Residents fight proposal for 62 new homes on Oakfield recreation ground

Audrey Strauch and a fellow resident look over the plans
Audrey Strauch and a fellow resident look over the plans

Opposition is growing to plans to build houses on a popular recreation ground in Rugby.

Dozens of residents attended a meeting to air their views after developers said they wanted to construct 62 homes on what is currently Oakfield recreation ground in Bilton Road.

The public consultation was held at the Rugby Hotel on Wednesday evening last week and consultants from PJ Planning were on hand to answer questions.

The area includes a number of trees, some children’s play equipment and a sports pitch.

Many residents said they were concerned about increased congestion in the area, particularly during the school run.

Adrian Holloway, who lives near the potential development site, strongly objected to the plans.

“I think it’s a joke to be perfectly honest,” he said.

“All the schools in the area are full, you just can’t get any more kids in.

“So if 62 houses are built, where will the new children be educated?”

A Rugby Borough Council spokesman said the Heart of England Co-operative owned the land and the council had leased it for around 30 years.

But the lease expired a year ago and the Co-op decided not to extend it.

John Brown, who walks his dog in the park, started a petition which has collected more than 1,400 signatures so far.

“We shouldn’t have to lose our only open space, there are other places in Rugby that can be used for housing,” he said.

“The park is enjoyed by dog walkers, joggers, footballers and families, and it’s the only place for them to go,” he added.

Rugby Town Football Club used to train at the park.

Concerned resident Michael Howkins said he was appalled at plans to take away the green space.

“Not only do football teams use this land, it is also a lovely, peaceful area that is totally flat and easily accessible by anyone however physically challenged, even those in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters,” he said.

“There is an old saying, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it’ and it is a fact that once this land is developed, there is no going back,” he added.

A spokesman for Heart of England Co-operative said the company would consider funding alternative recreational facilities if the proposal was to go ahead.

Audrey Strauch, who has lived in Bilton Road for 54 years, said she was very concerned about the proposal.

“I struggle to back out of my driveway as it is and with extra traffic it would be very difficult indeed,” she said.

“My son has learning difficulties and he lives with me. He walks to the centre up the road but if this proposal goes ahead then I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him walking alone anymore as it would mean crossing an extremely busy road.

“Over the years I’ve seen a number of changes to the area and I’ve had to get used to them, but for me, this is one step too far.

“The roads and schools cannot cope with this increase,” she added.

New Bilton’s ward councillors have arranged a public meeting at the Indian Centre, Edward Street, Rugby, on Monday at 7pm to discuss the proposal.

A spokesman from PJ Planning, the company that put together the proposal, said: “We are in talks with another local sporting facility in respect of potentially helping to fund their facilities as a form of mitigation for the loss of this open space.

“There is no entitlement or expectation of the land to provide long-term facilities.

“The applicants, therefore, propose to cease the existing arrangements at the earliest practical opportunity.

“It would be entirely wrong if the local planning authority was to count this as a ‘loss’ of existing facilities.”

Audrey Strauch, who has lived in Bilton Road for 54 years, said she was very concerned about the proposal.

“I struggle to back out of my driveway as it is and with extra traffic it would be very difficult indeed,” she said.

“My son has learning difficulties and he lives with me. He walks to the centre up the road but if this proposal goes ahead then I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him walking alone anymore as it would mean crossing an extremely busy road.

“Over the years I’ve seen a number of changes to the area and I’ve had to get used to them, but for me, this is one step too far.

“The roads and schools cannot cope with this increase,” she added.

New Bilton’s ward councillors have arranged a public meeting at the Indian Centre, Edward Street, Rugby, on Monday at 7pm to discuss the proposal.

A spokesman from PJ Planning, the company that put together the proposal, said: “We are in talks with another local sporting facility in respect of potentially helping to fund their facilities as a form of mitigation for the loss of this open space.

“There is no entitlement or expectation of the land to provide long-term facilities.

“The applicants, therefore, propose to cease the existing arrangements at the earliest practical opportunity.

“It would be entirely wrong if the local planning authority was to count this as a ‘loss’ of existing facilities.”