A county council scheme to build an apartment complex on a valued patch of green space in Oundle has been refused.
East Northamptonshire Council kicked out Northamptonshire County Council’s proposal to build on historic Fletton Fields at its planning meeting on Wednesday night (Feb 11).
The former school playing field has had a number of proposals knocked back over the past few years, with a campaign group set up to try to secure the future of the site as a community asset.
Oundle mayor Tony Robinson accused the county council of trying to use the asset to help solve its financial problems. The authority has had to slash services and sell off assets over the past few years after financial mismanagement led it to use all of its reserves.
Cllr Robinson said: “This is the last piece of green space in Oundle town centre. It is being sold by Northamptonshire County Council to raise funds to cover its deficit.
“It was originally part of the workhouse then the infirmary and has always been used by the people as public land.
“There is no land registry record of them (county council) taking the land and just an assumption.
“We have the moral case – this is the only piece of green space left in the town centre of Oundle and it should remain this way.”
Fletton Fields used to be the playing field of Oundle Primary School. It is situated close to a number of listed buildings such as the Oundle School Memorial Chapel and the council’s senior conservation officer had strong objections to the plan.
The scheme, which would have involved selling off or renting the one and two-bed apartments, would have had communal facilities and 24-hour support staff.
It had been backed by Oundle Conservative councillors Rupert Reichold and Jake Vowles who were in favour of extra accommodation in the centre of the town.
Cllr Reichold said he knew his view would not be popular but said the area was very little used.
But Mayor Robinson said the reason the green space was not used was because the council had told residents they couldn’t use it.
Planning committee members Cllr Geoff Shacklock, Cllr Helen Howell and Cllr Harriet Pentland all spoke out against the application.
Cllr Howell said: “In my view this is not the site. Those heritage assets need to be protected in every way. It’s a no-brainer for me. This needs protecting.”
Officers had recommended the plan be refused on the grounds the county council had not submitted sufficient evidence to say the site was surplus to requirements and had not put forward an alternative area of open space.
The planning committee voted unanimously against the plan.