• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Squatters to be ejected from Cowley Conservative Club

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 4, 2022

A group of squatters at the former Cowley Conservative Club have been given their marching orders.

The group, named in court on Monday simply as ‘persons unknown’, were said to have moved into the sprawling, boarded-up property ‘in or before’ January this year.

The site’s owners, developers 19 BTR Ltd, went to Oxford County Court to obtain an injunction confirming its ownership ahead of ejecting the ‘trespassers’.

Master Dagnall, a High Court judge sitting in Oxford, said there were 11 open garages at the former Conservative club.

“It appears there are tents and other indications of human occupation at the premises themselves,” the judge said.

“In those circumstances it seems to me that on the balance of probabilities that others do seem to have invaded and potentially taken possession of the premises but, on the material before me, that the claimant has an absolute right of possession.”

The company was ‘as a matter of law’ entitled to take back possession of the club complex, he said.

When the Oxford Mail visited the complex on Monday evening, there was no sign of life in the yard at the back of the former Conservative club.

The back gate to the yard was open and the remains of a tent visible at the back wall of the complex, in the shadow of a number of shipping containers.

Built in the 1920s, little remains of the original building except the façade.

The club, which closed in 2015, is currently secured with wooden boards. These appear to have recently been replaced or cleaned, with no sign on Monday of graffiti seen on a Google Maps image taken in June 2020 showing a painting of prime minister Boris Johnson sat behind bars beneath the wording ‘Outlaw JOHNSON’.

Oxford Mail: The 'Outlaw Johnson' painting daubed in the former entrance to the Cowley Conservative Club, pictured in June 2022 Picture: GOOGLEThe 'Outlaw Johnson' painting daubed in the former entrance to the Cowley Conservative Club, pictured in June 2022 Picture: GOOGLE

Land Registry records show the site was sold to 19 BTR for £1.5m in 2019.

Last year, councillors approved plans to demolish the club and build almost 190 student rooms on the site.

There was no opposition to the plans when the matter came before Oxford City Council’s planning committee in December.

Earlier in the year, however, there were suggestions from Cowley and Blackbird Leys residents that the area did not need new student accommodation.

Writing on the public Blackbird Leys Community Facebook page last year, Denise East said: “Before long Oxford won’t have any affordable accommodation to rent or buy for the people of Oxford that originated from here.”

Another resident, Lisa Marie Smith, added: “Maybe they should build flats or accommodation for the homeless, there is enough properties being built for students.”

Debbie Hopkins, of Blackbird Leys, said: “Flats for first-time buyers would be much better we have enough students accommodations already.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward