WORK to build a new £7.2m pool complex in Blackbird Leys will begin in six weeks.
Oxford City Council has announced that a judicial review – the last hurdle standing in the way of development – has been dropped.
Now work on the swimming centre, which was supposed to open last September, will start in mid-July, and it should open in September 2014.
Resident William Clark had sought to block the development by getting some of the land needed off Pegasus Road declared as a “town green”.
His application to the county council was thrown out in 2011, and last night he confirmed he had withdrawn his challenge to that decision.
He said: “Our legal team said there was a very good chance we could win, but there was a slight chance it could have gone pear-shaped and ended up with us being liable for a lot of money.”
The decision means the controversial closure of Temple Cowley Pools will go ahead in September 2014 once the new facility is open for business.
The proposed closure of Temple Cowley Pools has also been the subject of several legal challenges from campaigners who questioned the need for a new pool.
City community services director Tim Sadler said: “We are over the last current legal hurdle, and we don’t expect any more challenges.
“We were always confident that we were going to win on the town green issue because there is well-established case law.”
City executive board member for leisure services Mike Rowley said he was “frustrated” by the amount of time the legal challenges had taken, but didn’t blame protesters.
He said: “The only thing which frustrates me is how very very long the process took. It’s good that it is finally out of the way so that we can spend public money for the benefit of the public rather than on legal fees.”
The new facility will feature three pools, including a 25m competition pool with a moveable floor.
The council estimates the new pools will cost £150,000-a-year to run, compared with £360,000 it pays to its leisure partner Fusion to run Temple Cowley Pools.
City leisure director Ian Brooke said: “It’s a big facility, so where people have compared it to the fact other places have built a pool for £5m, it’s incredibly unhelpful.”
Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman Gordon Roper said: “It’s good news for Blackbird Leys and good news for Oxford. Sense has won.”
History of the legal battle
July 2011: Oxford City Council grants planning permission for the new pool in Blackbird Leys.
August 2011: Residents mount a town green application to try to protect part of the proposed development land in the Leys.
October 2011: The Save Temple Cowley Pools group announces its intention to launch a judicial review to fight the decision to allow planning permission for the Blackbird Leys pool.
March 2012: Oxfordshire County Council rejects the town green application, but its decision is challenged with a judicial review.
August 2012: The High Court throws out the judicial review challenge by Nigel Gibson.
September 2012: Mr Gibson announces he will appeal against the decision.
December 2012: A second judicial review, on the grounds that the council didn’t properly consult on the plans, is thrown out, but campaigners take the decision to the Court of Appeal.
March 2013: The appeal is dropped by campaigners.
May 2013: Oxford City Council announces the judicial review into the town green decision has been dropped.