A HEALTH trust seeking to develop a 20-acre green site at the Warneford Hospital, Oxford, has received a major boost from city planners.

City council officers are to recommend that the scheme should be supported in principle, when plans finally go to the city council's strategic development control committee next week.

The news has infuriated campaigners battling to save Warneford Meadow from being developed as a 'student village'.

The Friends of Warneford Meadow handed a petition signed by a thousand people to the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Jim Campbell, on Saturday, objecting to the development of the meadow and an orchard.

But the group had hoped officers would take their lead from councillors on the north east area committee, who had voted against the scheme.

In his report to the strategic committee meeting, planning officer Murray Hancock will tell councillors that the sensitivity of the Warneford Meadow site should be balanced against the "acute needs" of Oxford's two universities and hospitals for accommodation.

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust hopes to provide accommodation for about 680 students and 320 key workers, along with offices and research facilities.

The Friends of Warneford Meadow are pinning their hopes on trying to have the meadow registered as a town green.