Oxford City Council is redeveloping East Oxford Community Centre to create a sustainable, cultural hub for future generations.
The project will see:
- The Old School building on the corner of Cowley Road and Princes Street completely refurbished to create a new kitchen, new toilets and more flexible community spaces
- The Chinese Community & Advice Centre and the Fusion Arts buildings demolished and replaced with a low-carbon three-storey building that will house these groups and others
The new community centre will provide a modern, accessible, purpose-built centre with a lower carbon footprint.
The redevelopment is needed because the site's ageing buildings are deteriorating. One building had to be demolished in 2019 on safety grounds and some parts of another building have been condemned and are unusable.
The site will also see OX Place, the council’s housing company, build 12 energy-efficient flats for social rent next door to the community centre.
Demolition to clear the way for the redevelopment started in May 2023.
The redevelopment of East Oxford Community Centre is partly funded through the construction of 14 new affordable shared-ownership homes on the former East Oxford Games Hall site in Collins Street.
Groups that will be based at the redeveloped East Oxford Community Centre include: East Oxford Community Association, Fusion Arts, Film Oxford, Oxford Chinese Community and Advice Centre, BK Luwo, AKCHI, Green Print, The Oxford Action Resource Centre. Regular activities range from yoga to lindy hop to Friday prayer.
- The first public consultation on plans to redevelop East Oxford Community Centre took place in 2016
- The community centre's 'B block' was demolished in 2019 after a surveyor found it was no longer safe to use
- Planning permission for the redevelopment of East Oxford Community Centre was given in December 2020
- Following the Covid-19 pandemic, demolition to clear the way for the new community centre started in May 2023
- Oxford City Council approved further investment in East Oxford Community Centre in June 2023
Community input to the project
Public consultation on the community centre
The redevelopment plans follow from a public consultation in 2016 which offered options to maintain the current centre or completely redevelop local community space. Complete redevelopment was the most widely supported option.
The council has been working with community groups at the three local community sites since 2016. The current Film Oxford (Catherine Street) site and East Oxford Games Hall (Collins Street) will be redeveloped for housing to help fund the project, and those community groups will move to the redeveloped East Oxford Community Centre.
There were two public consultations on the community centre designs in 2019.
- East Oxford Community Centre Site Plans - September 2019
- East Oxford Community Centre Site Plans - November 2019
Community groups have been part of a project steering group with the council since 2016 to ensure their views were heard.
Community engagement event for housing redevelopment
An engagement event focussed on the housing element of the redevelopment was held in 2020, before the pandemic. This is an integral part of the funding for the new community centre plans, and will enable us to build a multi-million pound centre for the next generations in East Oxford.
The first housing consultation event took place on Tuesday 25 February 2020 at East Oxford Community Centre. View the first draft of the housing plans for the Collins Street and Princes Street sites and the final plans for the community centre that were shown at the event.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t we just update current facilities?
The current site is aging and some buildings have already been condemned. The community was consulted on options in 2016, including updating current buildings, and the complete redevelopment was the most widely supported option. The plans for redevelopment will create a more sustainable, flexible accessible, modern facility to meet community needs than could be achieved by updating the current buildings.
Why is redeveloping more energy efficient than retrofitting?
The new build part of the centre will include solar panels and heat pumps to significantly cut overall carbon emissions compared to the community spaces that are currently used. This replaces a number of old buildings, at Princes St and other sites, which are very energy inefficient. Bringing them together on one site creates cost efficiencies, meaning we can provide better facilities and higher energy efficiency for the centre overall.
What have you done to provide a suitable site for tenants?
We are not required to provide an alternative site, but we value our community groups and wanted to support them as much as we can. We discussed the groups’ needs with them, and took on board their desire to continue to share a site. We hired a property agent and have offered them a shared site in east Oxford, which we offered to adapt to better meet their needs. We extended the deadline for the move by two weeks to allow more time for groups. Over the eight months leading up to the move we have been clear about the need for compromises, they are not obliged to take up our offer and can find alternative sites themselves.
We're still recovering from the pandemic, why not pause the project?
Delay costs money: maintaining three aging sites, getting in new contractors, and updating plans to any new regulations. The buildings needed investment in their safety and maintenance in 2016, we cannot keep delaying. Construction costs are rising, and there is no reason to expect they will fall below current levels later.
We paused the project in 2017 at the tenants’ request, so they could fundraise for an alternative approach. We hired a professional fundraiser to help them, as community groups can raise funds from sources not open to councils. They were unable to raise the funds needed. We believe current plans represent the best affordable approach and see no advantage to delay.
How is the project being financed?
This is a £5.4m redevelopment project. The funding for this significant investment will come from the housing aspects of the project as well as core council funds. A mixture of social housing, affordable housing and market priced properties will be built across sites at Princes St, Catherine St and Collins Street.
What happens after the moving out date?
The next steps are for work that will enable the demolition. This includes site surveys and removal of asbestos by specialist contractors. The site will be closed to unauthorised access and hoardings will go up. Demolition work is expected to begin in July. We will be keeping interested residents up to date through the East Oxford Community newsletter.
What consultation has there been?
The community has been consulted with on this project a number of times since 2016. We have held four public consultations, and have worked closely with tenant organisations since 2016. We formed a reference group with tenants to keep them updated on the project, including updates on designs, costs and facilities, and responded to their feedback through this group.
We have had one to one meetings with tenants and made ourselves available every week for a drop-in consultation which has not been used.
Who will manage the centre going forward?
The Cabinet agreed in 2021 agreed that the council would come forward with a management option within three years of the centre being open. It will take time for the new centre to settle into its role in the community, and we believe it would not be responsible to put this onto the community in this phase.