“PROTECT our green open space” – that was the message from hundreds of protesters who made their voices heard in an attempt to save a well-used common in Basingstoke from development.

The fate of the Old Common, in Eastrop, will be decided this month when Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's Cabinet members meet on Tuesday, January 26 to consider whether the site is suitable for a proposed new stadium for Basingstoke Town Football Club.

The football club has been in talks with the borough council for more than 10 years to find a suitable location for the new stadium, with the Old Common being the council’s preferred site. 

As previously reported in The Gazette, the site is an unpopular choice with Eastrop residents and members of the Basingstoke Heritage Society, who submitted a petition to the council signed by more than 500 people objecting the project. 

Now, campaigners hope their protest will persuade the council's Cabinet members to preserve the common as a public open space, which is enjoyed by dogwalkers, joggers and families.

They are urging the authority to seek another suitable site for the proposed £10million development. 

Basingstoke Gazette:

On Saturday, campaigners and councillors stood on the land off Old Common Road, waving placards with slogans such as “save our common”, as passersby showed their support, with some even joining the protest. Fears are growing that if the council decides that the land is to be developed, then no green space in the borough would be safe. 

Eastrop ward borough councillor Gavin James has long been campaigning to save the common and hopes the support shown at the weekend will sway the borough council’s decision.

He said: “To have around 200 people braving the rain to show how important the green open space is to residents is really something. 

“And these weren’t just local residents, people travelled from the other side of the town recognising that if the Old Common, the town’s original green open space, can be leased for development, then no public green space can be safe.”

The leader of the borough’s Liberal Democrat party added: “I hope as many can attend the Cabinet meeting on January 26 and help us persuade the Cabinet that the Old Common is too precious to lose.” 

The borough council had previously not been allowed to redevelop the land after a document in 1979 - after the construction of the Hilton Hotel - stated the last remaining piece should remain ‘open and undeveloped.

However, the Cabinet is no longer tied to this agreement and is seriously considering placing the new stadium on this site. 

Basingstoke Town Football Club said it is currently working closely with the borough council to find a “suitable” location for the proposed ground. 

A statement on the club’s website said: “The Old Common site was the preferred option for the council and the club have worked in conjunction with the council, meeting all the requirements it has been asked of.”

Club CEO, David Knight added: “Currently we know as much as everyone else. 

“Once the council has released the papers ahead of the Cabinet meeting, then we will be able to comment further.”