Moment of truth for future of Wandon Park
The future of Wandon Park in Luton is set to be decided at a full borough council meeting this evening (Tuesday).
Controversial plans by the council's housing company to build 60 homes on the park were narrowly approved by its development control committee in December (see here).
The casting vote of committee chairman, Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, was needed to push through approval, as five were in favour and five against.
Conservative Bramingham councillor Gilbert Campbell then asked for a deferral to today's full council meeting, where another vote is expected to take place.
Foxhall Homes Limited submitted full proposals for a mix of housing on the five-acre site next to Wandon Close, with 142 parking spaces and an access from Hayling Drive.
The council's housing company would provide nine two-bedroom maisonettes, four two-bed homes and 47 family properties, consisting of 16 three-bedroom, 29 four-bed and two five-bedroom houses.
Its application also includes replacement public open space on the former Putteridge High School playing fields, owned by the local authority, next to the park.
Planning permission has been granted already by North Hertfordshire District Council for this 11-acre area to be used as recreational land, which is within its boundary.
Opponents of the scheme first made their feelings known at a meeting of the borough council's petitions and representations board in August 2019.
Two petitions, one with 480 signatures and the other with 309, were gathered in protest and presented to the council.
A group of residents say the new homes will "destroy the green lung of their community".
Friends of Wandon Recreation Park member Cherry Newbery has spoken on behalf of local residents at previous meetings where the proposals have been considered.
She described the land in north Hertfordshire as "isolated, hidden behind trees and unsafe for residents to use".
Options were set out by planning officers to both approve and to refuse the application when it was presented to councillors at the development control committee meeting in December.
Agent for the applicant James Holmes said at that meeting: "This scheme comes in at 28 per cent affordable, which is a significant planning benefit.
"There's a massive demand for three-bed housing locally and our scheme provides for three-bedroom, four-bed and five-bedroom properties.
"This is unique this situation. There's a large site within the control of the applicant right next door. None of the other parks in Luton have that position.
"So this is an exception and that's why it complies with policy."
If tomorrow evening's full council meeting confirms the approval decision reached before at committee, the issue is likely to go to appeal.
The Leith Planning Group was asked by opponents of the project to examine it in-depth and produce a report, which has been submitted to the council.
"We consider the planning application and supporting documents are an unacceptable development," the planning consultancy said.
"It's our professional opinion that the scheme as presented is grossly misconceived and technically inchoate.
"It has complete disregard to the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework and the adopted Luton Local Plan.
"As presented, it fails to show exceptional circumstances to justify the loss of Wandon Park as a neighbourhood park."