CAMPAIGNERS fighting for the future of an old boatyard in Jericho have welcomed news that Oxford City Council wants to buy the site.

Council leader Bob Price last night unveiled plans to buy the former Castle Mill boatyard using new legislation designed to promote sustainable communities.

The move follows years of wrangling over the future of the land.

In October last year, a planning inspector ruled Spring Residential’s plan to build 54 flats should not go ahead.

It was the second time in three years an inspector had thrown out proposals to develop the site and followed a high-profile campaign by local residents, who feared the development would destroy the area’s character.

After the inquiry, the Jericho Living Heritage Trust announced it would try to buy the site.

But the council has decided to ask the Government to give it powers under the Sustainable Communities Act to compulsory purchase the site on the trust’s behalf.

Mr Price, who estimated the cost could be between £3m and £5m, said it would be met by Government grants or loans.

He said: “If we got these powers, it would massively increase the long-term sustainability of Jericho as a community with a certain character and of course the canal itself.

“We would want to deliver a combination of a new community centre and possibly a small museum, together with affordable housing.”

Jericho Community Association spokesman George Taylor said it would be much better for the council to buy the site than another developer.

He said: “The heritage trust is trying to find ways of buying the site, but if the council managed to find a way of getting the whole site, it would be a wonderful way of doing it. It would be the answer to our prayers.”

Trust chairman Peter Strong said it was “poised” to be able to put in a bid for the land, but he declined to give details. He added: “The council is quite wisely putting in a bid to get the money to buy the site, but there are probably thousands of other organisations doing the same thing, so if it doesn’t achieve what it wants, at least we’re working in the same direction.”

The boatyard is currently in the hands of PricewaterhouseCoopers after Castlemore Securities, which owns Springfield, went into administration in February.