A CENTURY-OLD cricket ground will be dug up to house a new adolescent psychiatric unit.

The United Oxford Hospitals Cricket Club will be without a pitch for the new season following the decision to allow a new 20-bed unit on their home turf.

Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust has been granted permission to build on the two-and-a-half acre site at Warneford Hospital in Headington.

Councillors at Tuesday’s north-east area committee meeting were warned that if construction of the unit did not start by March 31, the trust would lose out on £4.1m of Government funding for the new building and 31-space car park.

The committee had initially proposed refusing the application before a compromise measure was voted through, meaning the trust cannot move into the new building until a new cricket ground has been found locally.

Councillors also upped the trust’s financial contribution towards a replacement pitch from £150,000 to £200,000.

However, cricketers reacted angrily to the decision.

Andy Mosson, a player and groundsman for the club which has used the pitch for 50 years, said: “This means we have got no pitch for next season.This is the nicest cricket pitch in Oxford and we shouldn’t lose it.”

The pitch had also been used by Cairn’s Fudge, a team set up in honour of Kiwi all-rounder Chris Cairns, which last year won a league and cup double on the ground.

Chairman Andy Small said: “This is a crying shame. Cricket grounds are like gold dust in Oxford and this is a massive loss.”

The mental health trust’s current adolescent centre, the Highfield Unit, has been described as a “dark and depressing” environment by trust psychiatrist Rosie Shepperd.

Her views were echoed by Dr Sietske Boeles, a former psychiatrist for the trust for 16 years, who said: “I absolutely support a new unit because I have done mental health consultations in the Highfield and it’s totally unsuitable for providing care for adolescents.

“However, I don’t support them building on this site. It is so important for the trust to retain this green space because it is therapeutic for patients.”

The trust had been asked to rebuild the unit on its current site, but it argued it would not be able to move the patients to a suitable location and that keeping patients at the site until the new building was finished was the least disruptive option.

Chief executive Julie Waldron said: “We are delighted we can progress with our plans for a much-needed new unit for our younger patients.

“Staff work extremely hard to provide high-quality services from the current unit but the building is no longer suitable to meet current and future NHS standards due to its size and layout.”

As part of the plans, a new sports area, quiet outside space and an allotment will be provided for patients.