THE future of a ‘thriving’ scout group could be thrown into doubt if a parish council development is given the go-ahead.

Fourth Oxford Scout Group, based in Botley, say their home of 80 years may have to be abandoned in a row over North Hinksey Parish Council’s plans to rejuvenate the Louie Memorial Playing Fields.

The parish council proposals, which have been years in the making, would see the existing pavilion and scout hut demolished and replaced by a larger, more modern complex at the fields in Arnold’s Way.

The Parish Council’s aim is to improve the quality of facilities and expand capacity and flexibility at the playing fields.

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A planning application submitted to Vale Of White Horse District Council states: “The replacement facilities are planned particularly considering the needs of children and youth activities, including Scouts, Youth Club and potentially Early Years activities.”

However, the scout group argue the new plans would force them to use almost all of their membership fees to hire the hall, whereas the current hut they are able to use rent free.

The group, which currently has 86 members, say it would also be expected to reduce the number of meetings and activities held at the new facility.

Writing in the North Hinksey community news letter, the group’s executive committee say: “We are keen to see the pavilion redeveloped and the buildings could easily co-exist.

“It is difficult to understand why the NHPC is taking this approach.

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“We can’t agree to pay sums we can never generate, or to artificially reduce what we do, and we have to ensure the group continues to thrive.

“We have to object to the planning application because it does not provide for the survival of the scout group.”

Leaders say as a result of the plans they have already started looking for a site to build a new scout hut, though they admit finding the fund ‘will not be easy’.

The plans have also come in for criticism from local residents who have objected to the plans based largely on the scale of the new development, which would see the footprint of the buildings increase from 325sqm to 500sqm.

One resident who did not wish to be named said: “There is a more than 50 per cent suggested increase in footprint and car parking on green belt land.

“This is not a refurbishment of existing facilities, nor a replacement like-for-like, it is a huge increase in mass.

“The new building would directly contravene the Vale of White Horse District Council’s own Green Belt Policy.

“Few would dispute that the changing facilities that exist for those that use the football field are poor and need refurbishing; however, this does not mean that an additional two new halls, and 10 car parking spaces are needed.”

NHPC chairman of the Recreation and Amenities Committee, Caroline Potter, said the council was still keen to work with the scouts to find a solution.

She added: "The parish council and pavilion trustees have been working with the scouts for two years on these plans. They were designed mainly with scouting needs in mind, and they include dedicated facilities that none of the other scouting or guiding groups within the parish have.

"We think this is a great facility both for the scouts and for the wider community."

"In November we wrote the scouts representatives to assure them that we were not asking them to raise subs and that we were committed to agreeing a fair and affordable contribution for their priority use of the building.

"We have asked them to meet with us several times since December to continue the discussions, but they have been unwilling to meet. We are and always have been fully committed to working with the scouts so that they remain at the parish playing fields after their current lease expires in 2020."

Residents can comment on the application here until Tuesday.