CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new 1,260-pupil school in Oxford have been approved.

An Oxford City Council committee passed the Swan School plans shortly before 8.45pm this evening, despite earlier refusal of the plans in September. 

READ MORE: Shock decision as Swan School plans rejected

Seven councillors voted in favour, none against and two abstained, following almost three hours of discussion. 

During the meeting, objectors and supporters each presented 10-minute arguments reiterating the key concerns and benefits of building the new school in Marston.

River Learning Trust, the multi-academy trust set to lead the secondary school, submitted its application in May proposing to build on the current Harlow Centre site.

The centre off Marston Ferry Road is home to Meadowbrook College, which is set to get a new building as part of the Swan School deal.

In September the city council's planning committee refused the plans, citing damage to the Green Belt and safety concerns as key issues, as the access road cuts across the busy Marston Ferry Road cycle track.

Their decision defied advice from the council's own planning officers and was 'called in' to be reconsidered by a planning review committee tonight.

The new approval means the school should still be in track to open in September next year, albeit in temporary accommodation as the building will not be ready.

At this evening's meeting at Oxford Town Hall, planning officer Nadia Robinson told councillors there was a 'pressing need' for secondary school places in the city and there were 'no [planning] grounds for refusing the application'.

Several members of the public said the school would be better-placed near new housing developments, such as in Barton, to meet demands of growing populations in those areas.

Other objectors including Simon Hunt, chairman of cycling group Cyclox, urged councillors to reject the application unless an underpass was built so cyclists could bypass the entrance.

Council officers informed councillors that an underpass was 'not a necessary requirement', and that subways can raise security concerns.

Oxfordshire County Council transport planner Chanika Farmer said: "The county council has moved away from [this] because subways do raise concerns over personal security and don't tend to be favoured by all cyclists."

The press and public were made to leave the meeting midway through while councillors heard legal advice about planning law, which was said to be confidential information.

Upon return councillors quizzed the applicant and officers about remaining concerns before taking a vote.

Stephen Goddard and Mohammed Altaf-Khan abstained from the vote - the latter councillor had said he felt 'in a double mind' as the decision was so difficult.

He told the committee: "We can't say this will be problem-free and there is already a school next to it.

"Is this the best planning we are doing for the whole city? I don't think that's the case."

He questioned the cohesion between city council as the planning authority and county council as that which deals with school places and roads.

He added: "One one the biggest problems we face is that we have two authorities...if it was one, I'm sure the issues would have been addressed.

"It makes it very hard to refuse and also hard to approve."

Among those who spoke in favour of the school was the county council's pupil place planning manager Barbara Chilman, who described the need for Oxford secondary school places as 'real and urgent'.

The school's appointed headteacher Kay Wood revealed that the Swan School has already received 136 applications for the initial 120-pupil intake in 2019, weeks ahead of the application deadline and before the school's open evenings later this week.

She said the school would offer 'first-class' education to offer pupils the 'best start in life'.