Not too late for talks.

With the Co-op’s demand that Oakfield play area be removed and the field fenced off with the summer holidays looming looking inevitably like a reality, over 100 residents and Save Oakfield supporters took to the field for one last on-site protest on a cloudy but warm Saturday morning.

After posing for group photographs, the human chain was formed to demonstrate the solidarity by New Bilton residents against the Heart of England Co-op’s self-centred actions, calling out “save Oakfield” in unison.

Save Oakfield spokesperson Peter Crawford stated, “As always, members of this highly motivated community have turned out in great numbers. The Co-op claims through its company slogan that it is at the heart of the community, but it’s clear that the Co-op is intent on profit over ethics.”

“The fence going up is not the end of the dispute. If the Co-op has any hope of developing the site, it still needs to win an appeal against the recent unanimous decision to reject its planning application. At the planning meeting the local councillors were unimpressed with the threat to fence off the field should the application be rejected, and if it goes to appeal, we would expect the Planning Inspectorate or Secretary of State to take an equally dim view of the Co-op’s half-baked scheme.”

Richard Joy commented, “The Co-op has said that it can no longer take on the legal responsibility for public access. This has been shown to be an obvious attempt to deceive the media as the Council’s own insurance policy has continued to provide rolling insurance for Oakfield since the lease ran out three years ago. In addition, the Council has been paying rent on the site.”

“Much like many of the statements in its planning application, the Co-op is hiding behind blatant untruths. We hope that, at the eleventh hour, the Co-op will review their poor handling of this much loved and much used recreation ground, and enter into meaningful negotiation with the Council.”

“The Co-op’s name has been dragged through the mud in the last twenty months but, for many, the moment the fence goes up is the moment that the damage done to their brand becomes irreparable. Now is the time for the Co-op to take stock, and to realise the damage that they are causing the community, and their own brand. The Council is waiting for them to enter into meaningful talks.”

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