A SEVEN-year battle to designate land as a village green in Oxford looks set to end in failure for a city group.

Harcourt Hill Residents’ Association applied to the county council to designate land bounded by Grosvenor Road and Vernon Avenue, North Hinksey as a town or village green in March 2012.

At that time, its landowners were opposed to the application, but it was sold to the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) in May 2016. That is also opposed to the application.

OPT is said to have ‘committed to keeping the land open for public use, at least insofar as [it] is not incompatible with nature conservation’.

The land has been fenced off in September 2010. But advice given to the council shows it cannot be shown a ‘sufficiently significant number of people’ used the land before that was put up.

A public inquiry was held by the county council in November 2018 at the Kings Centre in Osney Mead. But the only person to attend it was Gilliane Sills, the chairman of the residents’ association. Initially pencilled in to last for three days, it was closed at 11.30am on the first day.

The barrister appointed by the council to advise on the application, Ned Westaway, said ‘the lack of public interest’ in it was explained because ‘there is little to be gained by the application’.

The residents’ association submitted 44 questionnaires from people who used the land in favour of it being used as a town or village green.

The association was established in 1982 to represent people living in the 56 houses on Harcourt Hill. In documents sent to the county council, it is stated people living in 46 of the 54 occupied houses on the hill were members of the association in 2011.

It said a ‘significant number’ of Harcourt Hill residents had used the land for ‘walking, admiring the exceptional views of the dreaming spires of Oxford, walking dogs, bird watching and model aircraft flying’ previously.

But the council’s planning committee looks set to reject the application after Mr Westaway recommended it is turned down.

He said evidence had failed to show its use was more than ‘trivial or sporadic’.

The land, he added, ‘has a somewhat chequered history’. It was going be used as part of a golf course in 1982 but the plan did not get permission.

Planning permission was granted for a nature park and golf course in 1994 but not fully permitted until 2002.

The council’s planning committee will be asked to reject the current application on Monday.