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Owner wants to build homes at former lodge
AFTER months of uncertainty over its future, Oxford’s former Masonic lodge could become a residential development.
Developers Homespace have held meetings with members of the Summertown community about the future of 333 Banbury Road and are hoping to submit a planning application next month.
The Oxford Centre, as it was known, was put on the market by the Oxfordshire Masonic Hall Company after it closed in September, with eight members of staff made redundant.
Its closure has been put down to the lack of conference trade, which had made it increasingly difficult to cover maintenance and operating costs.
Victor Regoczy, managing director of Homespace, did not yet know exactly what shape the development would take but said a number of ideas had been put forward to the centre’s neighbours.
He said: “The building is in a pretty bad shape and it has been converted not very well into offices. There is a lot of tarmac there, we want to improve on it and that will involve a lot of work.
“We are still talking to the city council about lots of different things so I don’t have a clear view yet about what we will propose.
“We still don’t know how many flats or houses there will be.”
After purchasing the site in October, Mr Regoczy said he was not sure what he would do with it and said he was considering keeping it as a conference centre.
But he has now settled on turning it into homes.
A total of five options had been put forward to the community but these have now been discounted, Mr Regoczy said.
These included retaining the villa and knocking down the rest of the existing building to provide 24 flats and two houses, creating a centralised apartment block detatched from the villa to create the same amount of flats and houses, and building eight new houses.
The centre sits in 1.3 acres of grounds and the original “villa” building dates back to 1823 and was historically known as Summerhill. It was acquired by the Masons more than 50 years ago.
Mr Regoczy said the old building would definitely be retained as part of the development.
Keith Mitchell, executive director of the Oxfordshire Masonic Hall Company, said: “Unfortunately we have not yet found another place to meet.
“We are still searching but it is proving quite hard. We are still meeting in the Oxford Hotel in Wolvercote.”
City councillor for Summertown, Jean Fooks, said: “I don’t think anyone is against having some housing there, and keeping the original building was important.
“But then it is a question of what sort of housing and flats they put there. “Clearly local residents are anxious about what will go there but we will have to wait and see.”