QUESTIONS about whether greyhound and motorbike racing could return to Oxford Stadium and be profitable have been raised.

The fate of Oxford Stadium was mulled over by a government planning inspector as part of a series of public hearings into Oxford City Council’s Local Plan.

The Oxford Stadium hearing took place yesterday, with a huge contingent of die-hard motorcycle speedway racing fans dressed in their Oxford Cheetahs team shirts in the public seating areas.

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Planning inspector Nick Fagan considered opinions from the city council, and real estate company Savills, representing the company which owns the stadium, Cowley Investments.

He also heard from Steven Sensecall, a lawyer representing the campaign group Save Oxford Stadium.

Mr Fagan had two questions to ask them all about the stadium: was enough being done in the council’s plans for the site to provide new housing for Oxford? And: would refurbishing the stadium for racing be ‘economically viable’?

The answer to the second question from the Savills team was no.

Oxford Mail:

Speedway fans who want to see Oxford Stadium brought back into use attended the meeting.

They argued that the site could not be profitable as the land was too expensive, and there had been a downturn in both greyhound and speedway racing’s popularity across the UK and beyond.

Adding to this, they said the council’s aims to build more homes across the city ‘leaving no stone unturned’ was being ignored if they did not use the site for housing.

Savills also raised concerns about the council’s proposals for the site, which would include building up to 100 homes on the car park of the stadium.

They said the venue, with its 1,500 capacity, needed the large car park if the council wanted to see it brought back into use.

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Savills argued the stadium should be knocked down to make way for 200 homes.

But Oxford City Council officer Carolyn Ploszynski disagreed with the Savills assessment.

She said the car park would not be needed as people moved away from using cars and onto public transport in the future.

She said the council aim, as set out in the draft local plan, was to look at bringing the stadium back into use for greyhound and speedway racing under private ownership, and if this was not a viable option, it could be used by the community or for leisure activities.

The car park would be developed into an estimated 100 homes as a means of funding activities at the stadium.

As a worst-case scenario, the council’s plan made provision for the stadium site to be developed into more homes if a success was not made of it.

Oxford Mail:

A Save Oxford Stadium meeting at the Chequers pub in November

Ms Ploszynski said a similar scheme had been carried out with Walthamstow Stadium, where housing has been developed after attempts to revive racing at the track failed.

A legal representative for the city council added their estimates showed the stadium could generate a five-year income of £2.8m, of which 0.54m would be profit.

Mr Sensecall, speaking on behalf of the Save Oxford Stadium campaign, expressed the group’s worries about the sportsground falling into ruin if it was not refurbished.

He said the current landowners could have been more ‘responsible’ be seeking out a business partner which could bring the ground back into use for racing, rather than leaving it vacant.

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The stadium’s current owner Cowley Investments Ltd has links to housing developer Galliard Homes, which had previously owned the venue and unsuccessfully applied to build homes there in 2014.

Earlier this year, businessman Nick Budimir came forward promising £20m investment to kick start the stadium’s return to use.

Mr Budimir has the backing of the Save Our Stadium campaign group to do this.

The planning inspector, Mr Fagan and his colleague Jonathan Bore will continue to examine other parts of the city council’s local plan for the next week.

They will publish a report laying out which parts of the plan will be allowed to go ahead, including the stadium, in January.