BATTLE lines over the future of Oxford's Warneford Meadow will be drawn next week - and residents are confident they can save the 18-acre site from development at a special 'town green status' inquiry.

Those opposing plans drafted by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust have spent six months compiling a dossier of evidence in their bid to prove the area has been used as recreational space in Headington for more than 20 years.

If they are successful - and Warneford Meadow is officially designated a town green - it will halt housing plans in their tracks.

The NHS Trust has said it wants to develop the land for student accommodation and key worker homes in a bid to raise millions of pounds for service improvements.

Campaigners, including Friends of Warneford Meadow and residents from the Divinity Road area, have produced a 540-page document, compiling information from more than 60 witnesses.

The group, which has raised £25,000 towards its legal costs, will also call a further 26 witnesses to give evidence in person during the week-long inquiry at Oxford Town Hall.

The bid follows a successful campaign by environmental campaigners in North Oxford lobbying for an area of open space called the Trap Grounds, near Port Meadow, to be given Town Green status.

Campaigner Paul Deluce said: "Warneford Meadow is a wonderful place. It has a tremendous variety of wildlife, and local people really value having somewhere on their doorsteps where they can pick blackberries, walk their dogs, and just be in touch with the natural world. The proposed development would totally wreck it."

Sietske Boeles, of Southfield Road, who is helping to produce the submission, said: "There has been a huge response from the local neighbourhood, the Divinity Road area, who use the meadow for recreation.

"We have 26 witnesses giving oral evidence at the inquiry.

"All of them can demonstrate 20 years of using the meadow as a town green, playing with their children, playing games or watching wildlife.

"The evidence is so strong that I would be really surprised if we don't qualify for town green status - but you never know."

The Oxfordshire and Berkshire Mental Health Partnership declined to comment.

  • A planning appeal, lodged by the Trust after Oxford City Council failed to determine planning applications for the site, will be heard by a Government inspector in January.

The wrangle has prompted fears that the process could cost more than £200,000.