THE BATTLE for a fenced-off recreation ground continues as the developer behind a rejected plan to build a retirement village there has launched an appeal against the decision.
McCarthy & Stone has submitted an appeal to the Secretary of State over the refusal of its application to build a 62-apartment, 14-bungalow extra care retirement village on Oakfield Park.
The application was unanimously rejected by Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) planning committee in December on the grounds it would ‘result in the loss of a substantial area of designated open space’.
The Bilton Road park’s owners the Heart of England Co-operative Society controversially fenced it off from the public in 2016 after its plan to build 50 new homes there was rejected by RBC on similar grounds.
Martin Edwards, Regional Managing Director at McCarthy and Stone West Midlands, said: “Following careful consideration, we are appealing against the council’s decision to refuse our plans.
“Our plans represent an important opportunity to significantly improve local housing choice by delivering much needed extra care accommodation for older homeowners who wish to retain their independence in their own home, with access to on-site 24 hour care and support.
“There is a high need for this type of specialist accommodation in Rugby and this site is very well-located.”
He added the plans would retain a small section of the park as a public open space, and McCarthy & Stone would fund improvements to ‘existing, nearby sporting facilities’.
Protest group Save Oakfield is considering raising money to hire professional legal representation for the appeal.
Spokesman Richard Joy said: “We are disappointed that McCarthy & Stone and the Heart of England Co-operative have opted to continue to put profits ahead of people and to continue to ignore the needs of the existing community, but we are not surprised by this news and I doubt the community is either.
“As a committee, we’ll be getting together soon and will be calling on the public for support once more.
“Once the case has been heard and rejected by the Planning Inspectorate at national level, then surely the message will be ringing so loudly and so clearly in the Heart of England Co-operative’s ears, that they will finally realise that this land should not be developed on and that it has a more pressing and a more immediate need as a green space to the people who live in New Bilton.”
Oakfield Park was leased to the council for around 30 years – during which time it became a popular venue for children, sports teams and dog walkers – but the lease expired in 2013 and the Co-Op declined to extend it.
The Co-op has thus far ignored repeated requests from RBC to negotiate to buy the park.
It is not yet known when the appeal will be heard or decided.