A CONTROVERSIAL plan for new homes at a former Cowley social club’s land will go to a public inquiry this month.

The Planning Inspectorate will hold the hearing over plans for sports pitches at the former Lord Nuffield Club in William Morris Close.

Oxford City Council threw out the plans in November and developer Cantay Estates has appealed to the inspectorate.

It proposed 43 homes, 16 which would be affordable, with access from Barracks Lane and two all-weather sports pitches.

Both parties will argue their case on Tuesday, January 14, from 10am at Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates.

The hearing could last three days and the public can attend.

Labour Cowley Marsh councillor Saj Malik will attend the hearing in the hope that the council’s decision will be upheld.

He said: “I hope the outcome will be prosperous for the residents. This should remain as protected green space.

“That is one of the things that makes Oxford great and if we start to lose it then Oxford will start to lose its appeal.”

Normandy Crescent resident Bob Timbs, a former Labour city councillor for Lye Valley, said: “I just hope the appeal inspector supports Oxford City Council. If he doesn’t it opens up the floodgates for other developments.

“If areas like this lose the protection then that will set a bad precedent.

“They will say if it has been done at the Lord Nuffield place then they can build on other sites. It is not the right place for it.”

Cantay Estates has applied to build on the land three times in the past 13 months. The other two schemes were also refused.

Tony Nolan, a partner in city-based Cantay, said: “The land is not public, it is private and it is therefore not accessible.

“The community will be able to use the facilities we propose.

“It would be a shame to lose quite a high proportion of affordable housing when there is a housing shortage in the city.

“If the planning inspector and the Government are serious about housing provision then the appeal should be successful.”

The city’s first free school, Tyndale Community School, opened its doors in the former club building in September.

Plans for the school were initially thrown out by the city council, but Government legislation allows free schools to open in existing buildings for a year before seeking permission.

The Lord Nuffield Club was founded in 1919 as the Morris Motors Athletics Club.

It went into receivership in 2009, two years after moving into its newly constructed clubhouse.

The planning inspectorate will release a written decision on its website at a later date.