THE residents who battled for four years to save Warneford Meadow from development now have 20 days to enter a new fight to buy it.

Town Green status was given to the area in 2010 following a High Court battle, thwarting the Department of Health’s plans to develop it.

Now the Whitehall department trying to sell the 18-acre meadow, between Headington and East Oxford, and has published a “notice of intention to dispose”.

And if “bona fide” community groups register an expression of interest before July 23 they will be given a six-month window to negotiate a deal to buy the land. If no-one comes forward the land will be marketed more widely.

But the group that fought the long battle to save the land is throwing its hat into the ring.

Andrew Carter, of Friends of Warneford Meadow, said: “We are expressing an interest in purchasing the meadow but we will take it step by step.

“Nobody has suggested a value for the land so we are having to think about how much we would pay and how we would raise it.”

But he denied the future of the meadow was in a state of limbo.

He said: “Whoever buys the meadow is obliged to enter into an agreement with the Friends of Warneford Meadow to allow us to do basic maintenance.

“There is an escape clause in the town green status but the inspector was very firm and even if the legislation changes it won’t be restrospective.”

The latest twist in the saga comes after both Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council turned down the opportunity to buy the land, for a price understood to be about £500,000.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean had said the asking price was “excessive”.

Sietske Boeles of CPRE Oxford said the Department of Health should lower its asking price.

She added: “We are supporting the Friends in helping them obtain the optimal management agreement so they can own and maintain for the community.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “If interest is received, formal marketing will be delayed until December 2012 to allow time for them to prepare their bid. Currently no price has been set for the land.”