640 against, nine in favour - but North Norfolk District Council is set to lift open space restriction on Cromer’s Cabbell Park
Restrictions limiting the use of Cromer's Cabbell Park to open space look set to be lifted - despite a public consultation which saw nine responses in favour of the move and 640 against.
A leading objector has slammed the move as 'outrageous' and anti-democratic.
North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) cabinet, meeting on Monday, is recommended to agree to the removal of the restriction on Cromer Town FC's Mill Road home ground.
The move would clear the way for Cromer Group Practice to submit a planning application for a new £3m medical centre at the front of Cabbell Park.
NNDC has pledged to plough profits from the sale of the site into a better sports hub on the edge of Cromer which would be named after Evelyn Bond Cabbell, who gave Cabbell Park to the people of the town in memory of its First World War dead.
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During the public consultation on removing the open space restriction, a petition opposing the move, signed by 633 people, was submitted.
And, of the 14 people who responded by email and letter, plus responses on behalf of Cromer Town Council and the Cromer Preservation Society, only nine were broadly supportive.
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Tom FitzPatrick, NNDC leader, said the petition heading had made no mention of the alternative sports hub proposed.
'It's very easy to sign a petition - most of us will do so, if asked,' he said. 'If there had been no other way to make views known, other than a petition, I could understand it. However, when there is an opportunity to make views known directly it's a very, very different situation.
'We have listened to what people have said but have to make a decision based on what we feel is best for the area.'
Steve Blatch, NNDC corporate director, said whatever happened there would need to be changes at Cabbell Park as its current use, solely by Cromer Town FC, was not compliant with the open space clause.
'You couldn't take children there to play, fly a kite or have a picnic for example,' he added.
Les Frary, petition organiser and general manager of Cromer Town Football Club, said the council's bid to lift the restriction was 'outrageous'.
He said: 'If there is a vote taken and there is that amount for the restriction and that amount against it, then it shouldn't be disposed of.
'We don't want the restriction to be lifted so the council can build on the ground, which goes against what the land was given for - an open space.'
Work is already under way at Cabbell Park to move the existing football pitch elsewhere on the site to make way for the new medical centre which would be double the size of the current Overstrand Road practice.
Mr Blatch said NNDC was expecting advice this month from a professional valuer which would enable the council to open talks with the owner of the former golf practice ground, on Overstrand Road, which is the council's favoured site for a new sports hub.
Mr FitzPatrick said a new hub would enhance Mrs Bond Cabbell's bequest, offering facilities to a far wider range of sports groups.