The dream of a new multi-million-pound swimming pool for Oxford's Barton estate is one step closer to reality following a decision by city councillors.

Tony Stephens, Oxford City Council's leisure and parks business manager, told the council's executive board that it was on the threshold of winning the lottery funding needed for the ambitious project.

In July 2002 the council agreed to invest £1,050,000 in a new swimming pool in Barton if Sport England agreed match-funding of £1,694,986.

But last year, Sport England announced a moratorium on its capital programme because of reduced funds for distribution due to declining Lottery sales.

"It became clear at this point that their contribution was at some risk," Mr Stephens reported.

However, after "protracted lobbying" by council officers, Sport England has relented.

It has announced that, subject to conditions, the Barton project will be one of a small number of schemes in the UK to receive lottery backing.

"It's highly unlikely that this amount of money will ever be on offer again," said councillor Peter Johnson, the lead member for leisure.

"We have a tight timetable to meet. We cannot afford to lose the momentum. It's now or never." The executive board unanimously agreed to release £95,000 for professional fees, which have to be paid to take the scheme quickly to the contract stage.

Mr Stephens warned that "any delay" would certainly result in the loss of Sport England's financial support.

He added: "There are a number of groups and organisations that have a direct interest in the Barton pool project and it's important that further discussions on programming and usage take place. But it's vital that we have an agreed design, approved by Sport England, as soon as possible."

A feasibility study, which cost the council £75,000, has been completed with a satisfactory conclusion. The earmarked site is within the grounds of Bayswater Middle School, in Bayswater Road.

Council leader Alex Hollingsworth said: "We are now just one step away from a contract and I can hardly resist yelling yippee."

Barton newsagent Sue Holden has launched a Sink or Swim fund-raising campaign to support the pool, urging customers to buy a brick towards it.