A PLANNING inquiry into whether homes should be built on a sports field in Cowley started at Oxford Town Hall yesterday.

Cantay Estates wishes to build 40 homes, as well as two all-weather pitches, on the site of the former Lord Nuffield Club in Barracks Lane.

It took the application to appeal after planning permission was refused by Oxford City Council.

Government inspector Mike Robins began the three-day inquiry yesterday and heard from city council planning officer Fiona Bartholomew, who said the former sports pitches could be brought back into use.

She said: “I don’t agree that this would be an improvement on what exists there and it has the potential to be brought back.

“Just because you cannot get on to the site today doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a socio-historic value to local people, and that is evidenced by the number of comments received from them on this planning application.”

The Lord Nuffield Club was founded over 100 years ago as the Morris Motors Sports and Athletics Club, but closed down with debts of £3m just two years after moving into a new building.

Cantay Estates purchased the site in 2012 and the building has since been occupied by the Tyndale Community School, which has become Oxford’s first free school.

The planning inquiry will continue at the Town Hall today.