CAMPAIGNERS who battled to save Oxford’s Warneford Meadow from development say they now hope to work with the NHS to enhance the area.
Yesterday, a High Court judge upheld Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to register the 18-acre meadow – which sits behind Warneford Hospital between Headington and East Oxford – as a Town Green.
Campaigners said they were “gobsmacked” when Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which wanted to sell the meadow for development, said it was abandoning its plans after Judge David Waksman’s ruling.
The land was designated as a Town Green under the Commons Registration Act following a public inquiry.
Sietske Boeles, of Southfield Road, East Oxford, spokesman for the Friends of Warneford Meadow, said: “The news that the NHS has conceded and will not pursue any further appeals is wonderful.
“We’re gobsmacked and delighted by this decision which we have campaigned for over the past four years.
“The Friends are now looking forward to working with the NHS and landowners, and with the local authorities and residents’ associations, to conserve and enhance the meadow and orchard.
“This will mean the meadow can be enjoyed by residents and patients for generations to come.”
She said the battle to preserve the meadow dated back to 1988 when local residents worked with the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Ramblers Association to have the footpaths on the meadow and other hospital land registered as Rights of Way.
She added: “This was a protracted process involving a public inquiry and was finally successful in 2002.
“We’re delighted that the latest battle has now come to an end.”
Trust spokesman Emma Heath said: “We accept the outcome and will not be proceeding to further appeal.
“We are, of course, extremely disappointed at the effect this will have on our plans to make improvements across our estates to benefit our patients.
“Many of our wards need major improvements to bring them up to the modern standard which our patients deserve.
“The Department of Health and the NHS in Oxfordshire had agreed to allocate all proceeds from the sale of the meadow to upgrading Warneford Hospital and we had planned to use proceeds from the sale of surplus land to replace these out-of-date facilities.
“We remain committed to improving facilities for our patients at the Warneford Hospital, and accept that this will now take longer than we hoped.”
Dr Helena Whall, of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the meadow was one of the “hidden secrets” of Oxford.
She said: “We’re delighted the inspector’s report has been upheld. We hope this ruling secures the protection of this unique and valuable green space for generations to come.”