OPPONENTS of a plan to build houses on a popular Rugby park have reacted with shock to the landowner’s suggestion to provide ‘alternative’ facilities – over eight miles away.
An online petition has been launched against proposals for 62 homes on Oakfield Playing Field off Bilton Road, and has already attracted over 1,200 signatures.
The land is owned by the neighbouring Co-Op Funeral Services and has been leased to Rugby Borough Council for some 30 years, but the company has decided not to renew the lease – and has suggested funding alternative facilities in the village of Marton.
Residents argue there are no other playing fields within half a mile, and fear the development would also lead to an increase in traffic, and put further pressure on already oversubscribed schools.
Heart of England Co-operative Society chief executive Ali Kurji said: “As a community retailer, the Society has a deep regard for its local community and greatly values local public opinion, and all matters raised will be carefully considered.
“Subject to the outcome of the consultation process and any subsequent planning application, it would be the Society’s intention to assist in the funding of alternative recreational facilities should the need arise.”
But Coun Steven Birkett, ward councillor for New Bilton, said a Co-Op representative had indicated to him a replacement playing field would be in Marton, over eight miles from Oakfield Rec.
He said: “That would be of absolutely no benefit whatsoever to people in the New Bilton area.
“Generally the feeling I’ve picked up from local residents is that they’re very angry.
“The Co-Op has a history of being a community-based organisation with good morals and ethics. I’d urge them to think again and put people before profit.”
New Bilton resident Richard Joy, who started the online petition, reacted to the Co-Op’s suggestion with incredulous laughter.
He said: “To dog-walkers and families in New Bilton, that doesn’t help. They could put it in Carlisle, couldn’t they?
“It’s the last field in that area for around half a mile. It would be greatly missed by people just wanting to do fairly normal things.
“If there was any doubt that this wasn’t the most popular of proposals, then 1,200 plus signatures should give you a pretty clear indication of what the people of Rugby think.”
Ward councillors Maggie O’Rourke, Ish Mistry and Steven Birkett have arranged a public meeting to advise residents on the consultation process and how to respond.
It will take place on Monday (October 27) at the Indian Community Centre in Edward Street at 7pm.
A Facebook group has also been set up – search Facebook for ‘Say No To Bilton Road Development’.
Visit https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/say-no-to-bilton-road-development to sign the online petition.