Local residents fighting to save Eastleigh’s Leigh road recreation ground from developers have had their hopes dashed after Council Leader Keith House dismissed a motion opposed to further encroachment as “Political Posturing” and Mayor Rupert Kyrle used standing orders to devolve a debate down to the Local Area Committee.
Councillor Judith Grajewski – of Eastleigh’s four member Conservative opposition group – had tabled a motion for last night’s meeting of the Full Council meeting calling on members to preserve the ground as a recreational space.
Residents had protested about plans by Sainsbury’s to extend their current supermarket over 5,000 square feet of the rec in return for cash to redesign the Northern end of the Town Centre.
But although the plan fell through after Sainsbury’s decide to pull the plug on its portfolio of development plans which were linked to costly town regeneration schemes.
Objectors to Sainsbury’s proposals remained concerned that the Rec could still be under threat as it had been identified in two recent retail studies commissioned by the council as being the only open space in Central Eastleigh.
Objectors to Sainsbury’s plans were also worried by the favourable reception the proposals had received from Eastleigh Local Area Councillors who had described the loss of recreational space as an ‘improvement’ in their ‘Focus’ newsletter and refused to discuss the plans with them.
After campaigner Stuart Jebbitt lobbied Councillors by email he was surprised to receive a response from Leader Keith House describing the Cllr Grajewski motion as “Political posturing”
Cllr House also claimed:
“There is not and has not been a plan to develop the rec or give it away to commercial interests. We all value the Recreation Ground”.
Cllr House also said that the motion was on a local matter and would be referred to the Local Area Committee – and therefore would not be debated or voted on at Full Council.
This is exactly what happened at the council meeting last night.
Having proposed and seconded the motion Cllr Grajewski and Opposition Leader Cllr Olson attempted to speak in support of it but were cut short by the Chairman who insisted it was an issue solely for the Eastleigh Local Area Committee and no debate could be entertained under standing orders.
Cllr House reminding the Conservatives:
‘You have no electoral mandate in the town centre”
Cllr Olson remarked that the motion had been received in a ‘hostile ‘ manner and suggested the Lib Dems had delegated it to ELAC because they were anxious to avoid a debate, something Cllr House refuted insisting:
“We do want to see our public open spaces kept,maintained and improved “
Afterwards Cllr Grajewski said:
“I am disappointed about this evening’s outcome but not surprised. The Leigh Road Rec is used by many people from across the borough, not just those who have an address in the ELAC geographical area.
“For me, this isn’t about politics – it’s about getting some reassurance for concerned residents. One would have thought that all members could at least agree on the importance of that”
Cllr Grajewski’s motion:
“This Council resolves to retain all of the remaining land (as at 18th October 2012) known as the Leigh Road Recreation Ground for the amenity and recreational use of the residents of Eastleigh and visitors to the Borough. This Council will resist all moves to develop any of the land for residential, commercial or other purposes deemed not to be recreational and in keeping with the present character of the facility”
The motion will be forwarded to the next meeting of Eastleigh Local Area Committee.