A POPULAR public park will be fenced off after its owners were refused planning permission to build houses there.
The Heart of England Co-operative Society says it will follow through on its threat to block access to Oakfield Park in Bilton Road – initially made at a meeting last month when Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee voted unanimously against their application to build 50 new houses.
And The Co-op plans to appeal against the decision, claiming Rugby would miss out on its planned investment of £100,000 in play and sports facilities if the development did not go ahead.
Society Secretary Steve Slater said: “We are left with no alternative, given that Rugby Borough Council’s lease on the land has run out, but to fence off the land as the Society can no longer take on the legal responsibility for public access.”
Confirming plans to appeal the decision, he added: “The Society is very disappointed that Rugby Borough Council turned down our application when there is a proven need for housing in the town.”
Rugby Borough Council leader Coun Michael Stokes said fencing off the park was “a despicable and childish act by the Co-Op, who obviously have no thought for the community they claim to be part of.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said he would ask for the appeal to be decided by Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, rather than by a planning inspector, because the park was a valuable public amenity.
He said: “Of the planning applications that I’ve been aware of during my time in local politics, this is the most clear-cut decision as to where development should not take place. It’s very valuable amenity land.”
The application was turned down on grounds that the land should remain a community park, and the development would have an “unacceptable and detrimental impact on amenity”.
Richard Joy of campaign group Save Oakfield said he was ‘saddened but not surprised’ at the news.
He said: “There is strong statistical evidence of a better quality and quantity of life in areas with more green fields like this one.
“The local community has been extremely vocal regarding the Co-op’s constant pursual of planning permission on the site.
“The only conclusion that one can reasonably draw is that, in spite of what they say, the needs of the local community are very much a secondary consideration to their primary motivation of cold hard cash, and that they are clearly not the ethical company they would have us believe.”