CONTROVERSIAL plans for a memorial to Oxford volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War have cleared a key hurdle.

Oxford City Council's west area planning committee has given permission for the granite monolith to go on a grassy corner of South Park, at the junction of Headington Road and Morrell Avenue.

It would honour 26 people with links to the city who joined the International Brigade and fought against the forces of General Francisco Franco in the civil war from 1936 to 1939.

Colin Carritt, who has led calls for the memorial, said it was 'long overdue'.

Mr Carritt's father, Noel Carritt, was injured in Spain, while his uncle, Anthony Carritt, was one of six volunteers from the Oxford area killed. Both will be named on the memorial.

Woodstock resident Mr Carritt said: "Throughout the British Isles the brigade is responsible for more than 100 memorials but Oxford has long been an omission.

"That is a great shame because it produced disproportionately more volunteers than other places its size."

But the proposals have been dogged by complaints about suggested locations, with sites at Bonn Square and near the St Giles' war memorial both previously rejected.

Heritage groups, including Oxford Preservation Trust, have argued the spot next to South Park is 'inappropriate' and out of character with the surrounding area.

The trust warned it could also impact views within the conservation area.

City councillor for St Margaret's and historian Liz Wade said: "The symbols on the memorial include a red communist flag. It is an inappropriate symbol of totalitarian ideology and is aggressive – it is also out of keeping with the brigade's other memorials in Britain.

"I am not against the principle of a memorial but this is not the right place to put it."

But Tom Hayes, city councillor for St, Clement's, said he had canvassed nearby households and found people had 'no problem' with the memorial.

Speaking to the planning committee on Tuesday night, he said: "In my experience, people with concerns about these kinds of issues tend to come out and speak more often and those with positive views tend to be underrepresented.

"There was not much concern about this on the doorstep when I showed people the designs on my phone.

"But it has been 80 years since the conflict. These are people who went to the front lines to fight fascism – it is important to mark that."

During a debate, committee member John Tanner said: "It is important to remember our history and I have been very impressed by this proposal.

"I find this area of grass very uninteresting at the moment and so I hope people will vote for this."

The plans were approved by the committee by five votes to three. Committee chairwoman Louise Upton said those who were opposed could still lobby the city council.

The local authority owns the land required and will make the final decision about whether the memorial will be built.

The International Brigade Memorial Trust is also still raising money for the scheme.

But Chris Colbeck, a spokesman for the London Place Residents' Association, said: "We are very disappointed. This was not the right place for it.

"We have been working with the council on new landscaping plans for this area. People will now just see a lump of stone and it won't mean anything."

He said there were also still concerns about anti-social behaviour and damage to the stone from people out in Cowley Road.