A former Marston pub could soon reopen as a Muslim education centre and cafe.

Oxford charity The Wilaya Trust has revealed plans to lease Somerset House and transform it into a community hub.

But local councillors have raised concerns about the plans, citing multiple attempts by the community to retain the building as a pub since it closed in 2014.

Marston has seen a wave of pubs close down in recent years in favour of housing, including The Friar, on the corner of Marston Road and Old Marston Road, The Bricklayers pub, in Church Lane, The Cavalier pub, in Copse Lane, and most recently the Jack Russell, in Salford Road.

It leaves only The Red Lion and the Victoria Arms, both in Old Marston. 

Councillor Mick Haines, who created a petition to save Somerset House from residential development in 2016, said: "I'm disappointed and I think a lot of people are going to be unhappy if this goes ahead because it was the last chance to have a pub in Marston as all the others have closed.

"The petition I started had 300 signatures and there have been more since, all fighting to keep it as a pub."

Fellow city councillor Mary Clarkson added: "The owner can lease to whoever they like as that is a private business deal but Somerset House was listed as an Asset of Community Value in April 2016 so that means any change of use would require a planning application."

She said she had sent details to Oxford City Council enforcement officers so they were aware of the situation.

A statement from the trust, which is Muslim-run and states on its website 'draws upon Islamic traditions of education', confirmed it was currently negotiating with the owners of the Marston Road pub but had not yet signed a lease.

It added: "The trust would like to reopen the Somerset as a family-friendly café and social space for the local community, with the trust’s offices and a learning-resource centre above."

The learning resource centre and its programmes would be open to anyone interested in community-based education.

In response to concerns about planning, Dr Claire El Mouden, who is a project manager for the trust, said: "We are asking Oxford City Council for pre-planning advice, as it is unclear whether running the Somerset as a café and community hub, with the trust offices upstairs, constitutes a change of use.”

She added: “As an Asset of Community Value, we recognise the local community will be interested in our plans.

"Before we submit any planning applications, we will speak to our neighbours, councillors, and community groups, and hold a public meeting at the Marston Scout Hut to seek feedback on our plans."

She invited anyone who wanted to receive updates to email info@wilayatrust.org.

The trust's website states immediate costs for securing the lease and the first year of operations is £210,000.

This will go towards securing the building, hiring a professional educationalist and part-time administrator to begin projects, and launching the café.

An artist's impression of how the building would be transformed shows a new glass extension which would house seating for diners.

Sarah Mohsin, who lives across the road from the Somerset House and is part of the trust’s finance team, said she believed there was a local need for the facility.

She said: "We hope that the Somerset Café will be popular with Marston residents of all ages.

"As a mum of three, I’m particularly excited about our plans to improve the garden, as currently there’s nowhere I can have lunch with friends while the children play safely outside."