Families on an Oxford estate are celebrating an early Christmas present with the news that a long-sought swimming pool is just one step away from reality.

The £1.64m bid to provide a pool at Barton, Headington, has been given stage one approval by the Sport England lottery fund. This means it now proceeds to the second and final stage.

Residents on the estate, who mounted a campaign called Sink or Swim, are delighted by the news.

The final bid is now being prepared in consultation with Sport England and is due next year.

If it succeeds, campaigners hope to start digging the foundations next summer, in preparation for completion in summer 2003.

Sink or Swim co-ordinator Sue Holden said: "This is the best Christmas present the estate could have had.

"The estate was awarded money for a swimming pool through the Single Regeneration Budget, but had to match that through lottery funding."

"I'm given to understand that this first round is by far the hardest to overcome, so by getting through that we're really on our way.

"The second stage is really to do with the building and management of the pool. We've proved the need, which was the biggest hurdle."

Mrs Holden added: "This pool will make Barton a really great place to be and there's a lot of excitement in the estate.

"It's the one thing that's going to come out of the Single Regeneration Budget that will benefit every family living here."

Oxford City Council has already committed more than £1m for the new pool, dance studio and fitness studio planned for the Bayswater Middle School site, in Bayswater Road. The pool already has planning permission.