View of Warneford Meadow, Oxford

Friends of Warneford Meadow, Oxford

Town Green Proposals

The success of local residents campaigning to have the Trap Grounds in North Oxford registered as a Town Green inspired local resident Paul Deluce to attempt to register Warneford Meadow as a Town Green. In the last months of 2006 he collected statements from a variety of local residents showing that the Divinity Road area community has been using the Meadow for recreation for at least 20 years. He then submitted these statements to the Oxfordshire County Council on Dec 18th 2006. Two months later the Council confirmed that his application had been correctly submitted and that they would now advise the landowners, advertise his application and invite objections. The NHS duly lodged their objection to the application as did a Mr. Whitmey who appears to have a general dislike for Town Greens. The County Council requested Vivian Chapman QC to chair a public inquiry which commenced in Oxford Town Hall on Oct 8th, 2007. The inquiry was not completed in the week and so ran again for 6 days from Jan 18th-25th before being concluded with a final four day session on May 22nd. The fifteen days it took compares to the three day inquiry for the Trap Grounds.

The inquiry heard from more than forty witnesses and over 2300 pages of written evidence were submitted. Paul's barrister, Ross Crail, put forward a lucid and persuasive case to demonstrate that for more than twenty years many local residents have freely used Warneford Meadow and Orchard for recreation and pastimes. The NHS denied this and argued that the recreational use was only sporadic and that the meadow’s main use is for commuters and local residents who only use the footpaths to go to and from the hospital, university and amenities in Headington and Cowley. They had difficulty in defending this position as they put forward the opposite case in the Footpaths Inquiry which was held in 2000 when three footpaths were successfully claimed on Warneford Meadow.

We now await the report with the Inspector’s recommendations which we don’t expect until late summer. His recommendations will be made to the Registration Authority, which is Oxfordshire County Council, who will then make the decision on whether to register Warneford Meadow as a Town Green.

The Town Green application is a parallel process to any planning proposals and will not affect it directly. Nevertheless the NHS has indicated that it wont make any fresh planning application for the Meadow until it's status has been confirmed; this makes sense as clearly it's value for development is substantially reduced.

This is the third recent local Town Green application as in addition to the successful Trap Grounds application local residents applied to have Radley Lakes registered. Their public enquiry was completed last June, also chaired by Mr Chapman. He ruled against the application but Radley Parish Council have now taken on the case and are preparing an appeal.

Here are comments from local people in support of the Town Green application.