A community hall which is set to be demolished has brought “joy and love to our community”, a campaigner has said.

East Oxford Games Hall on Collins Street was due to be demolished on Monday, June 19, but the work has been delayed after occupiers took control of the building.

Since members of the community occupied the building, it has been home to over 50 events, including a DJ performance.

Oxford Mail: Solidarity banner outside the East Oxford Games HallSolidarity banner outside the East Oxford Games Hall (Image: Ed Halford)

With every region seeing funding for youth services cut by more than 60 per cent since 2010, campaigner Dan Glazebrook, who works as a teacher in Oxford, said the council’s decision to close three community sites at the same time was “devastating”.

He said: “During lockdown we saw what can happen when you have a year or more without social activity.

“It has a detrimental effect.

“Not everyone can afford to burn their way through gym memberships.”

Oxford Mail: Outside the East Oxford Games HallOutside the East Oxford Games Hall (Image: Ed Halford)

Mr Glazebrook said it was not fair for the council to push ahead with the demolition when residents in nearby flats did not even have gardens.

A court hearing for the eviction of the occupiers took place yesterday.

The Oxford Mail has approached the county court for further details about the injunction.

Mr Glazebrook said the fact the demolition had still not gone ahead as planned could only be described as a “victory”, as the community had time to “put together their own programme and think about what they would like for the site.”

A resident, who lives close by, said: "The re-opening of the Games Hall has brought a sense of community back to the area.

Oxford Mail: Inside the East Oxford Games HallInside the East Oxford Games Hall (Image: Community Solidarity Centre)

"In the newer flats, with families and kids, the children now have somewhere to go and hang out and play sports.

"We don’t have gardens here, and even more housing means less space to make gardens."

Another resident told the Oxford Mail: "My entire childhood was here, I love it so much.

"If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

"I used to hate public speaking, but in this centre I spoke my heart out, finally opened up and got to be myself."

Oxford Mail: Inside the East Oxford Games HallInside the East Oxford Games Hall (Image: Community Solidarity Centre)

Fourteen shared ownership homes are due to be built at the Games Hall, but Mr Glazebrook said these would not be affordable for workers or those on minimum wage.

East Oxford Games Hall was a publicly owned sports centre that was closed by Oxford City Council in 2020.

Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said: “The squatters need to realise this isn’t some forgotten about building which the council doesn’t have plans for or is leaving empty.

“It is absolutely critical for the delivery of the East Oxford Community centre project which is going to build much needed affordable housing.

“The Games Hall site will be used to build shared ownership homes and these are really popular and people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Oxford can put down roots and escape the sky high rent.”

Oxford Mail: Banner at the East Oxford Games HallBanner at the East Oxford Games Hall (Image: Ed Halford)

One campaigner, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was wrong to pit the need to build social housing against “lovely self-managed community spaces”.

He said: “At a time when the cost of living is putting the most exposed members of the community under pressure, now is not the time to close down spaces whether temporarily or permanently.”

In 2016, the council ran a consultation and this showed support for a full scale re-development and twelve council owned homes for social rent are planned at Princes Street.

A council spokesman said: "We oppose the ill-conceived occupation of East Oxford Games Hall, which will threaten delay and increase costs to a vital project to deliver better community space and more affordable housing in this popular area.

"It is part of the East Oxford Community Centre redevelopment that will provide a community centre that has modern flexible spaces that are much more energy efficient, carbon friendly and sustainable in the longer term, plus twelve council homes at the main site in Princes Street and fourteen shared ownership homes on the games hall site in Collins Street.

"These are spaces that the local area needs much more urgently than a dilapidated building with a high carbon footprint and outdated facilities.

"We urge the protestors to leave the games hall voluntarily, but will take enforcement action if needed.

"Oxford is one of the most unaffordable places for housing in the UK, and we are investing in hundreds more council and shared ownership homes to tackle the problem.

"Council rent is typically around 40 per cent of private rentals, and shared ownership helps people like key workers, first-time buyers and under-40s onto the property ladder in a city they would otherwise be priced out of.

"This investment project is a rare opportunity to provide those homes in east Oxford, and to upgrade the community facilities to be modern, sustainable and adaptable for many years to come."