THE expansion of a sports ground outside Bicester will make sport inaccessible for young people in the town, residents have claimed.

Bicester Sports Association (BSA) wants to improve its facilities in the village of Chesterton after it sold its Bicester site on Oxford Road site to Bicester Village owner Value Retail last year.

It has submitted its planning application to Cherwell District Council which includes the relocation and reorientation of existing pitches and its archery zone, creating two training pitches with floodlighting, two match pitches, a new 'flexible' sports pitch and rugby training grids.

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It also proposes to build a new clubhouse at the Akeman Street site with events space, a rifle and shooting range, a cricket scorer building, storage and maintenance buildings and car parking.

Residents in Chesterton are already opposed, citing the impact on traffic in the village, while others are worried that the plan will take sport away from Bicester.

Louis Warden, from Chesterton, submitted a letter of objection to the council saying: "I do not believe any shortage of open space/ sports facilities within Bicester should be addressed by moving the facilities out of the town and into the countryside. There is no public transport to Chesterton and no safe walking route from the town.

"Young people who can’t yet drive, particularly the 11-16 age group, will not be able to safely make their own way to or home from the facility."

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Nicholas Mawer, from Bicester, opposed the application on several grounds, calling the move from Bicester to Chesterton ‘discriminatory’.

He said: “I object to the change of use of agricultural to sports provision. I object to the provision of floodlights in what is essentially a rural location where they are out-of-character and will contribute to light pollution.

“I object to the inadequate provision of public transport to this venue which will encourage more car use on constricted minor roads and may even discourage younger and more disadvantaged members of the public from participating.”

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Oxfordshire County Council objects to the application because there is no suitable public transport service in the vicinity of the site. It also says that the site is beyond a 'reasonable walking distance' from any major residential area and while improvements to the cycling route are proposed, this is still unlikely to be an attractive route.

Bicester Town Council also opposes on the same grounds saying if approved, it could 'limit access to sport to those with private access'.

Resident Kate Iles, from Upper Arncott, said: “The biggest issue for me and other parents is Green Lane, this is a very dangerous road where you will often see drivers speeding.

“What about the 13 – 18-year-olds that currently cycle to midweek training, are you suggesting that they cycle to Chesterton? In my opinion there is no safe route for a child to use.”

However, more than 120 letters of support have been signed by people who think the improvements would deliver ‘substantially enhanced facilities’ for local sport.

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Others say the sports ground is welcomed as shooting facilities have become sparse in the region.

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Richard Manser, from Milton Keynes, said: “I travel from Milton Keynes each week to Chesterton/ Bicester to use the shooting ranges there. So many shooting facilities have been lost that these facilities are incredibly valuable, not only in Oxfordshire but also in the surrounding area.”

The Bicester Sports Association must leave its Bicester site no later than May 31, 2021, and if the plans do get approved, building is due to be complete before the date.

A spokesperson for BSA said: "BSA currently has a lease over Oxford Road until May 2021, ensuring our user clubs can operate as normal whilst we bring forward plans for substantial improvements which will enable them to relocate to our main Chesterton ground.

"We currently have a planning application being considered by Cherwell District Council and are delighted at the level of support that has been demonstrated by local people.

"We are committed to supporting grass roots sport in Bicester and are looking to make a multi-million pound investment into local sport, by creating a new state-of-the-art sporting hub at Chesterton. Many local clubs, including Bicester & North Oxford Cricket Club, Bicester & District Rifle & Pistol Club, Bicester United Football Club and Bicester Town Colts Football Club, are fully supportive of the plans."