The longstanding shortage of sports pitches in Witney is finally being addressed with Witney Town Council saying they have been "pushing for action for years".

West Oxfordshire District Council's cabinet has adopted the Playing Pitch Strategy and  a dedicated member of staff to deliver it.

Councillor Joy Aitman, cabinet member for Stronger, Healthy Communities, said: “We want to make sure that sports pitch provision is considered a priority when planning new developments in the district and that all residents have reasonable access to open spaces where pitch sports take place.

“To demonstrate our commitment to pitch sports in the district we are pleased to provide funding for a role to make the plan happen.

"A full-time staff member will focus solely on the delivery of the projects that we have planned.”

In 2017 the district council secured two full-sized adult football pitches and facilities from the Downs Road development.

The pitches are currently being maintained by the developer, and should be ready for competitive fixtures by Autumn 2023.

The new strategy will enable the council to include further pitches through its planning policies. In addition officers will work with organisations to look for funding for sports projects for consideration by the council.

A fixed-term post is being funded with £50,000 from the Council’s Priority Fund for a member of staff to establish partnerships to identify opportunities for sports provision across West Oxfordshire. 

Witney Town Council said it was "a great opportunity" for both town and district councils to work together.

Leader of Witney Town Council, Cllr Vicky Gwatkin said: "We have been pushing for action for years to help relieve the pressure on our available sites - through expansion, facility improvement and a transfer of management to Witney Town Council to take advantage of economies of scale and a regular maintenance regime. 

"We are pleased the new administration is willing to work with us to achieve this goal and that there is a desire for the 2022 strategy to not just to be a tick box exercise, as evidenced by WODC’s agreement to appoint a dedicated resource to see projects through."

Ms Gwatkin added: "This will inevitably take time - funds need to be realised, pitches need to be established or renovated and planning permission may be required. 

"From a regrettably standing start, in the last six months we have already made significant progress working alongside a receptive WODC and with the long-awaited strategy now in place, we have a prioritised reference point and stimulus to help bring about future change.”

Witney Town Council said it continues to prioritise work to reinstate the football pitches at The Leys with more maintenance and repair work to be done but the pitches look set to be back in use in the New Year.