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Wolvercote villagers 'need £30m to buy paper mill site'
WOLVERCOTE residents will need to raise up to £30m in a year to have any chance of buying Oxford University’s former paper mill site.
That’s the view of resident Steve Lunn, who believes community ownership would give people a bigger say in how the land is developed.
Planning permission has been given for 190 homes at the former mill, which was demolished in 2004.
But at a recent meeting, university bosses declined to give residents hoping to buy the land “preferred bidder” status.
Mr Lunn, a 61-year-old retired university lecturer of Rosamund Road, said: “It is a long shot but community enterprise is not unknown. The only way we will get what we want is if we own it.
“One of the positive things is we could control the pace of development. But we need something from the university because we cannot compete with a development company.
“Our estimate for what we would need to raise is about £25m, or perhaps up to £30m. It would cost several people the best part of a year’s work to try and raise, but it is not impossible.
“Possible ways to raise the money are setting up a co-operative and asking people to buy shares, banks loans, member investments, community land funds or tapping into charity.”
Wolvercote neighbourhood forum chairman John Bleach said: “I would like to see Steve run with it and see if he can make it work.”
Gary Lloyd, of Oxford University’s estate services, said: “As the sale will not take place until early 2014, they have been advised that there is time to undertake the necessary legal and financial preparations ahead of that process, including obtaining appropriate professional advice.
“The university will be inviting bids from any interested party, and as such no value has been determined nor can preferred status be awarded to any party ahead of that process.”