A CAMPAIGN to block controversial plans to close Oxford city centre's last remaining dedicated gig venue and turn it into student flats, has been given a boost after the application was 'called in' for discussion by councillors.

Oxford city councillors, including 11 members of the Labour group, called in the application, meaning planning officers cannot approve it without the agreement of the planning committee.

They objected to the loss of an "important community facility", and the negative impact on the economy and character of the surrounding area.

The Wheatsheaf has hosted some of the biggest bands to have emerged from the city, including Supergrass, Stornoway and Foals, who played their first gig there.

More than 1,900 music lovers have joined a Save The Sheaf campaign group on Facebook, and over 1,000 have posted objections on the council's planning site.

Councillor Mike Rowley said: "I called in the application because The Wheatsheaf is an irreplaceable independent venue for live music, the last one in the centre of Oxford. Joal has run it for decades and built up a tremendous reputation. The variety of musicians who can get a start there, from scrappy student bands to international stars, is unparalleled.

"Foals played their first ever gig there. In terms of its contribution The Wheatsheaf is of national significance, and the landlord's proposal is vandalism."

He was backed by fellow Labour councillor Linda Smith.

She said: "I’m a member of the planning review committee which is a quasi judicial committee of the council where members have to consider applications with an open mind and without having made a prior decision about them.

"I will not be opposing the planning application and I will remain objective, but I have supported this call-in because I’m aware of the numerous and vociferous objections being made about the possible loss of this venue.

Oxford band Bright Works performing at the Wheatsheaf, Oxford, in 2013. Picture: Henry Blyth

Oxford band Bright Works performing at the Wheatsheaf, Oxford, in 2013. Picture: Henry Blyth

"It’s clear people care about The Wheatsheaf and the future of live music in our city, and the future of this venue should be considered by elected councillors in a public meeting before any permission is granted for change of use.

"It’s too important to delegate to planning officers."

The loss of The Cellar off Cornmarket, in 2019, leaves The Wheatsheaf as the last grassroots venue in the city centre.

Read again: Dismay at plans to close Wheatsheaf - city centre's last gig venue

The plans submitted by applicant Glen de Unger, through his agent Tim Smith of Riach Architects in Banbury Road, seeks to convert the first and second floors into nine student rooms, a shared kitchen and common area. The pub would remain, but a section would be converted into a bike store.