WORK on Oxford’s new multi-million pound “Olympic legacy” swimming pool has stalled indefinitely, Oxford City Council last night confirmed.

A new £9.2m pool had been due to open in Blackbird Leys to tie in with the Olympic year.

But with just two days to go until the long-awaited games start on Friday, the city council still has no idea when work could start.

Residents in Blackbird Leys submitted a town green application to block the plans on the Cuddesdon Way park.

Although dismissed by Oxfordshire County Council in March, that decision has now been challenged by a judicial review application.

It means although work could technically begin, any construction would have to be torn down again if the review found in favour of the town green.

City council member for leisure Van Coulter said: “We have absolutely no idea when we can start work as we are currently waiting for a court date.

“It is very disappointing because we should have been completing the pool around now.”

The pool was set to have a 25 metre main pool with a moveable floor, teaching pool, toddler’s splash pool, sauna and soft play area.

It has already been funded, has planning permission and contractor Willmot Dixon has signed a fixed-price contract for the work.

The plan was to close the Temple Cowley and existing Blackbird Leys pools once the centre opened.

The city council has spent £97,000 in the past year on repairing Temple Cowley Pools, which costs £500,000 a year to run. It has also spent £28,000 on legal fees.

Mr Coulter said: “It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and run Temple Cowley Pools.

“I look at the condition of it and I see more leaks, we are throwing hundreds and thousands of pounds at it and we are just trying to keep the fabric of it together, let alone making improvements.

“If a major part of it does break in the immediate future, we would be forced to close it.”

A £75,000 grant from Sport England, which must be used for “Olympic legacy” purposes, will expire in May 2013 if work has not started by then.

Ian Smith, from the City of Oxford Swimming Club, which practices mainly at Temple Cowley Pools, said: “I think this whole thing is a total disgrace. It has been held up by a few people with a lack of long term perspective and appreciation for the majority of people in Oxford.

“Our young swimmers get up at 4.30am, train, go to school, do their homework and then train again. They put all those hours in and they deserve a decent pool to use.”

He added: “This was supposed to be completed for the Olympics, the whole thing was about inspiring people and getting them involved in swimming, looking to the future and building a facility for local people. The fact that we haven’t progressed in all this time is a sad reflection on the city and the politicians for having a lack of gumption in pushing it through.”

Blackbird Leys resident Brian Lester said: “I can understand how these residents feel, but they have had their application turned down by the county council and that should have been the end of it.

“I think we will all be glad when this is over and the community can enjoy a new swimming pool.”

The town green process has prevously proved successful in Oxford – with Trap Grounds in North Oxford gaining town green status in 2006, followed by Warneford Meadow in 2010.

The application was submitted by 14 local residents, including William Clark from Pegasus Road.

He said: “This is part of our heritage which is being dwindled away. But we live in hope. We are more confident about it this time.”

No date has been set for a hearing.


  •  January 2010 – Oxford City Council announces plans to build a new pool, costing £5.5m to £8m.
  •  August 2010 – Council officers recommend building a new pool in Blackbird Leys.
  •  Sept 2010 – The council’s executive board backs the decision to demolish Temple Cowley Pools and build the new one in Blackbird Leys.
  • October 2010 – The council says it will push ahead with plans to close Temple Cowley Pools despite a 10,000-signature petition for it to stay.
  •  February 2011 – Opposition parties at the city council table alternative budgets to keep the Temple Cowley Pools open. Both are turned down.
  •  April 2011 – The pool in Blackbird Leys is granted planning permission, despite neighbours saying the building will be an eyesore.
  •  July 2011 – The pool is given the final go-ahead and company Willmott Dixon is given the construction contract.
  • August 2011 – The council announces the pool may miss its Olympic opening date after residents lodge a town green application for Blackbird Leys Park.

March 2012 - Town green application is dismissed by Oxfordshire County Council.