It has been the focus of a long-running struggle for its preservation, but the future of one of Oxford’s town greens could soon be sealed.

The Department of Health has revealed it is in talks with council chiefs over the sale of Warneford Meadow.

Even though it is a town green, the Friends of Warneford Meadow believe its ownership is crucial.

The meadow, which sits behind Warneford Hospital between Headington and East Oxford, is now on the market.

A spokesman for the Department of Health, which owns the meadow, said: “Initial contact has been made with Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council. If either express an interest any sale price would be the subject of discussions with them.”

Warneford Meadow was given town green status in 2009 and a High Court battle upheld the county council’s decision a year later.

That scuppered plans by Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Trust to sell the meadow for development.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean confirmed the authority had been contacted by the Department of Health’s agents.

She said: “We are awaiting information regarding the site before we make any further decisions.”

Oxfordshire County Council said it had declined the offer.

Andrew Carter, of the Friends of Warneford Meadow, supports the idea of it being bought by one of the councils.

He said: “The obvious owner would be the community and the council is the best definition of the community.

“Ownership brings a lot of responsibilities and they have the resources to manage it.

“It needs to be owned by someone who will run it for the community rather than someone who sees it as an investment.

“We are only a small group. If it was the only avenue left then we would buy it but we would have to be absolutely sure we would have the resources to do so.”

Warneford Hospital bought the 20-acre meadow in 1918 to use it as a therapeutic open space.

It remains one of the few remaining natural spaces within Oxford and is home to a wide range of animals.