A HOUSING developer that bought a village green despite protests from the local community is now begging the council to take it back.

Ozzy Developments, which bought the triangle of grass at Edington Place, Grove, at auction last month, has requested a 'land swap' after it discovered it is controlled by Oxfordshire County Council's highways department.

This means that the developer cannot put up any structure, even temporary, without planning permission from the authority.

Read also: Celebrity who 'braved' Bicester village gives a message to others

Having realised that it spent £36,000 on a piece of land that it cannot build on, the company asked for an exchange – and the parish council has said no.

Grove Parish Council clerk Graham Mundy confirmed that he was approached by solicitors representing Ozzy Developments.

He said: "I have informed them that, because of the restrictive covenants placed on the land around Grove that was transferred to the parish council, the council would not be in a position to take them up on their 'offer'.

Herald Series:

"I have requested though, that the new owners 'contribute' to the upkeep of the land."

Mr Mundy added that 'surprisingly', he had not received a reply yet.

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council said the company could try to get site's protective status removed, but it would have to go to central Government.

They said: "We became aware of the auction the day before and made contact with the auctioneer and the seller to ensure the status of the land was understood.

Read also: PC Andrew Harper murder trial juror is discharged

"It is possible to own a piece of land that is also highway land and, in that situation, highway status takes precedence.

"It would be up to the owner to decide if they wanted to seek to have the land removed from the highway by applying for a Stopping Up Order from the Department for Transport."

The spokesperson added that the granting of such an order would be subject to public consultation.

The village green is precious to residents because it is more than just a triangle of grass: it is also home to a memorial bench for a local mum.

Mum-of-two and Grove resident Dominique Hill picked the spot for the bench herself before she died in 2018.

Herald Series:

In May, when the land appeared for auction on the website of estate agents McHugh and Co, residents rallied to try to prevent the sale and even pledged money to buy it themselves.

When the day came, Grove Parish Council bid £30,000 on the plot – including £15,000 pledged by the concerned community – but it was beaten by an anonymous bidder.

Now it has emerged that the anonymous bidder was Essex-based Ozzy Developments, though it is still not clear what the company wanted the land for.

At the time of the auction, Mr Mundy commented: "If someone else did purchase the land and came forward with a planning application, the parish council would be well within its rights if it objected."

Herald Series:

Megan Heley, a friend of Mrs Hill's who organised for the bench to be put on the green, said she was relieved to hear that the company could not build on the land.

She said: “This has been such an unnecessary concern for the community here, especially in this time, and I know many will be pleased.

“Developers are always hungry for new land and often they do not consider what consequences it will have on locals.

“I would be interested to see how this will develop and whether the council will pay them off.”