AN OXFORD community leader said he was pinching himself in disbelief yesterday after plans to rebuild his creaking community centre were finally revealed.

Richard Bryant of Bullingdon Community Association said his group were stunned after Oxford City Council at last published plans to rebuild Bullingdon Community Centre in Headington.

The plans have taken years to finalise after the walls started to fall down and the council then discovered that the centre on Peat Moors had been built on top of a former quarry.

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Now the authority has submitted an official application to its own planning department to completely demolish the current building and replace it with a 'colourful' new hub.

Mr Bryant, who is secretary of Bullingdon Community Association which looks after the centre, said yesterday he was 'pinching himself' in disbelief that the plans had finally gone in.

He said: "We have had to put quite a lot of pressure on to make this happen, but things are now looking positive.

Oxford Mail:

Richard Bryant, second from left, with other centre users and managers campaigning for a full redevelopment last year.

"The community centre is very important, and one of the big positives that has come out of this uncertainty is that the community has really come together.

"People have worked hard writing letters and lobbying to make sure that the plans still go ahead."

Two-and-a-half years ago in July 2017, groups using the community centre were asked to move out with just 24 hours' notice after the city council raised the alarm about the decaying walls.

The next month, the authority installed nine props to hold up one side of the building and it was reopened.

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In the new planning application, the project team recalled: "This was devastating news for the centre and the association challenged the closure and campaigned for the hall to be reopened."

A plan was then sent off to partly demolish part of the building and in 2018 it looked likely that a £500,000 makeover was going to go ahead.

But those plans were then thrown into uncertainty when the council discovered the centre had been built on a filled-in quarry.

Oxford Mail:

In October last year the original rebuild plan was finally scrapped in favour of a complete redevelopment – at double the price.

The council's new £1m plan was welcomed by the campaigners and the association who had been fighting to save the hub.

The building is owned by the council, but run the Bullingdon Community Association.

It is now the only community centre serving the area and has around 500 users every week, including the Mencap disabilities group that has been based there since 1963.

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Mr Bryant said: "People were made to move out the first time the building closed a couple of summers ago and that caused a lot of alarm – we were closed with 24 hours' notice.

"A year later there was the plans to renovate the main hall so we were operating to a day that everybody was going to relocate, but then we were told last minute that nothing was going to happen for the second time.

"Since then most groups who had to move out for the renovation have come back and the other two groups are moving back after the main redevelopment.

"It's been quite disruptive."

Oxford Mail:

It is thought the building was built in the late 1940s by local residents, and has now been operating for 40 years beyond its expected lifespan.

The new plans have now been submitted to the council's planning team, and will either be decided by officers or the planning committee of elected councillors.

The designs have been put together by Park End Street's Jessop and Cook Architects who have worked on designs like the Oxford Artisan Distillery in South Park and Floyds Row homeless centre.

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Mr Bryant explained that the association had played a big role in the new designs, which feature a grey brick exterior and 'colourful leaf green' metal sheeting.

He added that all the furnishings have to be supplied by the association, so groups have been holding fundraisers to get some cash together.

He said: "We had a Christmas fair run by the over-60s group and we raised £800 for new furniture for the new centre."

A council spokesman said: “The city council is committed to providing a community centre that meets the needs of local residents, as the current community centre needs replacing.”