Campaigners say it’s “not too late” for Oakfield talks

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More than 100 people joined hands to form a human chain at Oakfield rec on Saturday morning, in a show of support for efforts to keep it as an open space.

New Bilton residents and supporters of campaign group Save Oakfield took to the field for one last on-site protest at 11am, forming a circle and calling out “Save Oakfield” in unison.

The human chain protest at Oakfield Rec on Saturday. Photo by Peter Crawford.

The human chain protest at Oakfield Rec on Saturday. Photo by Peter Crawford.

The Heart of England Co-op has given Rugby Borough Council a deadline of this Wednesday (June 22) to clear the play area of its equipment and vacate the grounds. The area will then be fenced off.

Save Oakfield spokesperson Peter Crawford said: “As always, members of this highly motivated community have turned out in great numbers.

“The Co-op claims through its company slogan that it is at the heart of the community, but it’s clear that the Co-op is intent on profit over ethics.

“The fence going up is not the end of the dispute. If the Co-op has any hope of developing the site, it still needs to win an appeal against the recent unanimous decision to reject its planning application.

Campaigners gathered at Oakfield rec on Saturday.

Campaigners gathered at Oakfield rec on Saturday.

“At the planning meeting the local councillors were unimpressed with the threat to fence off the field should the application be rejected, and if it goes to appeal, we would expect the Planning Inspectorate or Secretary of State to take an equally dim view of the Co-op’s half-baked scheme.”

And campaigners did express hope that the Co-op could still make a last minute u-turn on their decision.

Richard Joy added: “We hope that, at the eleventh hour, the Co-op will review their poor handling of this much loved and much used recreation ground, and enter into meaningful negotiation with the council.

“The Co-op’s name has been dragged through the mud in the last twenty months but, for many, the moment the fence goes up is the moment that the damage done to their brand becomes irreparable.

“Now is the time for the Co-op to take stock, and to realise the damage that they are causing the community, and their own brand. The council is waiting for them to enter into meaningful talks.”