their opponents race towards the first bend at the Sandy Lane stadium in 1976 

Greyhound trainers, go-karters, speedway fanatics and tap dancers are still united in their wish to see Oxford Stadium returned to its former glory.

Alongside the Save Our Stadium campaign, which has its roots in the 1970s, former employees and families through the generations are still keeping their hopes high.

On January 7 this year a supporters’ meeting at The Chequers pub – only announced the weekend before – was attended by at least 200 people.

The ‘Save Oxford Greyhound Stadium’ group has a total of 3,141 supporters from Oxford and across the UK.

Current Save Our Stadium chairman Ian Sawyer said: “The public want the stadium revamped for the use it’s intended. The biggest letdown is GRA Ltd, which is supposed to be on the side of greyhound racing, but they have shut their stadiums down.”

Former track staff member Shane Leach, who worked at Oxford Stadium for 13 years, added: “It breaks my heart to see it rotting away like this.

“I’ve seen it packed to the rafters. I’ve seen it empty, flooded and the snow come in, but we still carried on. It was a massive loss not just to Oxford but people far and wide.”

A small army of volunteers are waiting for permission to get onto the site to de-weed and give it a lick of paint as current tenants Karting Oxford cannot manage alone.

It has been suggested that despite the fact GRA Ltd employees dismantled some parts of the site in January 2013, the damage could be fixed in a matter of months.

Campaigner Mick Wheble said: “Everything at the track and the stadium could be put right within two months with a grant from the Greyhound Board of Great Britain.

“I believe the track itself would need a month, and the inside no more than six weeks with a lovely kitchen and restaurant. It is superficial damage.”

Oxford Speedway Supporters’ Club chairman Gavin Beckley added that there was also hope for speedway.

He said: “With the support of the stadium, reasonable rents and a realistic bid, speedway could pay for itself quite easily and there is a call for it to be brought back.”

While Oxford City Council investigates the possibility of a CPO, members of the campaign are getting to work drawing up a heritage maintenance plan for the site – technically the owner’s responsibility.

Sandford-on-Thames resident Wayne Mazey, who started work as a kennel hand in 1986, said: “I have been going to the stadium since 1974 when my grandad Reg Louch took me to the speedway. He used to push the bikes at the start of races from 1954 onwards. We also used to attend the greyhounds on a Friday. I was hooked.

“The stadium has been part of my family’s life for more than 50 years. It is a complete travesty that the greed of GRA could be allowed to stop me and thousands of others enjoying it for years to come. Far too many tracks are being closed down with the loss of hundreds of jobs, not to mention the plight of these superb dogs.

“Everything is in place to make this stadium one of the best in the country, as it was before.”