A PASSIONATE plea has been made for a museum to be built in Bicester's former magistrates court, amid fears of more housing.

Residents have called for the building to be turned into something for the community as a ‘piece of Bicester’s history’.

But fears are rising that notable town site on Queens Avenue could be demolished for more housing as Homes England revealed it is now the owner of the site which has been sat empty for years after its closure was announced in 2016.

Bicester Traffic Action Group's Sallie Wright, who lives nearby, said: “I am absolutely against houses being built on the site.

“I believe it should be something like a museum, as Bicester doesn’t have one, or turned into something for young people like a youth club.

“We must protect some of our older buildings for the future generation and not just knock them down.”

Mrs Wright added that more homes would mean more cars on an already-busy stretch of road into Bicester.

Homes England would not confirm whether it had any plans for housing at the site, but online it says it 'works to bring together land, money and expertise', with 'a clear remit to facilitate delivery of sufficient new homes'.

A spokeswoman said: “The former magistrates court in Bicester was transferred to Homes England in August 2017 following its closure.

“We are currently in discussions with local partners regarding the future of the site.”

Bicester Local History Society chairman Bob Hessian said he and most members would be against the court, built in 1957, being turned into housing.

He added: “Although I’ve never seen anything legal in writing, we believe that the Coker family from Bicester House either sold or gave the land that side of Queen’s Avenue for community use and not residential – hence we had the police station, fire station and magistrates’ court – all public service buildings.

“The open nature of this area is a feature that needs protection.”

Mr Hessian said the space could be a ‘much-needed’ museum for the town while providing community space for local arts groups or council offices.

The court has not been used for criminal cases since 2013, but has stood proudly in the building known as Waverley House since the 1970s.

Prior to the court it was the old Ploughley Rural District Council site.

The Ministry of Justice proposed to close the ‘underused and dilapidated’ court as part of a national overhaul of the court system expected to save £40m.

Oxfordshire county councillor for Bicester west Les Sibley said: “It is sad really that Homes England have got hold of the magistrates, especially if it is to use the site for housing – it doesn’t sound hopeful. It would be a real missed opportunity as I know many people in Bicester would the support the idea of having something like a museum in there.

"We have more than enough housing now in Bicester and we need to be looking at the infrastructure to go with it. The former magistrates court is the ideal location close to the town centre for a social area – something that would be top of the list for most people.

"There is a little bit of Bicester’s history in there and we need to protect it in some way. By creating a multi-use venue whilst preserving the history of the court building as well."

It is not known if Homes England would consider reselling the site, but Mr Sibley added: “It would be a real shame if there was no way of getting it back for the community.”