PLANS to build a new visitor centre beside Oxford’s Christ Church Meadow have been approved.

The centre for the meadow, which attracts about one million visitors a year, will include a shop, college ticket office, cafe and toilets.

It will be built on the western side of New Walk, the tree-lined avenue leading to the Thames.

Oxford City Council’s west area planning committee unanimously approved the plans on Tuesday, subject to an agreement that would see the college contribute £2,000 towards a new coach stop.

Christ Church treasurer James Lawrie said: “We think this is an opportunity to improve the visitor experience both in the meadow and the college itself.”

The college attracted 440,000 paying visitors in the year up to July 2014.

Mr Lawrie said numbers had doubled in the last 10 years partly due to its association with the Harry Potter films which used the Great Hall for filming.

Christ Church, whose chapel is also the city’s cathedral, first commissioned studies about visitors and its facilities for them in 2009. The studies said using the Cathedral chapter house as a shop was inappropriate, and the present arrangements resulted in disturbance to academic life at the college and a poor visitor offer.

An existing thatched barn on the site beside New Walk will be restored and used as part of a new cafe.

The new ticket office will be to the north of the barn, linked to it by a service building with toilets, a plant room and storage.

There will also be a space for digital displays to educate visitors on the site’s history.

College dean, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, said: “We already have around half-a-million visitors a year and we want them to have a better experience.

“We hope it will become a learning centre for the cathedral and the meadow, enabling people to find out about its history and have a cup of tea.”

He added: “I think it’s a good thing for the city too; visitors will spend longer here and have a better time in Oxford.”

In a report, city planning officer Nick Worlledge, reccommended councillors approve the plans. He said: “Its popularity is threatening to undermine the qualities that attract people in the first place and action is required to manage the flow of people and access arrangements, but also to improve the visitor experience.”

The 46-acre meadow, which was saved from plans to drive a relief road across it in the 1960s, is one of the oldest maintained public parks in the country.