PLANS to create the 'pre-eminent grassroots sporting centre' in Oxfordshire have been thrown out by councillors.

Bicester Sports Association (BSA) had asked for permission to massively expand its site in the village of Chesterton with new pitches for football, rugby and cricket players of all ages, and even a new archery range.

Getting permission for the plans was especially important because the BSA has already sold its current ground on Oxford Road, Bicester, to Bicester Village owner Value Retail.

Instead, the ‘hammer blow’ decision from Cherwell District Council on Thursday means when it leaves its Oxford Road grounds by May 2021, sports clubs will now have to ‘make-do’ with the current facilities in Chesterton.

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The council agreed with planning officers’ recommendation and refused the proposal because they said the site was an inaccessible location and the development would have ‘adverse visual effects’ partly due to an increase in floodlighting.

Bicester Advertiser:

A spokesperson for BSA said: "We’re extremely disappointed that Cherwell District Council refused planning permission for a new multi-sports hub alongside our long-established Chesterton ground.

"This is a real opportunity missed, as our scheme would have made Bicester the pre-eminent grassroots sporting destination in Oxfordshire.

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"These accessible and affordable facilities would have benefitted young people across the town for generations to come.

"The refusal is a hammer blow to our clubs and the hundreds of local people who supported the plans, many of whom have worked tirelessly alongside us to design facilities which would have been some of the very best in the South of England."

Bicester Advertiser:

Plans included the relocation and reorientation of existing pitches and its archery zone, two new training pitches with floodlighting, two match pitches, a new ‘flexible’ sports pitch and rugby training grids.

It also proposed to build a new clubhouse with events space, a rifle and shooting range, a cricket scorer building, storage and maintenance buildings and car parking.

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But despite it receiving 199 letters of support and 47 letters of objection, the council was concerned that the location offered no suitable public transport service and people would not be able to walk or cycle there safely.

Oxfordshire County Councillor for Bicester Les Sibley, who is on the planning committee, said: “It's a fantastic application but the facilities are in the wrong location.

"All of the sporting and even shopping facilities in Bicester are easily accessible by a network of cycleways, footpaths and public transport.

"But there is no cyclepath or footpath towards BSA's site in Chesterton and there is only one bus at 7.25am but no return journey. That tells you all you need to know really about how accessible it is.

Bicester Advertiser:

"It relies on participation and if people can't access it, then it won't generate income.

"So much floodlighting on the pitches as part of the proposal is also out of keeping with the rural area."

Among the clubs that use BSA's facilities are Bicester Rugby Union Club and Bicester and North Oxfordshire Cricket Club.

BSA says it wants to continue supporting clubs and is now considering appealing against the decision.

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It said: “We still intend to accommodate our user clubs as far as possible after May 2021 when they have to vacate Oxford Road, but unfortunately they will have to make-do with the existing facilities at Chesterton.

“We remain committed to supporting grassroots sport around Bicester but are currently considering our options in light of this refusal, as we need to make sure that BSA’s funds are used responsibly.”

Value Retail says it will take 'full vacant possession' of the Oxford Road site in May 2021, not extending BSA's use of the grounds.

It has not yet said publicly what it plans to do with the land.