OXFORD residents fighting for a new community centre for more than a decade are set to win outline planning permission for their scheme.

The proposed site in the heart of Jericho consists of a small part of the Jericho boatyard site and city council-owned garages in Dawson Place.

Jericho Community Association (JCA) has mounted a long campaign for a new community facility to replace its outdated centre in Canal Street.

But the battle became entangled in one of Oxford’s most bitter land disputes centred on the boatyard.

The association’s application for outline permission will go before the city council’s central south and west area committee yesterday.

Planning officers are recommending a centre is built on land fronting Canal Street and a courtyard of lock-The community association welcomed the news as a major step forward, but admitted that the completion of the community centre could still be many years away.

Complicated legal agreements mean residents will have to wait until the future of the whole site is settled, with the area having already been the subject of lengthy legal and planning battles.

George Taylor, former association chairman and a member of the association’s development group, said: “The outline planning application is a real step forward.

“It significantly consolidates our position, whatever happens in the future.

“And it means that we will not be faced with all the arguments in the past about how much land needs to be given to the centre because the issue of the site will have been settled.”

The association said it had been obliged to put in an application early under the complicated terms of an agreement with Spring Residential, which acquired the site from British Waterways to develop the historic boatyard.

The scheme to build on the site sparked months of protests from boaters and local people, as well as a lengthy planning dispute.

The boatyard was the inspiration for Philip Pullman’s novel Lyra’s Oxford. And the Oxford author was prominent in the campaign to save the boatyard.

As part of Spring’s own application, the company signed a conditional contract with Jericho Community Association to transfer land to them for a community centre for a peppercorn sum.

However, since then Spring Residential has gone into administration, with the city council having expressed interest in acquiring the site.

JCA chairman Charlotte Christie said: “We cannot start building work on our community centre until the rest of the site gets planning permission.

“We have had to put in an application to demonstrate that we are committed.

“When we get closer to building, we will be asking the community about the building they would want.”

The outline application proposes a community hall, café, kitchens, pre-school facilities, changing and shower rooms, meeting rooms, art studios and offices for counselling and welfare work.