OXFORD’S Blackbird Leys estate will be transformed over the next 12 months as the city’s new swimming pool and leisure centre takes shape.

What is now a large hole in the ground in Pegasus Road will become a £7.2m swimming pool complex due to open this December.

Work will continue over the next month to excavate pool tank areas and this includes building the pool tank linings and walls.

A system to prevent the pool hole filling with water has been installed and work has already started within the existing leisure centre including the completion of the temporary reception area which is now in use.

Work has started on the upstairs bar area, which is being turned into a multi-functional dance studio, replacing a community hall, which has been demolished so the new pool building links to the leisure centre.

For community leaders, hopes are high that the new pool will improve the estate’s economy.

Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman Gordon Roper said: “I think it will definitely be worth the wait.

“We have been waiting for two years for work to start down there. I don’t think another 12 months will make much of a difference.

“It is definitely something for the community to look forward to.”

He said residents were hoping the impact of the building work would be minimal.

He said: “We hope there won’t be too much disruption. We know there will be a certain amount, which I suppose people expect.

“We were worried about the parking, which doesn’t seem too bad at the moment. We will have to see what it will be like when all the heavy machinery is brought in.

“We are hoping it will be of some benefit to the local economy.

“We hope that people will come to the area and use the shops and that sort of thing, but it’s hard to tell.”

The new centre, which will include three pools, will form part of an enlarged centre, incorporating the existing building in Pegasus Road.

Work on the new facility started in July last year and schools including Windale Primary School and Mabel Prichard School visited the site towards the end of last year.

The building cost will be £7.2m, but opponents of the scheme have claimed the council will have to spend a considerable amount more if legal fees are included.

Once the new facility is up and running, the council will proceed with plans to close Temple Cowley Pools.

The authority has had planning permission for the pool since 2011 but has faced legal challenges, including two judicial reviews, over the past two years.

Opponents of the scheme have also claimed the council is wasting money on a new facility, when the existing pools at Temple Cowley and Blackbird Leys could be updated.

But the council claims the £150,000-a-year running costs at the new centre will be significantly less than the £360,000 it says it currently pays Fusion Lifestyle to run the Temple Cowley site.