Neighbours threaten to boycott Co-op over Oakfield plans

Residents tied yellow ribbons to threatened trees at the weekend
Residents tied yellow ribbons to threatened trees at the weekend

Furious neighbours have threatened to boycott Heart of England Co-operative shops if the company fails to withdraw its plans to build on a village park.

Residents have rallied together to protect Oakfield recreation ground from housing.

They plan to hand out leaflets outside Heart of England stores in Rugby and discourage shoppers from using the chain.

Campaigners tied yellow ‘Save Oakfield’ ribbons to threatened trees in the Bilton Road park on Saturday.

John Brown, chairman of Save Oakfield, said residents would do everything possible to protect the open space.

“The Co-op claim to support the community but that doesn’t seem to be the case here, so if they want to take away our park then we will take away their business,” he said.

“Once this park is gone it’s gone. They can’t bring it back.

“It will mean there is nowhere for people to walk their dogs or take their children and that will be very sad indeed,” he added.

The Heart of England Co-operative Society has leased the land to Rugby Borough Council for the past 30 years but declined to extend the lease after it ran out last year.

The company has not responded to the council’s offer to buy the land.

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey and borough council leader Cllr Michael Stokes met with the Co-operative’s chief executive Ali Kurji last week.

Mr Pawsey said: “The residents clearly feel very strongly about this and we certainly got that message across.

“They have listened to our argument and are considering our position.

“We hope to hear from them by the end of this week.”

A planning application has not been put forward at this stage.

Mr Kurji said: “We are acutely aware of the strength of feeling amongst local residents with regard to the Oakfield recreation ground.

“As a community retailer we are passionate about serving the needs of our local community as has been consistently demonstrated by our ongoing investment programmes within the town and surrounding region.

“In fact in the past five years we have invested over £7 million in the Rugby area alone and currently have 177 employees, representing over a tenth of our workforce.”

He added: “We have met with Mark Pawsey MP and Cllr Michael Stokes and listened to their views.

“We have since written to Cllr Stokes with a view to arranging a meeting with the head of planning. A response is currently awaited.”