A PARK that was meant to be saved as open space forever in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee could instead have a road running through it.
Daniel Park in Whitchurch was the one park in the borough to win enough votes in a national competition to preserve open spaces for ever to mark the jubilee.
To achieve protection, the borough council has to agree a deed of dedication.
But on Tuesday night, the borough’s Cabinet decided to protect the park in the deed, but leave out a 20-metre-wide strip to provide access to a possible 200-home development in the council-owned Knowlings Field.
They ignored a vote in the council’s economic, prosperity and performance committee that the strip of land should be protected.
Whitchurch borough councillor Keith Watts called the Cabinet decision a “breach of trust” as borough council officers had first put the park into the national ballot, run by charity Fields in Trust.
He told the Cabinet: “Officers allowed the ballot to go ahead, knowing that the council was not legally committed to complying with the result. That was cynical and unworthy.”
Kathy Edwards, a 56-year-old chartered surveyor from Wheeler Close, told the meeting: “When the public voted to protect and dedicate Daniel Park, it was not envisaged that we could end up with even less recreation land than we currently enjoy.”
She added: “It’s disrespectful to Her Majesty the Queen.”
Dr Paul Barber, a Whitchurch GP, said the whole process seemed undemocratic. And Whitchurch resident John Buckley said leaving out the strip was a “despicable breach of trust.” A petition signed by residents of Alliston Way was also presented.
In response, Tony Curtis, chief executive of the council, said: “I don’t believe that the officers involved in this acted cynically. If there’s an issue in the council, it might be to do with different parts not working in-sync on this matter.”
Cabinet member Cllr Ranil Jayawardena said by leaving the strip of land out of the dedication, it left “options open” for the council.
He added: “If the people of Whitchurch don’t want to develop the site then there will never be a need for access to it.”
Cllr Clive Sanders said: “My gut feeling is to go with the local people.” But he added it might be a mistake to cut off Knowlings Field.