A community arts centre fears it will be left homeless under £5.5m council plans to demolish its base and redevelop the site.

Fusion Arts has been based at the East Oxford Community Centre, in Princess Street, East Oxford, since 1977. The group connects artists with communities and promotes creative projects that, it says, drive social justice. But Oxford City Council's redevelopment plans will force the temporary closure of the arts group as its building is demolished.

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The plans will also see the Oxfordshire Chinese Community and Advice centre buildings demolished, and a new community centre and flats built on the site.

Oxford Mail: Design image of the new buildings at East Oxford Community Centre. Picture by Oxford City Council.Design image of the new buildings at East Oxford Community Centre. Picture by Oxford City Council.

All tenants have been served notice by the city council to leave the premises by Thursday, April 28, with a proposal of relocating all the tenant groups to an empty shop for the next two years while redevelopment takes place.

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However, the arts organisation says it is "saddened" by the move and has "serious concerns" with the redevelopment and the relocation plans. Fusion Arts said the temporary relocation venue proposed by the council is "inadequate" and does not meet safety requirements.

Fusion Arts is now concerned that "adequate" provisions will not be in place and as their proposed decant date looms it is desperately looking for suitable accommodation.

Oxford Mail: Song and dance group Fusion Arts Academy Song and dance group Fusion Arts Academy

The group said: "This is seriously detrimental to the fabric of Oxford's community as a whole and also the community organisations involved, creating strain and preventing us from doing our work at this critical moment as we emerge from the pandemic."

The arts organisation is arguing that retrofitting the buildings would be more environmentally efficient than rebuilding them and feels the ongoing carbon running costs are too high to justify. Fusion Arts called the plans to demolish and rebuild the buildings "counterintuitive at best."

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Even though it is looking for a new temporary home, Fusion Arts has said it will continue to run creative community projects across the county.

An Oxford City Council spokesperson said: “We value the important work of the tenant groups at the centre and have had positive engagement with tenants through the process of finding an alternative venue in east Oxford.

“We know that there is a long connection with the site and look forward to continuing our dialogue with groups and wider community, and to welcoming back to the redeveloped centre at the heart of this £5.5M redevelopment project.

“We have offered a temporary alternative site at non-commercial rents and have been working with tenants for some months on plans for the move, and we have also offered our support to those looking for other spaces through our external property agent.”

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