You are here

The OPT team

Debbie Dance OBE, MSc, FRICS, IHBC, RSA


Debbie Dance has been the Director of Oxford Preservation Trust since 1998. She was brought up locally and has spent her career in the built and natural environment working as a chartered surveyor.  She was awarded an MSc Historic Conservation (Distinction) from Oxford Brookes University in the early 1990s and has worked in heritage for the past thirty years. initially on projects in London, and Birmingham before moving to work in Oxford.

Debbie has been involved in many of award winning conservation projects in Birmingham and Oxford, and since joining OPT these have included the Martyr’s Memorial, Victoria Water Fountain, and most significantly the regeneration of Oxford Castle (2006). In 2022 her latest project the restoration of the LMS Swingbridge was awarded the Railway Heritage Trust’s Annual Conservation Award.  Debbie has a passion for sharing Oxford’s heritage with everyone and set up Oxford Open Doors in 2007 which is now the leading annual heritage open days event in a historic city.    

Debbie has held a number of honorary national roles.  She is a current member of the Church of England, Church Buildings Council and a DCMS appointed member of the Statutory Advisory Committee on Closed and Closing Churches.  

She is former Chair of the Historic Chapels Trust, the Historic Towns Forum, and the UK Association of Preservation Trusts.  She has served as a trustee of the Churches Conservation Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund South East and Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and was the conservation judge for International RICS Property Awards for many years.  Debbie was awarded an OBE for her services to Heritage in 2013 and made an Honorary Doctor of Oxford Brookes University in 2018. Debbie also became the Chair of the Oxford Playhouse Trust in March 2023.

In December 2023 Debbie has made the decision to stand down as Director after 25 years, following a nation-wide search, the Trustees are delighted to announce the appointment of Anna Eavis and look forward to welcoming her in January 2024.

Hannah Brockwell

Green Spaces Officer

Hannah joined OPT in January 2023 and has lived in Oxford since 2009 and enjoys spending time in nature with her husband, young children and two dogs.

Having previously worked as an Engineering Geologist and a Teacher of Geography, Hannah is looking forward to transferring her skills and knowledge to taking care of our Green Spaces.

As well as spending time with family and friends, Hannah enjoys playing hockey and going to gigs.

Shona Carr

Assistant Heritage & Planning Officer

Shona joined the OPT Team in March 2021 all the way from sunny Scotland.  She studied Architecture for her Undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, where she developed an appreciation for the beautiful buildings and narrow closes of Edinburgh's Old Town.  She now currently studies part-time at Oxford Brookes, completing a Masters in Historic Conservation alongside working at OPT.  She is very excited to start her career in heritage and loves to wander around the city, drawing anything that catches her eye.  In her spare time, Shona is also a keen Ultimate Frisbee player

Stephen Dawson

Operations Director 

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 his chickens, and volunteers for various community and charitable organisations including the Churches Conservation Trust.  He also serves as a councillor on his local parish council.

Hywel Edwards

Finance & Governance Officer

Hywel joined OPT as part-time Finance & Governance Officer in 2019. An accountant, he has spent the previous 30 years working for Housing Associations initially 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. 

Louise Lockyer

Assistant Heritage & Membership Officer

Louise joined the OPT Team in February 2023. Originally from the South Coast she is excited to explore all the beautiful buildings and green spaces Oxford has to offer.

Louise studied Classical Civilisation at the University of Nottingham indulging her love of all things Ancient Greek, before completing a Masters in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management at the University of Winchester.

In her spare time, Louise loves running and enjoys finding new trails to try out as well as cooking and pub-quizzing.

Nina Urai

Development & Communications Officer (Oxford Open Doors)

Nina joined OPT in April 2022 to help organise Oxford Open Doors. Having grown up in the Netherlands, she is constantly amazed at how much there is to explore in this wonderful city. She is especially passionate about bringing town and gown together and ensuring Oxford's beauty is accessible to all, regardless of income.

She studied English Literature and Communication Science at Leiden University (Oxford's sister city) and VU University Amsterdam and has a background in event organisation and University communications. 

Outside of work, she can be found rowing on the Thames or in her kitchen trying out new recipes to cook.

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.