A Birmingham councillor has called for compromise in the row over the grave of a man who could become the first English saint since the Reformation.

Birmingham's Catholic community recently issued an urgent appeal to help protect the grave of the Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman, who has been buried in the grounds of Oratory House in Rednal, near the Lickey Hills, since his death in 1890.

In recent years the site has been vandalised on a number of occasions.

Oratory fathers erected a fence to protect the site, but Birmingham City Council refused planning permission on the basis that it was on green belt land.

The proposals were dismissed again at appeal stage by an independent inspector early last year.

But campaigners received a boost recently when the High Court upheld the fathers' concerns and quashed that judgment. The case will now be heard again this year.

However, Coun Peter Douglas-Osborn (Con Weoley), who sits on Birmingham's planning committee, has called for compromise between the city council and the Catholic community.

He said: "We have to take notice of the High Court judgment and react with sensitivity.

"There is no doubt of the immense importance of Cardinal Newman to the history and the heritage of Birmingham.

"But the challenge is to allow access and prevent sacrilege. This is necessary to help people pray at the graveside for a miracle, and in all conscience, we should allow them that facility.

"I am sure we can all come up with something."

Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost at the Birmingham Oratory, is responsible for the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Cardinal Newman.

He said: "I appeal to local councillors of the political parties in Birmingham to support the necessary protection and preservation of Cardinal Newman's grave.

"Catholics and non-Catholics from every part of the world come as pilgrims to the grave of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a possible future Saint of Birmingham."

Cardinal Newman built and lived at the Oratory House on Hagley Road, Edgbaston, from 1852 until his death.

More than 15,000 people lined the route from the Oratory church to his final resting place at the Oratory House after his funeral mass.

Pope Benedict XVI first studied the writings of the great English Cardinal as a young seminary student in Germany during 1946.

The 80 year-old Pontiff is taking a personal interest in the cause for his Beatification and Canonisation, a process which is now at an advanced stage in Rome.

Louise Brooke-Smith from planning consultants CSJ Brooke-Smith, who are acting on behalf of The Oratory, said: "The High Court rarely overturns the decisions of independent inspectors but we're delighted that in this case that has happened.

"The circumstances of the site are very special and should have been taken into account by the Inspector.

"While it is an unassuming grave, theologically it is very important and we feel that the site warrants effective protection.

"We consider that permission should be granted for the fence to stay in place and for Cardinal Newman to remain peacefully at rest without the threat of vandalism.

"It's important because moves are afoot to beatify the cardinal."

It is believed that the Vatican will announce a decision on Cardinal Newman within months, meaning that the former Anglican, whose conversion in 1845 shocked Victorian England, could be beatified as early as next year.

The theologian and writer of the hymn Lead Kindly Light, would then be declared "Blessed'' and be one step from canonisation, for which a second miracle would be needed.

A file on the cardinal's beatification was first opened in 1958, but no miracles had, until recently, been attributed to him. But officials in the Archdiocese of Boston concluded that a deacon from Massachusetts had been cured of his back condition after praying for the inter-cession of the cardinal. Then in June 2005 a tribunal was set up after Deacon Jack Sullivan, who was "bent double" by the condition, was able to walk straight again.

The profile of Cardinal Newman was raised when Tony Blair gave Pope Benedict XVI three signed photographs of him last year.