Stansfeld Outdoor Centre – a Community Asset?

The Stansfeld Outdoor Centre on land just off Quarry Road has been owned by Birmingham City Council since Canon John Stansfeld gave it to them in 1933. It has been used by Birmingham and by local Oxford schools and other groups for outdoor learning and recreation for all that time.

Birmingham City has decided it can no longer afford to keep the Centre going and will close it in July. It says it has not yet made a decision on the future of the site, but the obvious fear is that the land will be sold for development.

Friends of Quarry, backed by local councillors, are planning to apply to Oxford City Council to have the Centre listed as an Asset of Community Value. If they succeed it means that if Birmingham put the site up for sale the local community (presumably led by Friends of Quarry) will have six months to raise enough money to buy it themselves. Which begs the question if the site does come on the market, where’s the money going to come from to buy it? 20 acres of land within the Ring Road will be worth a fair bit. Oxford City might well be interested in the site for much-needed housing – it’s close to the Old Road Campus and the Churchill and Nuffield Hospitals after all, so would be an attractive proposition. What if Birmingham City applies for planning permission to build houses on the site? The price will soar.

Which all makes me think that however attractive it might be to keep the site as an Outdoor Education Centre, the realistic outcome is that the only people who will be able to meet the market price are Oxford City Council themselves, and what chance is there that they will prefer an outdoor centre to new housing?


Would the site get planning permission for housing? The Council’s Sites and Housing document doesn’t include the Stansfeld Centre. I think this means that there are no presumptions about its future use. Someone who knows the local planning situation better than I do can probably say.