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Former masonic lodge still lies empty after housing plans are refused
THE future of Oxford’s former Masonic lodge remains uncertain after a company that failed to get permission for housing sold it off.
Development company Homespace had hoped to transform 333 Banbury Road into 17 family homes but this was thrown out by Oxford City Council.
Now the company has sold the property off after being unable to secure planning permission to develop it.
Victor Regoczy, managing director of Homespace, said: “We don’t need it anymore and we sold the site.
“Someone else will do whatever they want with it.”
The identity of the new owner is not available – and documents from the Land Registry show that Homespace is still listed as the owner.
City councillor for Summertown Jean Fooks said she had been told the site is now owned by another property company.
She said: “They were refused planning permission because it didn’t meet city council planning policies on social housing, which is good because we have a great need for social housing and this is a big site.
“They have not gone to appeal so they obviously realise that the policy stands. I would hope that someone comes forward with a nice offer.
“It is a pity to have it standing there empty when we need housing.”
Until September 2012 the site was home to the Oxford Centre, which was used as a Masonic lodge and conference centre.
But the Oxford Centre was put on the market by the Oxfordshire Masonic Hall Company last year with eight members of staff made redundant.
Its closure was put down to lack of conference trade, which made it increasingly difficult to cover maintenance and operating costs.
The centre sits in 1.3 acres of grounds and the original “villa” building dates back to 1823. Historically known as Summerhill, it was acquired by the Masons more than 50 years ago.
As part of the development, which proposed two houses and 15 flats, the historic building would have been retained.
When it refused planning permission for the development, the city council’s west area planning committee designated the building as a heritage asset, giving it some level of protection and recognition within the planning process.
A spokesman for the city council said no one has contacted the authority about the property since the planning application was refused.
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