CAMPAIGNERS who fought a 10-year battle to keep East Oxford's Warneford Meadow a sanctuary for the community, gathered to mark a decade since the launch of their struggle at a special tree-planting ceremony.

The event on Friday, was led by campaign leader Sietske Boeles who first launched the community fight against development that would have swallowed up the meadow behind the Warneford Hospital forever.

She was joined by East Oxford MP Andrew Smith and members of the Friends of Warneford Group and members of the community to mark the occasion.

Ms Boeles, who led the campaign a decade ago, said: “It went really well, we are particularly pleased that the Meadow has now been restored to its original purpose.

“It offers a recreation area for the community and that was the reason it was first created back in 1918.”

About 50 people turned up at the tree-planting ceremony to mark the successful campaign.

Mrs Boeles said: “It was a very good turnout and a very emotional moment for me.

“It was a very successful event and it was really good to see everybody again and all the old memories attached to that.

“It really brought the community together here – Hill Top Road and Headington and everybody in the area.

“It was really heart-warming to see everyone getting together again as a community and to see people power getting results.”

The meadow was first pledged in 1918 from the hospital to protect it from development and provide food and therapeutic outdoor recreation for patients.

The threat first rose in 2006 when the NHS Hospital Trust proposed to sell the meadow for development which sparked the launch of the Friends of Warneford Meadow Group to resist the plans.

In April 2009 the demands of the group were met at last and Oxfordshire County Council voted to register it as a town green, thus protecting it from development.

The NHS went on to fight the decision and lost a judicial review which was overturned in April 2010, and the Friends of Warneford Meadow raised more than £60,000 to meet the costs of legal advice and representation throughout the four-year campaign to protect the meadow.

Mr Smith said: “It was great to celebrate the remarkable community campaign which saved lovely Warneford meadow from development and preserved it for its original therapeutic purpose as a haven of peace for residents, patients and staff alike.

“It showed that people-power can win through and make a difference for the better.”