THE health trust behind plans to create a student village in Headington is appealing against city councillors' refusal to approve the scheme.

Proposals to develop the meadow next to Warneford Hospital were bitterly opposed by residents.

And the health trust was last month told to return to the drawing board with its plans to build on Warneford Meadow, Warneford Hospital Playing Field and Park Hospital. But with Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust hoping to raise millions from the development, it has lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

The trust's chief executive, Julie Waldron, said an appeal over the non-determination of the outline planning application was the only way to avoid long delays.

Ms Waldron said: "It is very disappointing to have to take this step. But the council's own papers recommended giving approval for our plans.

"We are at a loss to know why the planning officers didn't maintain this advice on the day of the council's strategic development control committee meeting."

The trust says it no longer needs the three packets of land next to Warneford Hospital, but needs the money from the sale of the sites. Ms Waldron added: "Appealing is our only way to stop delays in the process."

The trust wants to build accommodation for more than 1,000 Oxford Brookes University students, healthcare and key workers. The development would also include offices and research buildings.

Councillors were unhappy that five separate applications had been submitted, with councillors asked to agree to the scheme in principle, with details finalised later.

The chief executive said changes in the way mental health patients were treated meant the open land was surplus.

She said: "Gone are the days when patients stayed in our hospitals for long periods of recuperation and needed to be able to walk for miles but remain on the security of our land.

"Nowadays patients are home much faster because we can continue to care for them in their own homes. But we need the money to upgrade the wards and patient areas which inpatients use when they are with us."

The Friends of Warneford Meadow say the development would destroy 20 acres of open meadow within the city, widely used by the local community, and worsen Headington's traffic congestion. They are seeking to have the meadow registered as a town green.

Floris van den Broecke, of the Friends, said: "This action by the trust shows their contempt for the community with no regard to strong local and wider opinion.

"The city council clearly sent the trust back to the drawing board. But the trust insists on throwing good taxpayers' money after bad."