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Sale of club falls at the final hurdle
A plan to reopen the Lord Nuffield social club in Oxford as a conference centre have fallen through.
The Oxford Mail understands Oxford Brookes University was in the final stage of talks to buy the club in Barracks Lane, Cowley, which closed in 2009.
But the freehold has been re-advertised “due to an abortive transaction”.
The club was founded in the 1920s by car magnate Lord Nuffield and became a focal point for Cowley car workers and the wider community.
But it closed in 2009 with debts of £3m, just two years after the current building was constructed for £4.5m.
It had a gym, snooker room, shooting gallery and bar and was used by various groups.
Bob Timbs – a member from 1972, who said last summer he had learned Brookes was looking at using it as a conference centre – said: “It’s a shame. It was a hub for the community. I would have been happy with it if they had opened it up again to the community for leisure use.”
Mr Timbs, a Labour member on Oxford City Council, said: “We’re desperately looking for a community facility in the Lye Valley and Temple Cowley area. I hope they make a deal.”
George Jenkinson, chairman of the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir, which moved to Cowley Road’s O2 Academy after the closure, said he was confident the club could be successful if it reopened for community use.
It must be used for some community activities as a condition of the planning permission from the city council.
Neither the university nor the club’s receivers officially confirmed Brookes’ interest in the site.
Jeremy Willmont, of receiver Moore Stephens said: “We had anticipated we were going to sell and had gone a long way down the road towards achieving a sale but the purchase, for whatever reason, was not completed.”
He said there were dozens of interested parties, including health clubs and education and childcare providers.
The sale was delayed by refurbishment work and offers were being sought in excess of £2m, he added.
Brookes had previously refused to confirm or deny any interest. Last week spokesman George O’Neill said: “The university has no current interest in buying the Lord Nuffield Club.”