A state-of-the-art pool for Oxford's Barton estate could be open by 2003, after the scheme was given outline planning permission.

Residents on the estate have been campaigning for a pool for years, and the city council's planning committee has now given outline approval for the pool on the Bayswater Middle School site in Headington.

Now that outline approval has been granted, project organisers are submitting an application for grant funding from Sport England, run by the National Lottery.

The 25m five-lane Optimum pool, which will have a "floating floor", is expected to cost £3m.

Phil Jones, who runs Barton Neighbourhood Centre, said an application for funding would now be submitted to Sport England.

He said: "We are hoping to get about 60 per cent of the funding - about £2m - from Sport England.

"The whole application is dependent on getting that grant funding and then we would submit a more detailed planning application.

"The outline application will be submitted in the next few days and we hope to hear something positive by Christmas."

The floating floor could be used to adjust the depth of the pool.

"That means we can create a learner pool across half the water space," said Mr Jones, "so we don't need to build a separate learner pool." He said it was a four-hour round trip for a Barton family to get on the bus and go swimming at Temple Cowley.

"If we get the necessary funding, we could start building in 2002 and open to the public in 2003. We know Sport England approves of our bid, so we are very hopeful."