A CALL has gone out for more community buildings to replace Bicester Magistrates' Court as documents reveal plans for more housing.

A recent update to Cherwell District councillors noted the Queen's Avenue building has been earmarked as surplus land and currently being considered for new homes.

It comes after about two years after proposals were first revealed to close the town's only court as part of a Ministry of Justice overhaul.

The future of Bicester Magistrates' Court was called into question after figures showed it was running at 11 per cent capacity, mainly being used administration.

But residents have called for better use of the site and said the town needs more community facilities over housing.

Bicester Local History Society chairman Bob Hessian said: "A number of committee members, including myself, are against development of this site for housing.

"Although I have never seen anything legal in writing, we believe that the Coker family from Bicester House either sold/gave the land that side of Queen’s Avenue for community use and not residential – hence we have the police station, fire station and Magistrates’ Court – all public service buildings.

"The open nature of this area is a feature that needs protection."

Bicester Magistrates' Court, off Queen's Avenue, was one of 91 court and tribunal buildings across the country listed as contenders to be shut last year.

It was built in 1957 and has not been used for criminal cases since 2013, with the two cells being decommissioned in 2010.

As it stands there are no firm plans for the building off Queen’s Avenue or when it will be closed by the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Hessian added: "As for the building itself, there are a lack of suitable meeting rooms/areas for town organisations and this building could provide those.

"The town council could move there from their Garth offices which would free up that building to be used to house the much needed museum for Bicester and also provide galleries for arts groups, etc."

Cherwell District Council strategic delivery board has said it is exploring multiple sites in the town which could support housing delivery as Bicester faces major growth.

The Housing and Communities Agency is exploring the acquisition of the site for housing while looking at ensuring sites are not left unused or under-used.

In a report, it said: "The work on housing delivery can also not happen in isolation. It is important that the town remains an attractive area that people

choose to locate in, that business growth supports housing growth and investment in the town centre and leisure facilities continues. These are the conditions that will support the delivery of the planned growth."

Resident Wendy Foster added: "Although I live in Launton I can understand the need to meet housing targets in Bicester.

"However I ideally would love to see it meet the needs of providing more affordable leisure facilities and healthy town facilities as the proposed sports village is more out of town.

"The leisure centre is just behind so it would be good to see perhaps a multi purpose building for theatre, dance, music, arts, children's indoor play area and some fitness classes."