AN Oxford music venue saved from closure by a massive public fundraising appeal has now won council permission for the essential improvements the cash was raised towards.

Tim Hopkins, who runs the The Cellar in Frewin Court, off Cornmarket, has described the news as ‘the best possible start to the new year’.

Oxford City Council planners backed plans for a new fire exit at the club this week. Without the work, the much-loved venue would have been forced to close.

The project will be funded by more than £92,000 raised by 2,052 supporters in a crowdfunding initiative. That money will also pay for other work including improvements to its worn-out floor, and make up for lost earnings.

The new doorway, which will be built slightly closer to Cornmarket, is needed because Oxfordshire County Council inspectors found the venue’s existing 70cm exit was 30cm too narrow. They cut capacity from 150 to just 60, making it unviable.

The new work, which could be completed with minimal disruption by mid March, would allow capacity to be raised to 270.

Before that, however, a new lease needs to be arranged with owners St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities.

Mr Hopkins said: “This is great news and the best possible start to the new year.

“After all the turmoil and stress we have had a great result with a bigger capacity and can keep our audiences safer. We can now start to negotiate a fair lease.”

The work will see the inside of the venue remodelled with the main central bar removed, allowing for a larger viewing area in front of the stage. Drinks will be served from two existing side bars.

Mr Hopkins said: “This will help us put on better gigs and draw in bigger acts.”

The bid to keep the club open was backed by Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes and members of Ride and indie-rock band Foals – who launched their career at the venue.

Oxford City Council’s planning department approved The Cellar’s plan on Wednesday this week.

It said: “This area of Frewin Court comprises a number of openings and entrances to various businesses. The door would relate to the pattern of development in the area and would be visually in-keeping. The inclusion of a new door would not have a harmful impact on the site and is therefore considered acceptable.”

Alex Hollingsworth, the council’s board member for planning and transport and councillor for Carfax, said: “I’m really pleased to see that the planning permission has been granted. The Cellar is critical for culture in the city.”