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‘Take action to stop former Priory pub falling into ruin’
OXFORD City Council is being urged to take action to prevent the former match-day pub for Oxford United fans from falling into ruin.
The council has been urged to intervene in the case of The Priory pub in Littlemore, which it owns.
Both Oxford Civic Society and English Heritage have said they are worried about the Grade II*-listed building near the Kassam Stadium which is still empty after its landlord claimed he was told to leave last June.
There are worries that vandals and vagrants are targeting the site.
Now the civic society has written to the city council urging it to take action to protect the building.
Gillian Argyle, a trustee of the civic society, said: “This Grade II* building is in the most forlorn state.
“There is evidence of vagrants living at the back, by the remaining about-to-collapse outbuildings, and of a recent fire. Amongst the mess, this most remarkable and historic building stands, still dignified even with its boarded-up windows, the garden plants grown by past generations of tenants beginning to push up and flower.
“It is an absolute disgrace that this important listed building is being so damagingly neglected.”
The building in Grenoble Road is listed by English Heritage as Minchery Farmhouse and – along with the adjoining land – is owned by the city council but on a 99-year lease to Firoka, the company which owns the Kassam Stadium. The lease has about 50 years left to run.
Landlord Tim Rackley said Firoka owner Firoz Kassam closed the pub in June because of mounting debts. Since then, the pub has been empty and has been a target for vandals, with almost all the windows smashed.
In addition, a small fire – believed to have been started deliberately – broke out last year.
Debbie Hickman, a spokeswoman for English Heritage, said: “Minchery Farm is known to us as a potential heritage asset at risk, and we shall be discussing its future with the city council, the owner.
“This will involve establishing what uses are suitable and urging the building’s repair in line with the council’s own policies on listed buildings.”
Mark Sennett, chairman of United supporters’ group OxVox, said he had not heard of any plans to reopen the pub. He said: “It was a popular watering hole for many fans, much missed by many, and it is very sad to see it not being used and in a pretty poor state.”
City council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “The lease is now with Firoka Limited and we have been in contact with them regarding the condition of the property.
“Under the terms of the lease, the tenant is fully responsible for keeping the property in good repair and we remain in contact with the tenant to ensure all necessary works are carried out as required under the lease.”
Firoz Kassam did not return the Oxford Mail’s call.
The Priory is more than 600 years old, having been built in the mid-1400s as a rebuild of part of Littlemore Priory, a nunnery founded in 1110. It was converted into a farmhouse in 1600, about 70 years after the nunnery was closed by Cardinal Wolsey, with the excuse that the nuns had been criticised for “lewd and immoral behaviour”.
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