A battle over a strip of land along the Northern Bypass has broken out between Oxford City Council and Northway residents that could hit the twin developments of Barton West and Ruskin Fields.

Campaigners on the estate want to protect the 4.5-acre stretch of open land as a ‘town green’ to prevent two roads being driven through it to the planned developments.

But now the council has outlined its own intentions to “appropriate” the land to thwart residents’ plans.

Northway Residents’ Group said the land, which includes a children’s play park and 150 trees, should be saved from development.

Under the council’s Barton plans, a road for buses and emergency vehicles would cross the land, go over the A40 at a traffic-light controlled junction, and link to the new 1,000 homes.

And Ruskin College’s masterplan includes two options for access: a new road from Foxwell Drive into its fields, or a junction from the Northern Bypass.

The residents’ group said that if either of the two roads are built, it would destroy an area of open space used since the estate was built.

Sheila Hessey, 76, of Meaden Hill, said: “The land is fairly well used. There are always people walking their dogs there and boys playing football, and the play park is very popular.

“It would be horrific to have a road coming through there.”

Mrs Hessey said it was “only a matter of time” before all traffic was allowed to use it if Barton West is built.

The group said it will apply to Oxfordshire County Council to register the town green this month.

Residents’ group treasurer Georgina Gibbs said: “For nearly 60 years, this has been used by people on the estate for leisure activities.”

Many of the treesthere were won in a national competition by Meaden Hill resident Jane Cox in 1981.

She said she was “furious” that any could be cut down to make way for a new road. “If any of them were to go, it would just be sacrilege,” she said.

The city council says it owns the land, but its claims are disputed by campaigners. Now the council has announced it will appropriate the land, giving it the power to build the Barton link road.

Spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We do not yet know what impact the town green application will have for the Barton development.

“The council is aware that a group of Northway residents is pursuing this idea, however we are unable to comment further until the application has been submitted.”

Ruskin College principal Audrey Mullender said plans for the Headington Meads development were still at an initial stage.

She said: “We have set out two separate road options, and the councillors are there to make the difficult decisions.”