RESIDENTS fighting to save a stretch of parkland from disappearing under concrete cheered on Thursday as they were given the support of the town council. About 40 people, many living close to Riverside car park on Hartford Road, gathered at Huntingdon s C

Margaret MacGregor

RESIDENTS fighting to save a stretch of parkland from disappearing under concrete cheered on Thursday as they were given the support of the town council.

About 40 people, many living close to Riverside car park on Hartford Road, gathered at Huntingdon's Commemoration Hall to oppose plans to extend the car park by 105 places.

The town council's planning panel even attracted a round of applause when chairman of the planning applications committee, Councillor Jill Watkin-Tavener, announced the panel was recommending the scheme should be rejected when considered by Huntingdonshire District Council.

At the meeting, Richard Preston, head of technical services at HDC, outlined the proposals to extend the number of spaces for cars at the expense of football pitches.

Heather Mack makes her feelings known

He said: "We recognise that putting a car park into parkland is not something that we would normally want to do. It is part of a bigger plan that we have to improve the park and it will be heavily screened behind a hedgerow. There are adequate football pitches elsewhere within the town."

Angry residents then took their turn to voice their concerns.

Richard Meredith, of Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society, said: "This is a major recreational ground for the local area and must stay green. This plan is geared to revenue raising for the district council."

Margaret MacGregor, who lives in West Street, said: "Where are our children going to go and play? What will the children of tomorrow say?"

Heather Mack, also of West Street, added: "If this car park happens it won't stop at one. We don't want it and that's final. How can we have a picnic in a car park?"

Councillor Brian Luckham, Huntingdon mayor in 2000/01, urged residents to continue their fight.

"The town council is only a consultee to the district council. They make the final decision. You should continue your campaign and lobby your district councillors."

Bob and Debra Cossey-Mowle told The Hunts Post they plan to continue the campaign by holding a protest picnic in the park. To find out more call 01480 370957 or e-mail debra.cossey-mowle@ntlworld.com

The plans have also attracted criticism from the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). The group says the scheme contravenes HDC's own strategies to protect open spaces and would be see the council carrying out development work in a flood plain.

Gareth Ridewood, Huntingdonshire CPRE chairman, said: "We know Huntingdon had a parking problem but the (HDC) report makes no attempt to explore alternatives to the car."

INFORMATION: The car park planning application is now in the hands of Huntingdonshire District Council. No decision is likely to be reached before September.