THOUSANDS of people have now signed a petition to stop developers building shops and homes on one of Bicester's oldest sports grounds.

The petitions calls for 'one of the only green spaces we have left in the town' to be saved after Oxford Road sports ground landlords Bicester Sports Association proposed to sell the site.

Now, more than 2,000 people have signed the appeal to save the space amid plans to build both shops and homes as a new development called 'St Edburg's Walk' in its place.

Petition founder Callum Vinall said: "Reaching this milestone should send a message to the developers and the Bicester Sports Association that we want this facility to remain in the town – like it has done for more than 100 years.

"The fantastic response I have had through this petition from Facebook, online comments and messages or people stopping me in the street telling me their local connection to Oxford Road goes to show the passion a lot of people hold for the local asset.

"Bicester is a healthy town, garden city and the Bicester Sports Association should be looking to improve local facilities for all to enjoy and not sell them off."

The petition hit the 2,000 mark last week and, as of Tuesday, had been signed by 2,169 people.

But Bicester Sports Association has said it could not afford to maintain both the Oxford Road site and its sports ground in Chesterton.

The proposed plans would create shops and housing on the Oxford Road Sports Ground site and move the current facilities to the Chesterton site – which it proposes to expand to six times the size of the Oxford Road ground.

Bicester Sports Association spokesman, Paul Vicary, said: "The Bicester Sports Association and U+I [developers of the new housing and retail plans] are fully committed to the joint proposals for the delivery of both more high quality sports provision at the Bicester Sports Association's long established Chesterton grounds, and an exciting vision for new high street shops at St Edburg’s Walk.

"One cannot happen without the other.

"The Bicester Sports Association does not have the funds to upgrade or maintain two separate sites (Chesterton and Oxford Road).

"A new sports hub at Chesterton is therefore crucial to securing the long-term future of the Bicester Sports Association and maintain its commitment to supporting subsidised, grassroots sport in the Bicester area."

The Oxford Road site landlords held a public consultation on the plans in summer 2016 and said about 160 people went along to the three-day event.

The organisation said one key desire to come out of the consultation was for more shops.

But a petition comment from Josh Travers-Magri online said: "Save the remaining greenery we have in Bicester, please, we don’t need more houses or more shopping outlets."

Another comment from Ken Beveridge added: "Half of the football pitches that I played on when I first came to Bicester in 1983 have disappeared.

"Bicester needs this facility to encourage and promote a sports culture for the generations to come."

Bicester Sports Association said the proposals are still progressing and will be put to the public for consultation in coming months.

They could then be submitted to planners at Cherwell District Council.