Save Oakfield urges Co-op to sell up after it withdraws housing appeal

Oakfield protesters before the Co-op closed the rec. NNL-170304-152751001
Oakfield protesters before the Co-op closed the rec. NNL-170304-152751001

There’s been a major twist to the controversial application by Heart of England Co-op for houses to be built on Oakfield Rec in Rugby.

With the campaign group Save Oakfield counting down to an appeal by the Co-op over Rugby Borough Council’s refusal of permission for the plan next month, news has broken that the Co-op has withdrawn from the appeal process - but will come back with a new application.

A statement released by Save Oakfield this afternoon said: “The Planning Inspectorate has now confirmed that the case file has been closed. This is great news for the community of New Bilton that has been instrumental in successfully protecting Oakfield against development.

“However, despite withdrawing from the appeal based on the claim that there is insufficient time to resolve outstanding planning issues with RBC, the Co-op has confirmed that it intends to open up a new planning application following further discussions with the Local Authority.”

Save Oakfield spokesperson Richard Joy said: “On the face of it this is clearly great news. The Heart of England Co-operative has conceded that the application to build 50 dwellings on Oakfield is finished, and it’s a testament to all of the hard work that has gone into fighting it from the New Bilton community. However, we remain apprehensive of what a subsequent planning application will look like and the extent to which the local community will be involved in pre-application discussions.”

“It is a fact that the actions of the Heart of England Co-op resulted in the Save Oakfield Group and the local community raising funds to employ the services of a professional Planning Consultant. The Co-op says it’s at the heart of the community but it has truly messed this community about, causing unnecessary stress and now causing individuals to be out of pocket for no good reason.”

The committee statement continued: “What this future application involves and its impact remains unclear, as does the immediate future of the fence. Save Oakfield’s position is clear – we continue to oppose the loss of the amenity green space and will strive to make it available again as soon as possible.

Fellow committee member Mark Norton added: “Our local Council has regularly indicated its desire to purchase Oakfield Rec. There is a shortage of amenity green space in Rugby generally, not least of all in New Bilton, and development of Oakfield is very unwelcome.

“The Co-op has a very clear choice at this stage. If it chooses to submit another planning application, it is choosing to do more damage to its reputation as a business with ethics.

“Given its own mission statement, the Co-op should surely be pursuing the aim of supporting the local community rather than fighting it!” The Heart of England Co-op should do the right thing and enter into negotiations with Rugby Borough Council to secure the future of Oakfield for public use.”