THE leader of Oxford City Council has said his authority will attempt to buy an East Oxford social club, as the clock starts ticking on its protected status.

The Gladiator Sports and Social Club site in Iffley Road is being put up for sale, but this has sparked uproar from the groups that use the facility.

However, it has since been registered as a community asset and the city council has stepped in to save it before it goes back on the open market on Tuesday, May 6.

City council leader Bob Price said: “The idea was that the club would be able to fund the purchase of the club element of the site and we would purchase the rest of it, but they didn’t have the finances to do it.

“So what we have done is to value the site on the basis of the club continuing and then looking at that as the basis on which we would buy it.

“It would continue as a private members’ club and wouldn’t be part of our community centre network, but if they wanted to do that clearly we would consider it.

“For us the benefits will be that we would be owners of the flats and the part at the back, which is a garage and in the medium term can be developed.”

Currently there are 19 commu-nity centres around Oxford that are owned by the city council and managed by community associations. The Gladiator site, including the club building and two flats, has been put on the market by owners The Gladiator Trust – a Christian foundation – for £1.25m as a development opportunity.

But the site is protected from being sold off until May 5 after being registered as a community asset, which puts a moratorium on anyone other than the Gladiator Club buying it before then.

Once the deadline of May 5 passes, the building will go back on the open market.

Jane Casey, the club’s secretary, said: “It is very good news. It is very important that the club stays open.

“We do so much for the local community and we are trying to keep Aunt Sally going in Oxford.

“We also have a coffee morning and the members of that would be devastated if they had nowhere else to go.

“I am hopeful that the council’s bid can be successful.”

The Gladiator Trust would not comment.