Objectors to development on Eastleigh public parks held a protest rally at Leigh Road Rec on Saturday to draw attention to the October deadline for public consultation on the local plan and proposed Sainsbury’s development.
Activists tied ribbons round trees leaflets were distributed and a crowd of up to 100 people – which included three former Eastleigh mayors, listened to speeches criticising council plans to allow 1300 houses to be built on the historic parkland off Chesnut Ave and the expansion of the towns Sainsbury’s store onto the Recreation ground with the loss of 47 trees and 5,000 square feet of land.
The council maintain that the proposed Sainsbury’s development would provide a strong retail presence in the town which would attract more visitors and boost the town’s fortunes as well as create more jobs and revenue for the council.
Funding from the project would provide a redesigned precinct and a modern bus station.
Sainsbury’s say a survey they conducted in the borough produced around 3,000 positive replies, but objectors claim the accompanying publicity was misleading and survey questions were slanted towards a favourable response.
The council also insists that parkland at Stoneham laid out by Capability Brown has to be bulldozed to avert a housing crisis in Eastleigh but the protestors say brownfield options and alternative sites have not been fully explored.
Representative from local opposition parties and several activists took to the bandstand to express their dismay with the Council’s development strategy.
Maria Hutchings – the conservative parliamentary spokesperson for Eastleigh – put in a robust performance showing she is ready for the hustings should MP Chris Huhne be forced to resign his seat.
Mrs Hutchings said she thought that businesses and people were attracted to the borough because it was green and verdant place.
Congratulations to Pat Ford of Save Stoneham Park, Eastleigh for organising a fantastic rally. We were there!
— Maria Hutchings (@MariaHutchings) September 22, 2012
Parish Councillor Peter Luffman spoke for the local Labour Party – who have fiercely resisted previous encroachment onto the rec and are also strongly opposed to development on Stoneham Park.
Bishopstoke Parish Councillor Martin Lyon added the support of Ukip while former Glynn Davies-Dear leader of Easlteigh’s independent group added his distinctive voice to the dissent criticising his former Lib Dem colleagues for breaking pledges in respect of planned development at Botley and Stoneham Park.
Green Party spokesman Chris Bluemel queried the need for a larger Sainsbury’s store in Eastleigh and warned that the recently built Sainsbury’s superstore in Portswood had impacted negatively on local trade
Local activist Matthew Myatt stated his speech with the words ‘Here we are again’.
In 2008 he led a campaign to save ‘Sid’ the sycamore tree which was felled to make way for the extension of the Point ‘Arts’ centre onto the recreation ground.
The tree had been planted 72 years previously to celebrate Eastleigh becoming a borough.
Mr Myatt had warned at the time that the Point extension would open the door to further building on the recreation ground.
Mr Myatt told the crowd that the time for petitions and rallies was over and they should consider taking direct action.
Bishopstoke resident Peter Stewart read a passage from a local history book which related how the recreation ground had been given to the “People of Eastleigh” in 1896 and that research was being undertaken to establish if the Rec meets the definition of a charitable trust – which would earn it the protection of the Charities commission.
Finally, veteran campaigner Sam Snook, 77 implored people to promote local democracy by ensuing they voted in local elections – similar sentiments had also been expressed by Cllr Lyon and Glynn Davies-Dear.
During the rally a campaign desk manned by rally organisers Pat Ford and David Steward were kept busy as passers- by wandered to over to browse literature, ask questions and sign a petition form.
Dave Steward said comments from members of the public included:
“Eastleigh is a small town and too small for a massive, out of town store.”
“Please don’t spoil Eastleigh it’s great as it is.”
“I moved here 3 months ago because I liked this town, everything here is just as it should be and it doesn’t need a giant store.”
“Sorry I don’t want to see a megastore in Eastleigh, when I do I go to Sainsbury’s at Hedge End where I live.”
“It’s a disgrace to build on this recreation ground; those councillors should be ashamed of themselves, for even thinking about it.”
The deadline for comments on the local plan which includes building on Stoneham Park is on October 12 and the meeting into Sainsbury’s planning application is at the civic offices 7pm October 2.
You can still examine and comment on both plans online:
See more photos here