CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating following a decision to hold a public inquiry into a proposal to protect Radley Lakes.

Oxfordshire County Council said an inquiry to look into an application to grant the lakes, near Abingdon, Town Green status would be held in April.

RWE npower has already begun work at the Thrupp Lake site, which it wants to use as a dump for 500,000 tonnes of ash from Didcot power station.

But, if the status is approved, it will secure the whole area for recreational purposes, and prevent any development.

The firm said it would continue work at the spot, and did not think there was clear case to grant the area town green status.

However, campaigners fighting to save the lake believe the work should be put on hold until the inquiry has taken place.

More than 650 people have voted so far in an online poll on the website urging npower to cease work on the site until the result of the town green inquiry is known.

Dr Basil Crowley, chairman of Save Radley Lakes, said: "Great news. Now npower should cease all work at the lake.

"It's a pity they've already trashed it by cutting down trees and vegetation."

Jo Cartmell, in whose name the application for town green status has been submitted to Oxfordshire County Council, said: "Now npower should behave in a moral, ethical and responsible way towards the community and the environment.

"They should stop all work at the lake until the outcome of the public inquiry is known. The company owes it to the community."

However, contractors working around Thrupp Lake have almost finished their work clearing vegetation and some trees.

The company said it had retained as much of the vegetation as possible, including mature trees, and nests had been removed. It also said it had a protected species licence, and was awaiting another.

When this has been received, a temporary fence can be erected, and work can begin on re-locating the pipe that will drain the lake. De-watering could start within the next month.

The whole preparation work is expected to take about six months to complete, before the lake could take ash.

RWE npower spokesman, Kelly Brown, said: "At this stage, we do not believe that a clear case has been made to enable Lake E (Thrupp Lake) to be registered as a town green.

"Now that we have been granted planning permission, we have to start work ahead of the bird nesting season on land we own.

"If there is a public inquiry, we will have to see if this affects our work, however we have planning permission.

"This is a separate legal issue, so we will continue with our programme."

Richard Goodlad, the council's assistant solicitor, said: "A public inquiry into the town green status will be led by a senior barrister.

"He or she will recommend acceptance or rejection.

"The county council's planning committee will make the final decision."