A CAMPAIGN group is gearing up for a fundraising effort as an 18-acre town green in Oxford goes on sale soon.

The Department of Health wants to sell Warneford Meadow but has yet to officially put it on the market. It was due to do so this week but it is understood that has been delayed.

But campaigners are gearing themselves up to raise money to buy the meadow, should it be needed.

Friends of Warneford Meadow member Andrew Carter said: “We have made ourselves into a limited company with charitable aims which means we have been able to sign a licence with the department to do some work on the meadow.

“We are just about to start a campaign to make sure people understand what is happening because a lot of people think it is all sorted out and there is nothing else to do.

“Aligned with that there is the possibility of a fundraising campaign to buy the meadow ourselves.”

Friends of Warneford Meadow put its name forward hwne the Department of Health asked for expressions of interest earlier this year. Mr Carter would not comment on how much he thought the meadow was worth.

Six years ago Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Healthcare Trust – now Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust – submitted a plan to build 300 homes on the land.

Campaigners successfully registered it as a protected town green, which prevented any development. That was then upheld after the trust challenged the decision in the High Court.

In the meantime the value of the land, on which it is now unlawful to build, is believed to have fallen from £30m to as little as £500,000.

The department had originally offered to sell it to both Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, but they turned it down. Other groups have put themselves forward but their identity has not been revealed.

The department would only say it was selling because it no longer needed the land.

Department of Health spokesman Tanya Holden said: “Warneford Meadow is due to formally go on the market early next year after the Christmas and New Year period. Currently no price has been set for the land.”