THE opening of Didcot’s new £22m leisure centre will be delayed by a year because negotiations to buy land have stalled, according to a leading councillor.

The new centre, which will include a 25m eight-lane pool, is due to open as part of a 2,000-home estate at North East Didcot, north of the Ladygrove estate.

But the original opening date of 2016 is now being put back to 2017 because South Oxfordshire District Council has so far been unable to buy the land, owned by Reading University.

Bill Service SODC’s cabinet member for leisure, said: “It’s very disappointing but so far South Oxfordshire District Council has not yet been able to buy the land it needs, about seven hectares, for the leisure centre.

“Negotiations started two years ago but unfortunately we have not been able to make much progress and so we have to be realistic and say 2017 is a likely opening date, not 2016 because we can’t get started on sorting out the sewerage and the roads until we own the land.

“It seems Reading University won’t sell the land until it is completely satisfied with certain aspects of the planning application.

“We have had several crunch meetings on this and we will continue to meet until we can move forward.”

Council leader Ann Ducker added: “The discussions regarding the council buying the land for the leisure centre are deadlocked at the moment but we are pushing as hard as we can and will continue to do so. We need to get the land ownership tied up before we can move forward, so it could be early in 2017 before we can open the new leisure centre.”

Earlier this year, SODC leaders agreed an additional £7.36m should be invested in the new centre. It was originally expected to cost £15m.

Daniel Hayman, of the North East Didcot Partnership, representing Reading University and developer Croudace Homes, said: “The provision of the leisure centre site is reliant on the delivery of the wider North East Didcot scheme. The leisure centre site is an important part of the wider development and there is commitment from all parties to see it delivered.”

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