FOR many sports fans in Witney, the cricket pitch at Newland is a major part of the town.

It is steeped in history, with cricketing legend WG Grace playing there in 1903 and teams of workers from Early’s blanket mill first turning out for matches there in the 1920s.

Witney Mills Cricket Club currently call it their home but there are fears this could change.

Oxford’s All Souls College, which owns the land, has issued a notice preventing new public rights of way from being created on the land.

As part of the procedure, the community now has until May next year to register it for town green status, which would protect it from development in the future.

Given that that the population of the town is continuing to grow, the potential loss of any recreational land is undesirable.

But it is encouraging that Witney Town Council has taken the first steps towards exploring the possibility of town green status for the ground.

The college’s property agent says it has “no specific intention” of building houses there but admitted this could change in the future, so town green status may be the only way to guarantee the ground’s future as a sporting venue for future generations.