Despite support from campaigners, residents and the council, there are concerns about the 'cruel' sport of greyhound racing returning to Oxford.

Kevin Boothby, who runs two greyhound tracks at Towcester and Henlow, has secured a 10-year lease from Oxford Stadium owners Galliard Homes.

He hopes to restore the site bringing the greyhound racing track - which has been out of action since 2012 - back to life by December.

Figures from the greyhound industry’s Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) revealed 4,970 injuries and 710 deaths in 2019 – 14 deaths a week.

The League Against Cruel Sports would like the stadium to be used for other purposes.

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Emily Lawrence, regional campaigns manager at the League, said: “It’s a backward step for the city and animal welfare that the cruel sport of greyhound racing is returning to Oxford.

“Thousands of greyhounds are killed or injured on greyhound tracks every year in the UK, to support an industry which relies upon gambling to fund it, putting profit and greed before the welfare of the animals.

“No one wants to see the shattered limbs of greyhounds in their last moments after being forced to race on inherently unsafe oval tracks.

“We would urge the local council to find a use for the stadium that helps the local community and doesn’t cause cruelty to animals.”

Campaigners however are 'elated' by the news that Oxford Stadium will reopen this year.

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The announcement came as welcome news to campaign group Save Oxford Stadium, which was set up when the site closed in a bid to fight against development plans amid fears it would be turned into housing.

Campaigner David Lestrade is glad that their efforts eventually paid off.

He said: "I feel elated. I think all the hard work that everybody put into the Save Oxford Stadium campaign has been fully justified. Everyone would like to thank Oxford City Council and Kevin Boothby for believing in the project.

"Oxford City Council has backed the campaign and it's quite unusual for a council to be so on-side like that. They're really fully committed to having a leisure facility."

With the stadium previously hiring between 80 and 100 people, the site will provide jobs for residents in the city, particularly those living in the Blackbird Leys area.

ALSO READ: Campaigners 'elated' by return of Oxford Stadium

Mr Lestrade added: "In Blackbird Leys alone, major employers are the Kassam Stadium and the complex down there and now you're looking at another major employer in the Blackbird Leys/Greater Leys area.

"It will have a massive impact on people who are looking for that extra part-time evening work."

Other activities that were held at the stadium before it closed included, go-karting, speedway, a motorcyle training school, a dance group and gym.

It is not yet known whether all of these activities and businesses will return, but Oxford City Council is hopeful that a 'high quality' venue will be delivered.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: “The council was clear in the adopted Local Plan Policy SP51 that we wanted to ensure that the site was kept for community and leisure use.

"We will want to be confident that the operator will be committed to ensuring this is a long term proposal delivering a high quality and accessible venue as well as delivering jobs and training to the local community.

ALSO READ: Developer sets out plan to regenerate Oxford Stadium

"We will look forward to working with Galliard Homes to achieve this. “

Mr Boothby said on BBC Radio Oxford yesterday morning: "We're delighted we've got it over the line now and we can look to the future and get greyhound racing back there and we'll also look at other things.

"It's so important that we've got it back and fair play to Oxford City Council and the local community - we need to deliver them a fantastic business for the local area and create a lot of jobs"

ALSO READ: 'Greyhound racing is not cruel' says Oxford Stadium businessman

He is also open to speedway returning to the site as well if a viable plan can be put in place.

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