The final stages of an inquiry into whether a piece of land in Oxford will be granted town green status began today amid cautious optimism from campaigners.

Warneford Meadow in Headington is owned by the NHS and had been earmarked for development, but a group of local residents claim it has long been used as a public recreation area.

Paul Deluce, from Friends of Warneford Meadow (FOWM), said he was "quietly confident" the application, which is being heard at Oxford Town Hall, would succeed.

To get town green status, and save the land from development, FOWM must prove a significant number of locals have taken part in lawful pastimes - such as playing football or walking dogs - on the meadow for at least 20 years and continue to do so.

Speaking outside the inquiry, Mr Deluce said: "We are all feeling generally quietly confident - that is a phrase I have heard a lot of people mention lately.

"We think the NHS have been clutching at straws."

Mr Deluce praised the users of the 18-acre meadow for donating almost £40,000 to pay for the campaign's legal fees.

The inquiry, which has already been adjourned twice since it began last October, is set to conclude this week, with a final decision expected next month.