A BID to scupper plans for a new junction to a planned Barton housing estate by making land a “town green” does not meet a key legal test, a planning inspector was told yesterday.

An officer for Oxford City Council said the authority maintains the land at Foxwell Drive, Northway as a recreation ground, meaning it does not meet the requirements to give it town green status.

The land links Northway to the A40 and the development would involve a road across it and over the A40 to the new 885-home housing estate.

Campaigners want to make the land a town green to block the link road.

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Land can be registered as a town green if it has been used “as of right” for “lawful sports and pastimes” for more than 20 years.

But “as of right” only means when people use the land without the owner’s permission for at least 20 years, the council argues.

As the land was open for people to use with the council’s permission then this means town green rules do not apply, it said.

An inquiry by The Planning Inspectorate opened on Monday at St Columba’s United Reformed Church, Alfred Street, Oxford.

Michael Newman, the council’s corporate secretariat manager said he reviewed the council’s property holdings in the 1980s.

He said: “I am of the view that the majority of the land in question was formally held by the council for open space purposes.

“Furthermore I understand from colleagues that all of the site has for many years been laid out and maintained by the council for recreation purposes.”

And he said there was no covenant on the land to protect it from development, a key claim of campaigners.

He also said that from the 1950s a policy was changed or “appropriated” so part of the land could be used for housing instead of allotments.

He said it was at this time it began maintaining the land as a recreation ground.

But campaigners said there is no written proof of this.

Saxon Way resident Georgina Gibbs said: “We have to prove legally how the appropriation occurred. How can you prove this without documentation?

“How can you say this land was appropriated with no proof of it?”

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