Consultation on Hill End centre future

A popular outdoor education centre near Oxford could become a charity to secure its future amid swathes of county council cuts.

Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) announced last Thursday it can no longer afford to run the Hill End Centre in Eynsham Road due to reduced grants from central Government and the site could become an independent charity to open up new avenues of funding.

Hill End currently occupies 62 acres of land three miles outside of Oxford city centre and offers outdoor learning to schools and families, with over 15,000 visitors in 2014/15.

County councillor for children, education and families, Melinda Tilley, said: “We know how much people value the outdoor activities and education programmes provided by Hill End, and this is a positive opportunity to secure the centre’s future for years to come.

“We want to ensure this work not only continues, but that there are also opportunities to enhance services at the centre in future.”

The site is currently owned by Oxford University but has been leased and managed by the council since 1974.

OCC launched a public consultation on its website last Thursday for the public to air their views on the scheme.

The council is currently cutting £292million from its budget by 2018, with a further £70m in savings needed by 2020.

It will be open until February 5 and if approved the timetable for establishing the charity would be agreed in April.

Vale of White Horse district councillor for the Cumnor ward, Dudley Hudinott, said: “I think it’s a very good idea. It’s a valuable environment centre.

“People come from Oxfordshire and around the world to visit it.

“I think with the hard financial times the county council are in it’s a good time to set it up.”

Cllr Hoddinott also said the centre would be eligible for district council grants as a charity, which are not currently available to OCC.

A team of volunteers manage the project, which has livestock on location for much of the year and includes a range of diverse habitats.

Pro-vice-chancellor for planning at Oxford University, William James, said: “We are pleased to be working with the county council to find a way to ensure that children and young adults will be able to benefit from the facilities.”