Didcot Town Council has fought back against controversial garden town proposals, with councillors saying they refuse to be bullied by the district council.
At a passionate town council extraordinary meeting at the town’s Civic Hall on Monday evening, Didcot chiefs unanimously voted not to surrender the lease on Ladygrove Park.
South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) published a draft masterplan last month, in which 17 per cent of Ladygrove Park would have been built on, saying the project would deliver 20,000 new jobs and 15,000 new homes over the next 20 years.
But leader of the town council Bill Service said his council, which was leased Ladygrove Park for 99 years in 1997, would not be bullied by SODC.
He said: “That 17 per cent of green open space will never come back.
“The rest of the idea of garden town status is a thinly veiled plan to just put 15,000 more houses in and around Didcot. I have been accused of not having ambition for the town.
“This town does have ambition but our ambition is on our terms and we should not be dictated to by a higher authority who think they can just come and bulldoze Didcot and build more houses.”
The council’s decision was greeted by thunderous applause from dozens of Didcot residents who turned out in force to pack the Civic Hall.
Cllr Margaret Davies praised the community for a “brilliant campaign” in opposing the draft masterplan in its current form.
She added that building on Ladygrove Park is a “desperately outrageous idea”.
She said: “Didcot Town Council must never surrender its lease on LG – this is an essential public open space used by all the town’s residents. It’s free and it’s freely used.”
The town council objected to the plans on the basis it holds another 79 years on the lease for Ladygrove Park land and it is within its power to halt plans to build on the park.
Cllr Anthony Dearlove said: “It is clear from the public response and the many conversations I have had over the last few weeks this proposal has little if any support.
“Didcot’s garden town status has the potential to revolutionise our town for the better and for that I am sure we are all grateful, but the process must be beneficial for the existing residents of Didcot as well as the many forecast thousands expected to join our community over the coming years.”
As part of the draft proposals, there are recommendations for schools, health centres and other services, as well as a Technology Institute with homes.
The leader of SODC, Cllr John Cotton, said on Twitter this week that overall amenity space in the plans “will be far better” and that the technology college “will be a big boost for young people”.
But the Save Ladygrove campaign group contend that the plan “is quite clearly one of turning our playing field into a business park”.
An ongoing petition hoping to save Ladygrove’s amenities and green spaces has received 1,849 signatures and can be signed at http://tinyurl.com/jfhjlhb
Consultation on the proposals ends on February 24. To consult, email firstname.lastname@example.org