A PETITION launched by a wildlife group to protect two Basingstoke parks has been signed by more than 1,000 people.

The Old Down and Beggarwood Wildlife Group launched the petition on May 29 to save Old Down Park and Beggarwood Park, off Winchester Road, in Beggarwood, from having a road and community centre built on them.

A total of 1,043 people have so far shown their support to protect the two parks by designating them as nature reserves.

The parks, which are separated by Winchester Road, have been earmarked by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council as a potential site for a road connecting the area to the southern part of the proposed Manydown development.

But the group, which has 140 members, is urging the borough council to reconsider its plans and protect the parks, which are home to 230 species of plants, 24 species of bees and 43 species of different birds.

Chairwoman of the Old Down and Beggarwood Wildlife Group, Chris Rose told The Gazette: “People come here from all over Basingstoke. You get people from Silchester, Tadley, Popham and Dummer here.

“I think it is criminal to put a road here. With a road going through here, it wouldn’t be the same place. It is beautiful, peaceful and it is like being in the countryside in Basingstoke.

“It is not just a case of us coming and doing gardening. There is some serious work in identifying species and doing our best to promote further species.”

The borough council’s director of borough services, Karen Brimacombe said: “We have not received the petition yet but when we do, we will deal with it in accordance with our normal procedures.

“Whilst the council supports the principle of designating Old Down and Beggarwood Park as a local nature reserve, that designation will not be pursued until we know the likely future requirements on both sites. This includes in the short term the possibility of a community building on Beggarwood Park and in the long term the possibility of a road access across Old Down Park to link the A30 to the Manydown land.

“It will not be until the council has agreed a detailed masterplan for Manydown, and explored which of the potential access options to the southern part of the site may be most suitable, that it will be clear whether an access across Old Down is required.”

To sign the petition, visit their website by clicking here.