FAMILIES have expressed their concern over the potential closure of the Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre in Headington.
More than 500 people from across Oxford have signed a petition asking owners Birmingham City Council – which has put up a misspelt sign at the centre’s entrance – to keep its outdoor learning centre open.
It is considering selling off the land to help with the £340m budget cuts it needs to make over the next two years. A decision on the centre’s future is set to be made by the authority next Monday.
There are fears the land could be sold for a housing development.
Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre was created by the Rev Canon John Stansfeld, a parish priest, doctor and philanthropist Vicar of St Ebbe’s from 1912 to 1926, he used the money he had been saving for a trip to the Holy Land to buy 20 acres of land off Quarry Road to give the children from the ‘St Ebbe’s slums’ a chance of camping in the countryside at the weekend. He dontated the land to Birmingham in 1933.
Andy Spooner, from Cummings Close, has fond memories of visiting the centre from Sutton Coldfield as a school pupil.
The deputy head of Windmill Primary School, who is originally from the West Midlands, developed his passion for geography while on trips to Stansfeld.
Mr Spooner said: “I went to the centre in 1989 and remember having a fantastic time. It was experiences like that made me pursue geography and take a degree.”
The teacher recently took his three year-old son Finley to the centre for the first time. He said: “I had the opportunity to take Finley for his first session. It was marvellous and we had a wonderful time there.”
Mr Spooner expressed his concern that the centre may close, and said: “To lose that centre would be an absolute shame. It would be really upsetting.”
Pupils from Windmill Primary School in Margaret Road regularly visit the centre on Tuesdays for activity sessions. Mr Spooner hopes the centre will remain a part of the community, alongside his wife Rebekka and younger son Jonah.
Risinghurst and Sandhills Parish council chairman Barbara Naylor’s two granddaughters Kacie, seven and Ezri, 10 have both used the centre for school and guiding trips.
Mrs Naylor said: “It is an absolutely invaluable asset for young people. It is a lovely centre if it used to its full capacity.
“I do have some sympathy for Birmingham City Council, but on the other hand, young people need these places for outdoor activities. “Stansfeld is a safe place and the girls go quite often with their school to do activities there.”
The activities centre, which offers kids residential courses, includes a five-a-side football pitch and adventure playground.
County councillor for Headington and Quarry Roz Smith is leading the campaign to keep the threatened centre open.
Ms Smith said: “The big fear for us is that it could be sold off for housing development.
“It is understandable that Birmingham wants to be looking at funding. But this is a small area and the whole community can use it. That’s really what my petition is about.”