A SMALL plot of land has caused a further delay to plans for a new multi- million pound pool in Oxford.

A High Court judge yesterday gave permission for a judicial review into whether the £8.5m pool can be built on Blackbird Leys Park.

Oxford City Council hopes to build the centre on the site to replace Temple Cowley Pools, which it says is no longer fit for purpose.

But a group of Blackbird Leys residents attempted to turn the park into a town green – preventing development on it.

This was originally refused by Oxfordshire County Council, the authority which registers town and village greens, but the decision will now be made by a High Court judge after yesterday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Speaking after the hearing, Pegasus Road resident William Clark, who has been involved in the judicial review, said: “I am over the moon.

“The issue is building where they are building. I have said from the outset that I am not opposed to building a swimming pool.

“Initially, it was planned for behind the leisure centre. Had that gone ahead we would be swimming in it now.”

The main issue in the case relates to whether Blackbird Leys residents use the park “by right” or “as of right”.

When residents use an open space “by right” they do so with the owner’s permission, in this case through the council designating it as a park.

If the council were to stop using an area as a park but residents continued to use it for an extended period of time, they would be doing so “as of right”.

This means they would have an entitlement to do so but without the owner’s permission.

The city and county council’s claim is that the land which makes up Blackbird Leys Park was made available to the public as a park through legislation and as such was used by right.

Douglas Edwards QC said the city council made informal recreational space available for public use – what a local authority is entitled to do – and is free to use the land for another purpose “with good reason”.

However, Philip Petchey, speaking on behalf of Mr Clark, said part of the land was held under section 19 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

He said: “There is no reason why land which is held under that power is being made available to local people, so that their use is by right not as of right.”

Judge Richard Foster said that only a small area of land held under section 19 could arguably be viewed as a green.

The review is anticipated before the end of May.

City councillor Van Coulter, executive board member for leisure services, said: “I am disappointed.”