SAVE Temple Cowley Pools campaigners are refusing to give up despite demolition having started on the site.
The work by developers Catalyst Homes to knock down Temple Cowley Pool and Fitness Centre in Temple Road, Oxford, began on Friday despite protests.
The campaigners have accused Oxford City Council of misleading the public over the sale of the land after claiming they were denied access under Freedom of Information legislation to details of a 999-year lease signed by the local authority in its deal with Catalyst Homes.
The council, however, denies the claims and say the site now belongs to the developers after it was sold to them for £3.6 million in 2014.
Nigel Gibson, director of the SaveTCP campaign, said: “We are at the site daily to see what is going on and it’s a great shame to see it being demolished.
“We are obviously very disappointed that they are carrying on. We are doing everything that we can to stop it and to say there’s no reason for them to take down this building at this point. They [the city council] say that they have signed a contract of sale but they have never shown us and, in any case, the planning application has not gone through yet. Why not wait until after the planning application?
“All we can do is watch and wait. It’s a senseless act. We will be submitting objections to the planning application.”
In response to the campaigners’ arguments, council leader Bob Price said: “It’s perfectly well known that the site is owned by Catalyst, the council signed on a 999-year lease. We don’t have any material interest in it any longer.
“They [Catalyst] are the owners of the land and it is perfectly normal for a developer who has purchased a site with buildings on it to start clearing it for building. I think [SaveTCP] are misleading their followers and failed to take any account of the decisions made during the process and are misleading their supporters.”
A plan for 48 homes on the site is due to come forward in October, with campaigners having already lodged more than 180 complaints.
Councillor Price said: “We designated the site because of the great need for housing in the area.
“The application is due to have a significant proportion of social housing. It’s a good development for the site.”
A statement from Catalyst said: “After conducting the necessary legal surveys relating to the protection of birds and bats, we have begun to soft-strip the on-site building.
“This involves removing loose fittings and any items that can be recycled. It is the start of the process for clearing the site so that we can begin building 48 new homes for local people.”