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The OPT team

Debbie Dance OBE, MSc, FRICS, IHBC, RSA


Debbie Dance has been the Director of Oxford Preservation Trust since 1999. She was brought up locally and has spent her career in the built and natural environment working as a chartered surveyor in the commercial market before being awarded a distinction in her MSc Historic Conservation from Oxford Brookes University in the early 1990s and moving into the Heritage world.  She has worked in London, Birmingham and Oxford, and has completed a number of award winning conservation projects including OPT’s regeneration of Oxford Castle. 

Debbie has held a number of honorary national roles, and is currently Chair of the Historic Chapels Trust.  She has been past Chair of the Historic Towns Forum, UK Association of Preservation Trusts and a former Trustee of the Churches Conservation Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund South East and Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and conservation judge for International RICS Property Awards.  Debbie was awarded an OBE for her services to Heritage in 2013 and made an Honorary Doctor of Oxford Brookes University in 2018.

Debbie is also on the Board of Experience Oxfordshire, the County’s tourism destination organisation and a Trustee of the Oxford Playhouse.

Shona Carr

Assistant Heritage & Outreach Officer

Shona joined the OPT Team in March 2021 all the way from sunny Scotland.  She studied MA (Hons) Architecture at Edinburgh University, where she developed an appreciation for the beautiful buildings and narrow closes of Edinburgh's Old Town.  She is very excited to start her career in heritage with OPT and loves to wander around the city, drawing anything that catches her eye.  In her free time, Shona volunteers with local conservation groups and is a keen artist.

Ros Connell

Membership Officer

Ros joined OPT, first as a volunteer for Oxford Open Doors 2018, and then to work with Stephen on membership and events. After 10 years working as Development Officer for Linacre College and 20 years in academic publishing, Ros will be in the office 3 days a week, leaving her time for gardening and taking her Morris Minor to historic houses.


Stephen Dawson

Operations and Development Manager

Stephen joined the OPT Team in 2016 to organise Oxford Open Doors and loved it so much he's still here.  Working with Director Debbie, Stephen looks after the day to day running of the Trust which includes fundraising for our various projects and looking after our wonderful members.

Prior to joining OPT, Stephen worked on various fundraising projects including turning his local church into a village hall as well as an endowment campaign for the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust.  In his spare time, Stephen loves being outdoors with his border terrier, Maddie, and volunteers for various community & charitable organisations including the Churches Conservation Trust.  He is also chairman of his local parish council..

Hywel Edwards

Finance and Governance Officer

Hywel has recently joined OPT as part-time Finance & Governance Officer. An accountant, he has spent the last 30 years working for Housing Associations in London and more recently in Witney. He is treasurer to two organisations based in Eynsham, where he lives, one working for a fossil fuel free future and the other being a charity running an orchard. 

Laura Warden

Senior Planning Officer

Laura joined the OPT Team at the start of 2019 as their Senior Planning Officer.  She has over 15 years of town planning experience having previously worked for both the public and private sectors, including West Oxfordshire District Council, RPS, Kemp & Kemp and Edgars Limited.  Laura’s experience covers development control issues, in addition to working on behalf and alongside local community groups and assisting them with the general planning process.  When away from the office, she is kept busy by her young family and when possible likes to get involved with a number of local groups where she lives.

Katie Wylie

Assistant Heritage & Planning Officer

Katie joined the team in January 2020 and is excited to be starting her heritage career with OPT. She has always had an interest in heritage – from visiting sites with her grandparents as a child, she went on to study BA Archaeology at the University of Reading and then MSc Architectural Conservation at the University of Edinburgh. She has dug on excavations such as that at Silchester Roman Town, completed placements with the likes of Historic Royal Palaces and worked in museums. Away from work, Katie writes a blog about historical recipes and spends as much time as possible outdoors – exploring her new home in Oxfordshire.