AN appeal has been lodged after plans to build a 'multi-sports centre of excellence' in Oxfordshire was refused.

Bicester Spots Association (BSA) has asked for permission to massively expand its site in the village of Chesterton, near Bicester, 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 other ground on Oxford Road in Bicester, to Bicester Village owner Value Retail.

But in June, Cherwell District Council's planning committee came to a 'hammer blow' decision to refuse its proposals.

This means when BSA leaves its Oxford Road grounds by May 31, sports clubs such as Bicester United FC will have to ‘make-do’ with the current facilities in Chesterton.

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.

However, BSA says it is 'committed' to providing improved sports facilities to the people of Bicester and that the site in Chesterton is appropriate.

A spokesperson for Bicester Sports Association said: "We have decided to appeal against the decision taken by Cherwell District Council last year to refuse planning consent, and we remain fully committed to delivering a significant investment into local sport. These plans provide for bigger and better facilities to replace those at Oxford Road.

"We firmly believe that our plans would provide state of the art facilities for our many user clubs, and that they are entirely appropriate in this location as they would deliver huge benefits for the local sporting community."

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Plans include 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, rugby training grids and a new clubhouse with events space.

The BSA's plans were generally welcomed by residents with 199 letters of support submitted and 47 letters of objection.

But Oxfordshire County Councillor for Bicester Les Sibley, who is on the Cherwell planning committee, previously 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."

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BSA believes that the Chesterton site is the only available site to accommodate its plans and that if the appeal fails, there will be a 'net loss' of sports facilities in the district.

The Inspector appointed to decide the appeal is Richard Aston BSc(Hons), DipTP, MRTPI and the inquiry will open at 10am on June 29.

Four sitting days have been scheduled and the inquiry is likely to take place virtually.

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