CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight for the future of Oxford Stadium and have called on councillors to halt moves to build homes there.
Supporters of the greyhound track have launched a petition and plan to lobby the city council to stop the site’s redevelopment. They have accepted they won’t be able to stop the impending closure of the stadium, announced last week, but say they want to secure its future as a city sports venue.
Save our Stadium campaign chairman Ian Sawyer grew up in nearby Blackbird Leys and has been a supporter of speedway racing for years.
The Oxford Cheetahs speedway team, which also used to use the stadium, folded in 2007.
Mr Sawyer said his reaction to the news that the stadium would close on December 29 was one of “devastation”.
He said: “It’s a great facility for Oxford, and to hear they’re going to take it away, just like that, was soul-destroying.
“We want to keep the facility in Oxford. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the city.”
The group plans to gather signatures and urge residents and supporters to oppose Galliard Homes’s plan to build 225 homes on the site.
Speedway fan and member of the campaign Robert Peasley said: “We’ll try to get as many signatures as we can, but we are also urging people to contact their city councillor, because it’s the city council which will make a decision.
“We know we can’t stop them closing the stadium, but we want the council to tell owners in no uncertain terms there won’t be housing on this site.”
Fellow speedway fan and group member Gavin Beckley added: “We want to put pressure on the council not to grant planning permission.”
He also claimed the stadium’s contract to stage BAGS greyhound meetings would not have been withdrawn if housing plans had not been put on the table. He said: “I believe they lost the contract because there was so much doubt over the future of the stadium, so it’s a vicious circle.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith has also joined the campaign. He said: “I’m sure there will be big public backing for Save our Stadium. People aren’t going to give up the stadium without a huge fight.
“They are outraged at the closure announcement which seems part of a deliberate strategy of running the stadium down to try to force redevelopment plans through.”
Plans to build 225 homes on the Sandy Lane site were announced by Galliard Homes and its planning agent Savills earlier this year.
Last month, it was announced the stadium had lost the contract for its popular Friday BAGS meetings, a loss which has been blamed for the closure of the stadium.