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Vote puts brakes on park road bid
CAMPAIGNERS have moved a step closer to making sure a road is not driven through a Diamond Jubilee memorial park.
Daniel Park in Whitchurch was set to be permanently protected after it won the most votes in the borough in a national competition to create memorials to the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
The move requires Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to protect the park in a special deed of dedication to mark this year’s jubilee.
But council officers have proposed leaving out a strip of land wide enough for an access road to a potential 200-home housing estate on the nearby council-owned Knowlings Field.
The move sparked a lot of anger and a protest by 40 people at the weekend. But on Tuesday night, it was rejected by members of the council’s economic, prosperity and performance committee, by a single vote.
Among the majority was Whitchurch ward member Councillor Keith Watts, who called the proposals a “slap in the face” to the people of the town. Councillor John Izett agreed, adding: “It is taking away something that the people of Whitchurch have accomplished.”
Committee chairman Cllr Stephen Marks said the plans were about “keeping all options open” and did not mean an access road would ever be built.
The committee’s comments will now be passed to Cabinet member for finance and property, Cllr Ranil Jayawardena, who will make the final decision.
The threat to the park prompted one Whitchurch resident to write to His Royal Highness Prince William who is patron of the Queen Elizabeth Fields Challenge – the national competition.
Kathy Edwards, of Wheeler Close, asked for the prince’s support to protect the park from road development.
She said: “The land would be effectively cut off from the community by a two-lane highway, safe routes to two schools would be gone, a significant area of land presently in use for recreation would disappear.”
The 56-year-old chartered surveyor, told The Gazette the borough council had been underhand in trying to “sneak in” its road option. She said: “The whole thing is just disgusting.”
Alison Moore-Gwyn, chief executive of Fields in Trust, which organised the Queen Elizabeth Fields Challenge, told The Gazette nothing had yet been decided.
She added: “We will try and maximise the amount of land that is safeguarded.”