A LOCAL councillor is calling for Bicester’s former magistrates’ court to be converted into a culture hub.

The building on Queens Avenue has been empty since its closure in 2016, with Homes England taking ownership of the property which is now up for sale.

In 2018, there were fears that the site would be turned into more housing, but Oxfordshire county councillor for Bicester west Les Sibley would like to see it converted into something for the community.

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He said: “I just feel it could be used for all sorts of things. Let’s use it and bring it back into the community. It could be a place for art - we have lots of Bicester artefacts that could be displayed. It could evolve over the years into something like a museum. It’s certainly of interest.

“When they put it up for sale I thought, ‘Oh no, not more housing’. I think we’ve got more than enough houses.

"It costs to run these things but it's a wonderful venue and with a bit of thinking we can get it moving. We should purchase it for the community. It’s a shame to see it standing idly.”

The court had not been used for criminal cases since 2013, but had stood proudly in the building known as Waverley House since the 1970s.

Prior to the court it was the old Ploughley Rural District Council site.

The Ministry of Justice proposed to close the ‘underused and dilapidated’ court as part of a national overhaul of the court system which was expected to save £40m.

Mr Sibley added: "The site is easily accessible with good walking and cycling facilities. It should remain as part of Bicester's history. We've got so many residents and visitors coming into the town, it could be used as a tourist information centre as well as a museum with a cafe for people to enjoy refreshments.

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"I'm sure there would be lots of people interested. It's a venue that needs to be explored because there's a fantastic opportunity here."

Bicester resident Alan Bickley, who grew up in the town, said what Bicester needs is a new music venue where local musicians can perform.

With live music venue and bar Atic having closed in March, he thinks the court would make a good site for this.

He said: "It would make a great gig venue. The nearest residential area is some distance away, so there may be little risk of noise complaints, and there’s a bus stop right outside served by the S5 service from the centre of Oxford.

“I think that with the ever-increasing development taking place in Bicester it is crying out for a proper arts venue. I know that OYAP is based here - at what was my old primary school, as it happens - but that venue has been under threat from development.

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“To have a venue that could host larger gigs - an equivalent of the O2 Academy in Oxford - could really put Bicester on the map, and show everyone that there is much more to my home town than that enormous designer outlet on the outskirts.”

The property, which also has a 30-space car park and a small lawn which fronts onto Queens Avenue, is currently being marketed by real estate company JLL.

The building is 700 sq m and the whole site extends to around 0.80 acres.

For more information on the site, go to bicestermagistratescourt.live.jll.com.

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