Angry Luton residents continue to fight to save their park from housing scheme
Residents are prepared to battle to the last to save their community park in Luton, despite backing for the borough council's housing company to build 60 homes on it.
Applicant Foxhall Homes Limited's plans for 51 houses and nine maisonettes on Wandon Park have been referred to a full council meeting.
The casting vote of the development control committee chairman defeated a proposal to refuse the project, and then sealed approval for it.
Councillors were divided over the merits of the scheme in Wigmore, a Liberal Democrat stronghold in the town.
The party's representatives on the committee were joined by Conservative Bramingham councillor Gilbert Campbell and Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelan in opposing the development.
The remaining Labour members voted in favour, although Labour South councillor David Agbley had to leave the meeting before the vote for family reasons.
His absence may not have affected the outcome, which could be confirmed after the full council meeting where a recorded vote is likely to be demanded.
Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman told the committee he had represented areas in the east of Luton for nearly 40 years.
"I've never seen a proposal that's so shocked and united the community in such a way they've decided to fight to the bitter end, whatever the cost to them personally and the time it takes," he said.
The former Putteridge High School playing fields, owned by the council and on land in north Hertfordshire, he labelled "isolated, bleak and detached from the community".
This area is designed to replace Wandon Park, but two petitions and a record number of representations against the project suggest residents have still to be convinced of its merits.
Planning officer Abi Chapman said the county wildlife site on the eastern side would be retained, while a public right of way across the site needs to be diverted.
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks referred to Bedfordshire Police's objection to the development.
"It's clear what they're getting at," he said. "There are too many escape routes for burglars and people behaving in an anti-social way.
"And it might not be a planning consideration, but who would you call if something goes on, which shouldn't be, in this so-called replacement park?
"Are you going to phone Bedfordshire Police or Hertfordshire Police? And that's a serious consideration."
Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain accused the Liberal Democrats, particularly the ward councillors, of playing to the gallery.
"We know we have a desperate need for affordable and social housing," he said.
But councillor Campbell warned: "We're killing off the green space in the town, for what? For something you're not going to achieve.
"You're landlocked. You can't just keep building."
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor Amjit Ali said: "I was slightly disturbed by the comments made by councillor Hussain about this being political.
"I don't think that's representative of any views given by our party or anyone on this committee.
"It doesn't really paint us in a good picture. And I don't think any of us makes decisions based on our political standing."
Having pleaded their case to a petitions board and now the planning committee, could it be third time lucky for the residents at a future full council meeting?