RESIDENTS on Witney’s Smiths estate are waiting for a decision on the future of a derelict estate office which could be revamped for a community-run transport company.

The building, now owned by Sanctuary Housing, originally served as the estate office for Smiths Industries, which employed about 2,000 people at their factory in Burford Road until its demise in 2001.

Most recently the building was used by Sanctuary for maintenance storage.

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For a number of years West Oxfordshire district councillor Andrew Coles has been trying to persuade Sanctuary to bring the building back into use, for the benefit of the local community.

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Mr Coles said: “The building is a dilapidated wreck and an absolute eyesore.

"It is located on one of the main roads into the estate and reflects very badly on the area.

"I think it’s fair to say it also reflects badly on Sanctuary too as an organisation."

Joan Holbrooke, who has lived on Smiths estate for 35 years and previously worked for Smiths Industries, said: "It looks awful.

“Sanctuary has got a bit of a cheek asking residents to keep their gardens neat and tidy when their own building is in such a poor state.”

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For over two years now talks have been ongoing between Sanctuary and West Oxfordshire Community Transport, about the takover of the site as a base for the community-owned bus company.

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A provisional agreement had been reached and Sanctuary has carried out a survey of residents which proved very encouraging but Mr Coles said Sanctuary is yet to make a definite decision.

The councillor, who has written to Sanctuary again, added: “I am genuinely at a loss to understand why it’s taking so long, with the building falling into a worse condition with each passing month.

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“Residents are keen to volunteer and help bring it back up to a decent state as it would make a lovely home for our little bus company.

“I’m really hopeful that we will make progress after the latest talks.

“The old estate office is on one of the main roads onto the estate, and we really want it to be brought back into use.”

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The local 215 bus, operated by West Oxfordshire Community Transport, continues to serve the estate.

Last year the community service that serves as a 'lifeline to residents' has received a cash boost of almost £8,000.

West Oxfordshire Community Transport was given £7,750 from housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel, which went towards the service’s running costs.

The not-for-profit organisation provides daily scheduled bus services connecting residents with family, friends and amenities.

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Its 15-seater minibus operates the 213/214/215 services across the town, while the 210 route connects nearby villages to Witney and Chipping Norton.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Housing said: "We are looking forward to seeing the building become home to an important service in the community and are sorry it has taken longer than expected to complete the work needed so an agreement can be reached. We have now received the last specialist report we were waiting for regarding important health and safety considerations and will be aiming to finalise arrangements as soon as we can.”