7:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013
By Mark Taylor
A PROJECT has been launched to give greater protection to what residents of an Oxford estate love most about it.
Oxford City Council was awarded £60,000 by English Heritage to produce a list of non-protected but locally heralded spots in Blackbird Leys, West Oxford, East Oxford and Summertown.
A public meeting will be held tonight for Blackbird Leys residents to begin pitching ideas.
The final list will be taken into account when councillors make decisions on planning applications for the estate, such as new houses.
The estate was chosen as the Leys is not in one of the council’s 16 conservation areas, which are subject to tighter planning rules.
Its sporting history will be discussed tonight and organisers hope to get old pictures of the Kassam Stadium for the project.
The 1939 Oxford Stadium – closed in December – is also expected to feature. The council has vowed to fight plans to build homes on the site of the greyhound track.
Blackbird Leys Amateur Boxing Club manager Tony Gibson said the club was another key feature of the estate.
The 62-year-old said: “We’ve been here right since the beginning and I would say 90 per cent of the boys that come through these doors are from Blackbird Leys.
“We’re still putting on shows and are very much a part of the local community here, and hopefully will be for many years to come.”
Richard Stevens, a Labour county councillor for Leys & Lye, said: “I would nominate Oxford Stadium in Sandy Lane for its history as an international speedway destination. This is particularly important at the moment as the stadium’s under threat.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith backed the idea and called for the Holy Family and Sacred Heart churches to be included.
He said: “These have seen so many happy, sad, and profound and important moments in people’s lives.”
The first homes in Sandy Lane are also worthy of inclusion, he said, adding: “They were the first houses in the modern Blackbird Leys. They were the very beginning of our wonderful community.”
The work will take place under English Heritage’s Capacity Building Programme.
Tonight’s meeting is in the Jack Argent Room at Blackbird Leys Community Centre, at 5.30pm.
PAST AND PRESENT
Many know it only as Oxford’s largest estate, but parts of Blackbird Leys can be traced back to the Bronze Age.
In 1751 it was described as “one house, two gardens, 50 acres of arable land, 20 acres of meadow and 30 acres of pasture”.
Its name was taken from Blackbird Leys Farm, in the neighbouring parish of Sandford. By 2001, the estate had 5,000 homes and 13,000 residents.
Perhaps the most significant event and catalyst for change was the growing car industry in nearby Cowley.
Homes were required for factory workers and today’s estate took shape from 1958 when workers moved into Sandy Lane.
Soon the two looming tower blocks Windrush, pictured in 1961, and Evenlode were built, quickly followed by two pubs, and the second part of the development, which included Pegasus Road and Field Avenue.
In the early 1990s, more homes were built on greenfield sites on the outskirts of the city to help alleviate Oxford’s housing shortage.
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