“The building is all boarded up, all taped up and yet the Save Temple Cowley Pools campaign is still working the loopholes to put life back in that building.”

That’s the view of an international icon of the folk music world and Oxford resident, Peggy Seeger.

The battle over these pools has been raging for several years, ever since Oxford City Council announced it wanted to close the leisure centre and sell it to a developer for housing and at the same time build another swimming pool at Blackbird Leys On Christmas Eve, the Council agreed to sell the site to Catalyst Housing for £3.6m on the condition that Catalyst Housing gets planning permission for 48 dwellings on the site. In essence, Oxford City Council will get £3.6m if it grants Catalyst Housing planning permission.

No-one is suggesting any skulduggery here. The council will put the prospect of receiving £3.6m from the planning applicant completely out of their collective heads and consider the planning application completely on its merits.

The Save Temple Cowley Pools campaign will oppose the planning application. I spoke with the director of the campaign, Nigel Gibson, and asked him why they would not give up the battle after all these years.

“We have huge support across Cowley to save the pools,” he said. “I say that on the basis of an email list of over 1,000 supporters, comments on our website, and the responses we get when campaigning in public places like the recent Florence Park Festival, so the grass roots are strong and growing.

“Save Temple Cowley Pools (STCP) is a community interest company which submitted a proposal to the city council last December for a Community Asset Transfer which means the site would be transferred to the company for free if it is used as a social benefit.

“The council turned us down in favour of Catalyst Housing. We have been asking Catalyst to talk with us since January. They could avoid all the opposition by working with us and looking after the housing side of our proposal. This would build up to 30 flats adjoining Temple Cowley Pools.

“Our plans are to supplement the existing swimming pool, diving pool and sauna with a new gym, community space and treatment rooms, providing a community hub as a focus for the re-energising of Cowley. All we want is a compromise.

“Around the corner from our site in Barns Road there is a similar housing development for 40 flats where the city council gave the land for free to the developers. And over at Barton Park the land for nearly 900 homes has been transferred from the council for £850,000 although with a lot of obligations and conditions.”

The STCP campaign has an uphill struggle, but what keeps them going apart from determination when all they have left is the strategy of “looking for loopholes” as Peggy Seeger says/ Well, in a nutshell they have people like Peggy Seeger to promote their cause, and they are presenting a fundraising concert featuring Peggy next Friday, at 7.30pm at the Cowley Workers Social Club in Between Towns Road.

This is where a narrow pressure group gives a gift to the wider community. Peggy has just finished a month-long tour of the UK with 16 gigs between Shoreham and Aberdeen with a stop at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to celebrate her 80th birthday with her two sons by Ewan MacColl, Neill and Calum. Their performance at the QEH got rave five-star reviews. The Guardian hailed her by saying: “She may be folk royalty, but there’s nothing either reverent or nostalgic about this joyous and intimate performance.”

Now, she’s giving a concert in her home town. We’re lucky. Peggy told me: “I’ve been very sick since March last year. I made the journey from the A&E at the John Radcliffe to the operating table in four hours and then back to life. I lost my voice and I couldn’t sing or play any instruments for eight months. The muscles all went and I had to start singing from Ground Zero. For the last six months I’ve had a voice teacher from Edinburgh who taught me on Skype how to sing again. Now I’m back in the swing.”

The Guardian agreed: “As Indian summers go, her renaissance is spectacular.”

The benefit concert will feature local comedian and poet Steve Larkin as compere, and also feature The Headington Hillbillies who play a blend of classic American music mixed with the spirit of English punk rock. They’ll do their own version of such classics as Sweet Home Alabama and Folsom Prison Blues along with their original songs.

Peggy plans to encourage the audience to join in. “It’s not just me exercising my ego. I want people to sing, so warm up before you come along. It’s amazing how music can get hold of people’s imagination and they are right back with the words they sang years ago like Freight Train.

“I’m not sure what I’ll sing, but I could include The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face which Ewan MacColl wrote for me back in 1957. And I’ll sing it the way he meant it to be sung – like a birdsong. He wrote it as an hors d’oeuvre and it got turned into an entrée.

“When Roberta Flack turned it into a global hit, she milked it and didn’t put any experience into it. The song lasted for five minutes. Ewan wrote it to be sung in one minute and three quarters. A lot of people don’t like the way I sing it because it’s too fleeting…kind of like life.”

Tickets for the July 10 concert are available at savetcp@gmail.com