THE heart of Barton could be transformed by 2020 as part of plans to invest up to £8m to regenerate the estate, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Underhill Circus could be bulldozed and rebuilt as part of proposals from Oxford City Council to make major changes to the estate.

Forty six blocks of flats, including those in Stowford and Bayswater roads will get a facelift and the Neighbourhood Centre will also receive a new IT suite along with its own GP practice over the next four years.

The council has revealed early designs of what Underhill Circus could look like but a decision is yet to be on whether the "radical" plan will go ahead, or if the area will be spruced up in its current form.

The Oxford Mail previously reported the council agreed to spend £3.7m on the work, but that figure go up to as much as seven or eight million if the major development of Underhill Circus goes ahead.

Jackie Yates, city council executive director, who is responsible for the regeneration of the estate, said she hoped the work would help forge links with the Barton Park development.

Oxford Mail:

An artist's impression of how new flats in Barton could look

She added: "I hope it's going to make a very visible and real difference for Barton residents, enable the community to have better use of facilities and to address some concerns that residents have in terms of the new development."

Members of the 5000-strong community in Barton, which was first built in 1946, welcomed the cash investment, but were split on whether Underhill Circus should be completely rebuilt.

Residents hope the investment in the existing estate will strengthen links with the new Barton Park estate which will see 885 homes built with the first people moving in next summer.

Ms Yates said one option was to build two new blocks with a walkway and community space in between them, adding people would be able to see through to the fields at the back of the estate from Burchester Avenue.

She added at early meetings, residents had favoured the more "radical" option, which would also see garages at the back of the shops bulldozed.

The new building would house shops and a number of flats, but the council said plans were not set in stone and the circle would be the last stage of the development in about two years' time.

Bharat Badiani who has run the pharmacy in Barton for 20 years, said he thought the investment would improve the area, adding it was the first time he had seen the plans.

He added: "What is outside the shops at the moment is a complete waste of space, they created an area which is used for a football ground, it's not very attractive for people.

"You can see what they [the council] are trying to do so that you don't get the separation of the new estate and old estate which is a very good idea.

"But rather than make such drastic changes they could start they could improve the properties."

Ms Yates said the council had received a "mixed" reaction from the shops, adding many were in favour of "something happening".

Out of the current £3.7m signed off the work, £1.72m will be put towards Underhill Circus, with the council planning on getting the rest of the money from sponsors and its housing company.

Refurbishments of the flats will cost just over £1m over the next three years. The exterior will be given a facelift and new gardens with fences will be built, with work to begin later this year.

A total of £350,000 will be spent in the Neighbourhood Centre, with £200,000 being used to expand the GP surgery and the other 150,000 being used to refurbish the rest of the facility.

"Welcome to Barton" signs will also be installed along with screened areas for bin storage. Garages behind Underhill Circus will also be demolished.

Sophie Mitchell, 35, who lives with daughters Courtney 16, and Freya, one, in Stowford Road, said the improvement to the flats was a good idea.

She added: "I've been here for 13 years. the council showed me what they are going to do with the plants in the front and knocking down the sheds.

"I think it will look good along here."

Chaka Artwell of Cranley Road said: "On the face of it, I welcome it on what the council has said.

"I do wish the Barton could get more community spaces for young people to socialise in.

"I think having an IT suite in the Neighbourhood Centre would benefit the community as teaching facility.

Mr Artwell added he would like to see Underhill Circus completely rebuilt adding "a tower block should be built as this is the best way of addressing the lack of housing without stepping our precious green space.

"Built a 50-storey tower block in the middle of Barton. It would be great."

- Up to £8m could be spent on developing Barton over the next four years.
- £3.7m has already been set aside for the project by Oxford City Council. 
- £1.72m of this will be put towards Underhill Circus, with the council planning on making the rest of the money through sponsors and its housing company.
- The flat refurbishments will see £1.05m be spent with £450,000, £300,000 and £300,000 being invested each year over the next three years. The exterior will be given a facelift and new gardens with fences will be built, with work to begin later this year.
- A total of £350,000 will be spent in the Neighbourhood Centre, with 50,000 being used to refurbish the rest of the facility.
- Developers of Barton Park Grosvenor and Oxford City Council have set aside £200,000 in Section 106 funding to be used to expand the GP surgery. 
- The remaining money is being spent on drawing up plans for the estate, and used to spruce other areas of the estate and make signs.

Barton Park
With the existing Barton estate receiving this investment, the first foundations in Barton Park are beginning to be dug.
The development west of the estate is to start building the first of 237 homes off the A40 bypass by the end of the summer.
In total, 885 homes - 40 per cent affordable - a 315-place primary school, sports pavilion and shopping square will be built until 2025.
Since last summer, CA Blackwell has been constructing the skeleton of the estate including the main road, called Barton Fields Road, drainage pipes and housing plots in preparation for the homes to be built.