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The OPT team

Debbie Dance OBE, MSc, FRICS, IHBC, RSA

Director

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.

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.

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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. 

Lindsay Priddle

Interim Land Officer

Lindsay joined OPT in August 2019, initially to support the organisation of Oxford Open Doors and then as the Interim Land Officer. She has a background in agriculture, having been brought up on a working livestock farm where she continues to lend a hand when not working at OPT. Prior to OPT, Lindsay’s career has primarily been in education, teaching for 15 years and latterly as a primary school headteacher. She brings enthusiasm for developing positive attitudes to the outdoors as well as furthering educational opportunities into OPT’s green spaces.

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.

Laura Waterton

Senior Planner

Laura joined OPT in January 2020 to provide maternity leave cover for Laura Warden. Town planning, in some form or another, has been a part of Laura’s life since she moved to the UK from America almost 20 years ago. She cut her teeth in Buckinghamshire local authority planning departments, which allowed her to gain experience in a variety of different disciplines such as strategic planning, development management and planning enforcement. During this time she also earned a Diploma in Spatial Planning from Oxford Brookes and was introduced to an entirely new understanding of Oxford. Following her growing interest in historic landscapes and heritage planning, she worked as an in-house planning adviser with the National Trust for a number of years. She most recently helped individuals and communities engage with the (very complex!) planning system through the Planning Aid England programme. When not studiously reading her Planning magazine or seeking out those special hidden corners of Oxford, Laura enjoys running on the trails near her home, watching football and spending time with her family.

Katie Wylie

Heritage Outreach & Projects 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.