AFTER nearly a decade of uncertainty, the future of a large green space in Oxford has been settled.
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has taken on ownership of Warneford Meadow in Headington from the Department of Health, pledging to preserve it for the community.
The breakthrough comes after lengthy battles over development on the meadow, its future as a town green and its ownership.
Andrew Carter, of the Friends of Warneford Meadow, said: “We are delighted and we are looking forward to working with the trust.
“It is looking good at the moment that we can have a good working relationship with the trust.
“This does put an end to the uncertainty, certainly for the short to medium term.
“The meadow can now be managed for the benefit of the two groups, the members of the local community and the patients of the hospitals,” he added.
The mental health trust said now that it had gained control of the site it would honour an existing deal that allows the Friends of Warneford Meadow to maintain the 18-acre meadow.
Already the group has cleared the site of ragwort and brambles and in May cut the grass for the first time in years.
In 2006, the trust’s predecessor the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Healthcare Trust announced plans to build accommodation for 1,950 students on the meadow.
But the Friends of Warneford Meadow were formed in that year to fight the proposals. Even though the plans were abandoned, they sparked uproar and a town green application was submitted in 2007 to protect the meadow from development. This was approved, but the trust challenged it through a judicial review, where a judge formally upheld the decision.
Last year the Department of Health put the meadow up for sale but has now transferred ownership to the trust.
Trust spokesman Alistair Duncan said: “This outdoor space will be a great amenity for the local community and will be of great therapeutic benefit to our patients.”
Warneford Meadow was first bought in 1918 by the Warneford Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, with the aim of providing natural green space for the benefit of patients and the local community. It is home to species of butterflies and birds, including skylarks and meadow pipits.