Angry Luton residents make views clear ahead of meeting to determine park's future
The plans are due to be considered this week
Controversial plans by Luton Borough Council's housing company to build 60 homes on Wandon Park are due to be considered by councillors on Wednesday, December 2, with options set out to approve and to refuse the scheme.
A group of residents say the new homes will "destroy the green lung of their community".
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.
There would be 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.
The application also includes replacement public open space on the former Putteridge High School playing fields, owned by the borough council, 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.
The housing scheme would be "extremely detrimental to our local wildlife and flora, which includes the county wildlife site", Friends of Wandon Recreation Park member Cherry Newbery told the board meeting.
"To take a small park and destroy our community is simply not acceptable or moral," she said last year.
"Wandon Park has been in existence for more than 60 years and been enjoyed by many generations of residents. It is the green lung of our community."
A meeting of the local authority's development control committee is being devoted to the project.
Planning officers have set out an option for councillors to approve the application and an alternative to refuse it.
The refusal suggests Luton has an overall deficiency in the provision of public open space, according to a report to councillors.
"The development will result in the loss of a designated neighbourhood park, while failing to provide replacement open space of an equivalent quality," said the report.
Reasons to approve include "numerous jobs for local people", 17 affordable homes being provided and ecological benefits, adds the report.
In a statement ahead of the meeting, the Friends describe Wandon Park as a "designated neighbourhood park" in the Luton Local Plan and are unhappy the new playing field "is surrounded by trees and bushes".
They say: "It would not have through paths or lighting as Wandon Park does, it isn't visible and therefore isn't safe for residents to use.
"The park is used by hundreds of local residents, even more so during the pandemic.
"It allows people to exercise for their health, mental health and wellbeing in a safe environment.
"We cannot lose even more green space in the borough of Luton and we would urge everyone to support the fight to save Wandon Park."
The plans are subject to confirmation from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that the council can determine them.