Plans are in place to provide alternative venues for a series of Oxfordshire hunt meetings following news that the course at Mollington, near Banbury, is set to close.

Thousands of racegoers have flocked to the popular north Oxfordshire venue since it staged its first fixture in 1972.

But it looks as if it has run its last race with landowner David Jeffries applying for planning permission to build two extra livestock buildings on the site.

It means the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase, Grafton Hunt and Farmers Bloodhounds - who all raced at the course last season - must find new homes.

Now the course at Dunthrop, near Chipping Norton, are set to play host to the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase on Sunday, March 2.

The Bicester Hunt usually have two fixtures, but it looks likely they will forego their second one next year.

The Farmers Bloodhounds, who only switched to Mollington last season after losing their fixture at Dunthrop to the weather for the three previous years, are in line to return there on Sunday, December 9.

It will mean the Dunthrop course stages three meetings next season with the Heythrop meeting pencilled in for Sunday, January 20.

The Grafton Hunt, meanwhile, will move out of the county to Guilsborough, Northants, for their April fixture.

Chris Marriott, chairman of the South Midlands Area Association and secretary of the Heythrop meeting, admitted that it was a major blow to lose Mollington.

"It is very sad that is has gone," he said. "The landowner has obviously got very good reasons why he wants to change it, but it is difficult to find another course."

John O'Neill, senior joint master and point-to-point chairman of the Bicester Hunt, said: "It is a great shame because it is a popular venue.

"It was a complete surprise, but there is nothing we can do about it because we don't own the land."

Jeffries said he had sympathy for the point-to-point fraternity, but he had to protect his own interests.

"Just to carry on my farming exercise I have a terrific need for two extra livestock buildings," he explained.

"It is my future and my livelihood here."