Planning chiefs meet tonight to decide the future of Oxford Stadium. Galliard Homes wants to develop the site but campaigners insist there are enough reasons for it to be preserved
CAMPAIGNERS claim the 75 years of history behind Oxford Stadium doesn’t have to end today and the facility could have a viable future if it is run properly.
It comes as a planning committee is set to decide whether Galliard Homes should bulldoze Oxford Stadium and replace it with 220 homes.
But the proposal has met with strong opposition from across Oxfordshire – and planning officers at Oxford City Council have said it should be rejected.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, below, has been supporting the campaigners in their battle and on Friday he handed in a petition with more than 2,000 signatures to the city council.
He said: “The stadium has been a fantastic facility in Oxford for many years and the range of activities which are there means it attracts support from a diversity of people.
“Obviously you have got the greyhound racing enthusiasts but there is also an enormous speedway fan base across Oxfordshire which has put great energy into the campaign.
“The dance facilities are first-rate and are well-used and you have got the go-karting. There are lots of local people who have fond memories of the stadium.
“This is why there is such confidence that the stadium does have a future if it can get an owner who wants to run it as a stadium.”
So far two businessmen have come forward to publically declare their interest in buying the stadium – former Irish Greyhound Board chairman Paschal Taggart and professional gambler Harry Findlay.
But their interest is dependant on the city council’s east area planning committee turning down the planning application tonight as the stadium’s value is expected to rocket if Galliard is successful.
Andy Cooper, who runs Karting Oxford at the stadium, says it can be a success if run properly.
He said: “When this stadium was run properly more people came here in a 12-month period than went to the Kassam Stadium because we have more than one thing going on. There are people out there who do know the potential for this place.”
In July last year the stadium was designated as a “heritage asset” by the city council.
There is only one other such asset in Oxford – 333 Banbury Road, the former Masonic lodge.
The idea is to protect valued buildings, monuments or areas which don’t meet the criteria for national designation such as listing.
While a building’s inclusion on the heritage assets register does not result in any additional legal requirements for the owner, the city council says it will use the information to help it make planning decisions.
Why the city council says bid should be refused
1 The proposal to demolish all the buildings and structures on the site and redevelop the land for housing would result in the complete loss of all the community facilities.
2 The proposal to remove all the buildings and structures comprising the heritage asset would cause substantial harm to its significance by removing the features that contribute to its architectural interest and much of its historic interest resulting in the loss of the historical and communal value these provide.
3 The lack of the full provision of affordable housing would cause material harm to the mix and balance of the communities within the site and in Oxford, and this harm has not been justified by a robustly prepared and evidenced viability appraisal.
4 There are a number of features of the proposed design of the scheme that would lead to poor living conditions for future occupants in terms of garden sizes or where design leads to other unacceptable consequences, including inadequate levels of sunlight and daylight entering habitable rooms, unacceptable outlook from habitable rooms and poor natural surveillance onto the street or other public spaces along with elements of the proposed layout where opportunities for crime have not been designed out such that the scheme could achieve ‘secured by design’ accreditation
5 The long rows of terraces with little visual relief, uninterrupted bays of parking along street frontages and buildings fronts dominated by parking and bin and bike stores in combination with the inadequacies of living conditions result in an unacceptably poor urban environment that comprises an overdevelopment of the site.
6 Access for pedestrian, cycle and vehicular movement to the site is restricted to those vehicular access points proposed onto Sandy Lane.
7 There is not enough information to demonstrate that all options for renewable technology have been properly investigated or that the requirement for 20 per cent renewable energy is not feasible.
What galliard says
Galliard’s agent, Savills, did not comment but in its planning application the developer said: “There is an acute need for new housing at Oxford. The city has been constrained by the Green Belt for a considerable amount of time, meaning that development can only be accommodated on sites within its administrative boundaries.
“Previously developed sites within the city are however a finite resource that is diminishing and that is becoming increasingly constrained. As a consequence, Oxford has a particularly severe housing shortage.
“Redevelopment of the site will address a number of negative effects associated with the use of the stadium for greyhound and speedway racing. This includes a significant reduction in the amount of non-residential traffic using Sandy Lane.
“The stadium is also located in very close proximity to nearby residential properties, noise generated through its use and the comings and goings of vehicles have impacted on the amenities of neighbours in the past.”
On the issue of heritage the company said: “The buildings on the site are not suitable for statutory protection through listing.
“Although we acknowledge that the site has some limited local communal value, it has been subject to much alteration and modernisation, which has eroded this.”
A proud history
The stadium was built in 1938 on the site of a non regulated track – which had been used for around a decade before that – and it was opened by Lord Denham on March 31, 1939.
Speedway was introduced soon after the opening of Oxford Stadium, with several open meetings held between 1939 and 1941.
Oxford’s Speedway team, the Cheetahs, was founded in 1949 with an inaugural race against Swindon Robins.
TAPES UP: Trevor Whiting (Boston), Mick Handley (Cheetahs), Billy Burton (Boston) and Mal Corradine (Cheetahs) in action in 1976
Oxford City Council bought the stadium in 1975 with the intention of redeveloping the site for housing.
This was met with considerable public opposition to the scheme, co-ordinated by a Save Our Stadium Committee, which led to the council to abandoning these proposals.
Investment by new owners, Northern Sports, during the 1980s included the construction of a large new grandstand, including a restaurant and fitness and leisure facilities.
These have since developed as dance studios and martial arts training facilities, which are still used by several clubs.
In 1998 the stadium was sold to Greyhound Racing Association – which was bought by Risk Capital Partners and their development partner Galliard Homes in 2005.
On December 29, 2012 the last greyhound race was held at the stadium – won by Moorstown Mystiq – because the GRA said it was no longer viable.