Unbelievable! Co-op orders council to clear Oakfield play area

Protestors outside the town hall when the plans were rejected.

Protestors outside the town hall when the plans were rejected.

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Rugby Borough Council will dismantle Oakfield play area by June 22, after Heart of England Co-operative ordered the council to remove all of the children’s play equipment and vacate the recreation ground.

The recreation ground is owned by the Co-op but has been leased to the council and enjoyed by the community for many years. The Co-op has now exercised its right not to renew the lease and instructed the council to remove the children’s play area and return the recreation ground to its previous condition ready to hand back.

The council’s insurance on the site and its responsibility to mow and maintain it will end at midnight on June 22.

Cllr Michael Stokes, Leader of Rugby Borough Council, said: “The Co-operative is the landlord and they do have the right to deny local communities access to this much loved recreation ground and children’s play area.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Co-operative’s decision, but sadly I am not surprised.

“We have offered to buy the recreation ground previously, and have repeated that offer, but the Co-op has turned us down. Nevertheless, our offer remains on the table.

“It is the council’s view that the play area and recreation ground is a vital facility for the community in and around New Bilton, and that it should remain a community facility.”

The Oakfield Recreation Ground has been the subject of a planning application from the Heart of England Co-operative. The application, for 50 houses, was refused by the council’s planning committee on March 9, on the grounds that there was insufficient space for 50 houses, there was no affordable housing provision, and that the proposed replacement open space was insufficient to compensate for the loss of the recreation ground.

Cllr Stokes added: “Even at this late stage I would ask the Co-operative to reconsider their decision and to act in the best interests of the communities they serve. The play area and recreation ground could still remain if the Co-op were to change their decision now.”