GOLFERS have launched a campaign to save a 110-year-old course after North Oxford Golf Club agreed to accept £2m from Oxford University to remain silent on plans to build homes on the land.

The course, off Banbury Road, has been earmarked as part of a development of 1,180 homes between Cutteslowe and the A34 in Cherwell District Council's proposals to help Oxford's unmet housing need.

The club's members voted in favour of accepting a new lease – believed to be 14 years long – which would break if planning permission was granted, and it is closed to being finalised.

But a letter seen by The Oxford Times also revealed the club would receive £2.1m towards relocating if it did not object to the proposals.

The promise of silence does not apply to individual members, who have now launched a campaign group – Greenway Oxon – to protect the course and have drafted a letter to Theresa May.

Club member David Wynne-Jones, who is part of the Greenway Oxon committee, said members voted to secure the short-term future of the club as the university could have thrown them off the course the moment planning permission is granted.

He said: "The majority of members voted in favour of the 'fait accompli' and the new lease but we feel we should object and tell Cherwell District Council what we think of these plans.

"For our 475 members it is about camaraderie and friendship – we had 20 people up here the other morning in the cold and wet, it's so important to so many people."

He added that the campaign had the backing of 'the majority' of golfers at the club.

The club's management committee and employees have repeatedly been warned not to comment publicly on the lease and land matters – negotiated with its three landlords Oxford University, Exeter College and Merton College.

But at an open forum at the end of last year the committee confirmed there was nothing in the lease agreement preventing members from objecting.

The group's spokesman, Chris Pack, a member since 1988, said: "We know that houses have to be built but the sheer number in this relatively small area around Kidlington and North Oxford will affect so many people.

"The legal framework for planning in the UK is clear about obligations on councils for protecting the Green Belt for recreation and health, as well as limiting urban sprawl."

"For club members the consequences are the loss of an important and, for some, perhaps their only possible source of recreation."

Frieze Farm, just over 300 yards from the edge of the existing course has been assigned by Cherwell as a potential replacement golf course.

The meeting also revealed that the leader of Cherwell District Council, Barry Wood, and a group of councillors had told members on a visit to the club that the relocation to Frieze Farm was 'never going to happen'.

Greenway Oxon said the alternative site was 'totally unsuitable and unlikely to be available' and would be submitting its arguments to Cherwell before it was finalised at the end of March.

Earlier this week a planning inspector ordered West Oxfordshire District Council to remove plans for homes near Charlbury and Burford from its local plan.

He said they were in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the council hadn't proved there was a local need for the housing.

Mr Wynne-Jones said the campaign was buoyed by the ruling and hoped an inspector would view Cherwell's plan in the same light when it is submitted by March 31.

Spokesman for Oxford University, Matt Pickles, said: "The university, Exeter and Merton Colleges are currently in negotiation with North Oxford Golf Club over the future of the land currently leased by the club.

"We are seeking an outcome satisfactory to all parties which will also help towards the need to provide additional housing around Oxford.

"We have no further comment while negotiations are continuing."

Communication executive at Cherwell District Council, Tom Slingsby, said: "The local plan contains a requirement to complete a partial review as a contribution to meeting the unmet housing need of Oxford.

"That review has been a staged process over two years, with extensive public consultation and the consideration of 47 submitted sites.

"The seven proposed sites are the ones which have been identified as best meeting Oxford's needs."