THE fight is back on for residents who won a battle against plans for an Oxford nightclub to increase its opening hours.

In June, Oxford City Council turned down plans for the O2 Academy, in Cowley Road, to open an hour earlier each day, for four extra hours on Sundays before bank holidays and until 6am on May Morning.

That was despite officers recommending the changes should be approved.

Councillors rejected the plan due to concerns about community safety, crime and noise.

The Academy Group has appealed against the decision and now a planning inspector will hold an inquiry.

Ed Chipperfield, chairman of the James Street Residents ‘Association, said there had been improvements since student night Fuzzy Ducks had been moved from the venue to Wahoo, in the city centre.

But he said he would continue to oppose the application.

Mr Chipperfield, 36, said: “I have spoken to a few people who would not be very happy if they were allowed to have the hours extended.”

The club’s premises licence already permits it to open for the extra hours, but it requires planning consent before it can do so – something Mr Chipperfield described as a “backdoor method” of extending drinking hours.

He said: “It's not like Cowley Road needs more drinking hours. There are probably fewer people going out than they ever were, because students have less money and seem to be a quieter crowd and it’s much more attractive to go out in town.

“I know it’s an hour earlier but it’s whether the area needs more drinking hours in total. What it adds up to is people going out and staying out drinking for a lot longer and over the week it’s maybe an extra day’s trading.”

Colin Cook was a member of the committee that refused the application.

He said: “The residents gave us evidence of existing problems and we didn’t want to exacerbate them any further.

“Some people thought it was a relatively minor increase but we considered it would add a significant number of drinking hours, given the numbers of people gathering, and it wasn’t a sensible idea.

“We will clearly defend this decision and I suspect many of the local residents will be supportive of that.”

Academy Music Group spokesman Louise Kovacs said: “The application to open the club one hour earlier at 6pm would allow us to start shows which are aimed at a younger audience at an earlier time and so finish them before the pubs close, which has obvious benefits from a child safety point of view.

“We are committed to working with the community and do not believe the limited extension to the hours will be in any way detrimental.”