COWLEY Road’s O2 Academy has overturned a council decision that barred it from opening earlier.

Academy Music Group won an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate on its bid to open at 6pm instead of 7pm Monday to Saturday.

Bosses at the venue – formerly The Zodiac – said changes could see earlier finishes and a more gradual entry to the venue.

But a residents’ association leader last night said he feared it will cause more late night problems because O2 patrons can drink earlier.

Oxford City Council threw out the plan last June as it would “generate limited but significant noise, disturbance and anti-social behaviour at a time when the normal daytime activities of the area, both residential and commercial, would still be underway”.

This “would unacceptably conflict with and impact upon those activities and the normal use of residential properties within the area” it said.

But the inspectorate’s Peter Eggleton disagreed. He said: “This is a busy road and part of a commercial area, although it also includes many residential properties.

“The concerns regarding the blocking of the pavement clearly need to be resolved but this is a management issue.

“I am not satisfied that an earlier opening time would impact on this in any way.”

He said it would not have a “significant impact” on shops, residents or the road network, and pointed to the lack of concern from highway and police chiefs.

The plan “may result in improved management” of the venue, he added.

He also overturned a decision that barred the concert and disco venue from closing at 6am instead of 4am on May Day.

The council said this would have an “unacceptable” impact on neighbours but Mr Eggleton said this would only be once a year.

But he upheld the council’s west area planning committee’s decision to not allow it to shut at 4am instead of the usual time of midnight on the Sundays before bank holidays. He said: “Given the evidence of harm provided by residents with regard to departing customers, I find that this would be unacceptably harmful.”

Academy Music Group had yet to comment as the Oxford Mail went to press.

James Street Residents’ Association chairman Ed Chipperfield said: “I worry as it is a whole day’s worth of extra drinking over a week. It is not a small thing, it is a very large percentage.”

The area has been “really quiet” since the infamous Fuzzy Ducks student night switched its venue to Wahoo on Hythe Bridge Street in September, he said.

But he added: “They could stick another night that is as bad as Fuzzy Ducks and have people drinking there from 6pm every night.”

East Oxford city councillor Saj Malik, who addressed the committee to urge members throw the bid out, said he was “disappointed”.

He said: “There is high footfall on Cowley Road, people are doing their shopping. We require that footfall, rather than it being blocked by the O2 Academy.”