'DEVASTATED' groups left in the lurch by the shock closure of an Oxford community centre have pleaded for their lifeline to be re-opened as soon as possible.

The main hall at the Bullingdon Community Centre in Peat Moors, Headington, was abruptly closed on July 14 by Oxford City Council after urgent safety concerns over the structure of the building were raised by an officer.

Hundreds of people now locked out of their regular venue include the elderly, adults with learning disabilities and youngsters on their summer holidays.

And it comes a full year before the city council were due to spend £500,000 on a refurbishment.

Patricia Pender-White, the venue's caretaker of 25 years, said the closure had been 'disastrous' for everyone in Lye Valley and Wood Farm.

She said: "The centre is a lifeline; everybody congregates here. We've tried to accommodate them in the smallest spaces and it's devastating.

"We're not allowed anywhere near the main hall or kitchen. I do what I can and we're maintaining the outside area, but we're so limited now."

The council has said it had 'no option' but to close the hall and is still 'exploring the feasibility' of installing an extra seven temporary props in the hall.

Richard Bryant, secretary of the Bullingdon Community Association, said: "What has upset local groups is there has been no decision taken to install the additional props.

"The community centre and local groups are calling on Oxford City Council to install more props and reopen the hall as soon as possible."

Bullingdon Community Centre was built by residents in the late 1940s and was due for a renovation to the tune of £500,000 in summer 2018.

It is used by about 400 people a week and 18 groups are based on the site, including three toddler groups, six for the over-60s and two karate clubs.

Just two organisations - Orinoco Scrap Store and the junior football club - are currently able to use the site while others are struggling to find affordable venues.

Among the groups now in dire straits is the Seven O'Clock Club, a group for people with learning disabilities that has met at Bullingdon since the 1960s.

Up to 60 people travel from all corners of Oxfordshire to attend weekly bingo sessions, with snacks, cake and music - often their only social night a week.

Katie Hollier, chairwoman of Oxford & District Mencap, said letting the long-running club 'flounder' would make it 'enormously difficult' to bring back volunteers.

She added: "We don't know whether to move or not because people don't know when the hall is going to re-open.

"We've found a hall in Barton but we'd have to charge everyone at least an extra couple of pounds and they're paying out of their own allowances.

"This is especially hard on people with autism who value routine. Those with learning disability, who suffer from a lack of people to take them out, have less time out then any other group in society and often don't feel comfortable in other social environments due to how others treat them."

The Studio Theatre Club, which had been rehearsing for a new production and was weeks away from curtain-up, has also been disrupted.

Also scouting for a new home is The Date Palm Tree, a playgroup for Muslim mothers and children that would have needed the hall from September.

Marston resident Sarah Mohsin, who attends with daughter Aisha, eight, and son Noah, six, said about 50 people had recently attended an Eid celebration at the venue.

She said: "We generally have a cup of tea while the kids play with the toys. I absolutely love the centre; the whole package was perfect for what we needed.

"It's all so sudden and has thrown everything. September is not far away but hopefully if we put our heads together we'll find something."

Oxford City Council closed the hall following a report from its health and safety officer warning that the building was now dangerously deteriorated.

A £500,000 refurbishment had been due to start next June and the council is now considering whether it can bring this forward, reducing the time groups are left homeless.

Tim Sadler, executive director for sustainable city, said: "We did not take this decision lightly, but the report and subsequent professional advice left us with no option.

"Safety of the centre's users has to be our priority. We are looking to sit down with the community association as soon as possible to discuss all the options."