A CONTROVERSIAL plan to renovate a community centre will take longer than planned after a major change to the proposal.

Just last month, Oxford City Council said it wanted to plough £3.7m into improving the East Oxford Community Centre, with some of that money being made by selling off land for student housing.

Now the council wants to work on the 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' with a currently unnamed Oxford-based group which would be based at the Princes Street community centre.

It is understood the group approached the city council to be based inside the community centre and new plans, including this agreement, will be put to senior councillors in early 2018.

The previous £3.7m project was due to be discussed at a council meeting on Tuesday before it was pulled because of the change of plan.

Councillor Dee Sinclair, the city council’s executive board member for culture and communities, said: “We have begun discussions with a partner about them potentially becoming involved in the use of East Oxford Community Centre.

“That is a recent development, so we cannot yet reveal the name of the partner. However, we think this could be a good fit with the community centre – and we would prefer this option to student housing on the Princes Street site.”

The council said the potential partner had yet to tell its staff of the possible move so had requested to keep its identity under wraps.

Mrs Sinclair added: “Residents backed our multi-million pound redevelopment plans in a consultation last year, and we have spent the last 12 months working with centre users and community groups on funding options.

“We want to reassure everyone that we are committed to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create successful, modern facilities at East Oxford Community Centre, and will present our latest proposals in the new year.”

But Green Party deputy leader Councillor Craig Simmons accused the council of trying to delay the decision for political gain.

He said: “It’s so controversial they’re pushing it until after the next local elections. If it gets discussed in January, it’s not going to be enacted on until summer or autumn 2018. I think the plans are ridiculous.

“They are finding out that the plans neither add up nor do they have the support of local people.”

After a public consultation last year the city council said an initial £2.3m scheme was backed by the majority of residents, but councillors were asked to look for ways that the budget could be increased.

Mr Simmons had claimed up to 40 per cent of the centre’s floor space would have been lost as part of £3.7m refurb – but the city council has said that figure was incorrect and that would have been closer to eight per cent when the whole site was taken into account.