A NATURE retreat in Headington could be saved from commercial development as community groups have a chance to buy the 250-year lease on the land.

The Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre, a retreat for school children from Birmingham and Oxford, was closed in July 2014 after Birmingham City Council, which owns the site, decided to sell it to a commercial bidder.

As 19 acres of the 20-acre site is undeveloped woodland and designated a Site of Local Importance and Nature Conservation (SLINC), developers will not be allowed to build on woodland, but could build on the site of the centre itself.

Oxfordshire county councillor for Headington Quarry and Risinghurst, Roz Smith, said: “It is good news that part of the site is protected, but we would love it to stay in its current use.”

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But the education centre itself could still be sold for property development.

Although Birmingham City Council can sell to a developer, as the site is designated an asset of community value, residents of Headington Quarry could ask the authority to delay the sale by six months to make their own bid.

Friends of Quarry spokesman Richard Bradley said: “Birmingham City Council haven’t communicated with us exactly when Stansfeld will go on sale, but we imagine in the next four weeks.

“We will be talking to organisations who might be interested in bidding alongside Headington Quarry and holding a meeting with residents.

“Most importantly, we want to keep the current building intact and open for education purposes.”

The centre was used as a nature retreat for primary schools in Birmingham and Oxford.

Mrs Smith said: “It’s a tragedy that the centre has been closed for so long when it could have been used by children in Oxford.”

But the education centre site could be built on by developers if Oxford City Council agrees.

Oxford City Council spokesman Chofamba Sithole said: “The final decision will rest with the East Area Planning Committee, taking into account local representations and officer advice.”

Birmingham City Council spokeswoman Sarah Kirby said that there were no immediate plans to transfer the land directly to the community and the authority would soon be accepting bids.

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