Luton residents vow to fight on after council upholds decision to bulldoze Wandon Park for 60 homes

A group of Luton residents have vowed to fight on after the council upheld its decision last night (Tuesday) to build 60 homes on their neighbourhood park.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 11:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 11:16 am
'Picnic in the Park' in 2019 at Wandon Recreation Park     (archive photo)
'Picnic in the Park' in 2019 at Wandon Recreation Park (archive photo)

The loss of Wandon Park in Wigmore has been described as a project which "so shocked and united the community" that they have decided to "fight to the bitter end".

The council's housing company Foxhall Homes Limited intend to build 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.

It was granted approval in December by the local authority's development control committee on the chairman's casting vote.

But it was referred to full council for another vote yesterday (Tuesday) where the decision was upheld by 22 votes to 16, subject to referral to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government.

In a social media post, campaigners Friends of Wandon Recreation Park said: "We're very disappointed with the decision."

"Stay with us. We won't give up on the fight to save Wandon Park."

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman told a development control meeting in December that local residents indicated they "would fight to the bitter end, whatever the cost to them personally and the time it takes".

The former Putteridge High School playing fields, owned by the council and on land in north Hertfordshire, are designed to replace the five-acre park next to Wandon Close.

Planning permission has been obtained by the borough council for this purpose from North Hertfordshire District Council.

But those opposing the project fear this area of land could be built on at a later date, if the local authority agreed.

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn described the replacement land as Green Belt, saying: "The whole process here is flawed.

"It's almost like a joint application by the council and its housing company. This will destroy amenities for the local population of Wigmore and Stopsley."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks warned the majority of new housing on Wandon Park would be sold to people from outside the town.

"You need to find a legal device which will ensure at least the first occupancy will be taken by people who live or work in Luton " he said. "This application doesn't do that.

"Bedfordshire Police have objected quite strongly, as there are too many escape routes for burglars and anti-social behaviourists.

"The applicant doesn't own the open space, the borough council does," he added.

"If the local authority decided to build on it, there's nothing the applicant could do about it."

Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon said: "This is an important open space we need to retain."

Councillor Chapman labelled the campaign by residents as the best he has seen in 40 years as a councillor, saying: "It deprives Luton of another area of green space, which will never be replaced."

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain described the affordable housing as "needed in the town and a luxury for us in Luton to refuse".

He said: "One of the planning conditions is the replacement land must stay as open space."

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor called it "a difficult decision", although when he visited the site Wandon Park and the replacement land were being used by residents.