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Meadow ruling due in 'weeks'
THE future ownership of an Oxford meadow is due to be settled next month.
Ownership of Warneford Meadow – now designated a protected town green – is due to be transferred from the Department of Health to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which could bring an end to seven years of uncertainty over the land.
Negotiations are now taking place between the trust and the Department of Health.
Trust spokesman Alistair Duncan said an agreement could be reached by the middle of September, adding: “We are still awaiting Department of Health approval.”
Seven years ago Oxfordshire and Buckingham-shire Mental Healthcare Trust (the trust’s former name) submitted a plan to build nearly 2,000 student flats on the meadow.
Campaigners successfully registered it as a protected town green, which prevented development.
The town green status was then upheld after the trust challenged the decision in the High Court. The Department of Health put the meadow on the market in 2011 and since March it has been in negotiations with the mental health trust.
Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust expressed an interest in taking charge of the meadow because it would be “of benefit to the trust and to the local community as a whole if Warneford Meadow was to remain in the ownership of the NHS”.
The value of the land is understood to have fallen from as much as £30m in 2006 before it gained town green status to as little as £500,000 now.
Community group The Friends of Warneford Meadow had looked into the possibility of raising money to buy the land but the group says it welcomes the transfer of the land to the trust.
Andrew Carter, of the Friends of Warneford Meadow, said: “From our point of view it looks as if this will herald a reasonable period of stability.
“We hope to work with the trust to manage the meadow once the ownership has been confirmed.
“It is in both our interests to work together for the foreseeable future.
“This is an opportunity to really establish the meadow as an amenity not just for the community but also for patients at the hospital.”
The Friends of Warneford Meadow are in the process of carrying out work to restore the town green by clearing it of ragwort and brambles.
Warneford Hospital bought the meadow in 1918 to use it as a therapeutic open space for its patients.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We expect the transfer of ownership of Warnford Meadow from the Department of Health to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to take place shortly.”
He said the transfer had been delayed to obtain “all necessary financial and legal approvals”.
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