CAMPAIGNERS have appealed to developers not to encroach on the “last green lung” in the centre of Eastleigh.
Sainsbury’s is planning to bulldoze its 30-year-old store in Upper Market Street and replace it with a multi-million-pound redevelopment.
The ambitious scheme could create 230 full-time jobs – along with a new town square, more than 500 extra parking spaces and a state-of-the- art bus station.
But concerns have now been raised that the project would also build on more than 500 sq m (0.13 acres) of Leigh Road Recreation Ground.
The park, which contains the town’s bandstand and war memorial, has reduced in size over the years with extensions to The Point and a hard standing area alongside the current Sainsbury’s store most recently built on the green area.
Councillor Godfrey Olson, who is on Eastleigh Borough Council and leads the opposition Conservative group, said: “I’m pleased to see that Sainsbury’s want to stay in the town and want to enhance and enlarge their store. What I’m concerned about is the recreation ground coming under attack.
“It is a little green lung in the centre of Eastleigh, in a heavily developed area.”
Pete Luffman, chairman of Eastleigh Labour Party, is also calling for the park to be left alone by developers.
He said: “Once it’s concreted over, it will never get put back to parkland.”
Under the plans, the current children’s play area would also be moved and extended.
Sainsbury’s says building on the recreation ground would be necessary to the overall scheme.
Regional development executive Max Whitehand said: “Our proposed new store needs to be large enough to attract and retain shoppers within Eastleigh town centre and to deliver the wider regenerative benefits of the scheme.
“In order to provide a safe and efficient service yard for a store of this size, we need to use a small part of the north-east corner of Leigh Road Recreation Ground.
“Sainsbury’s fully understands the sensitivity of encroaching onto the recreation ground and hopes that its proposals are accepted as representing very special circumstances.”
Landowners Eastleigh Borough Council will consider the proposals once an application is submitted.
A spokesperson said: “The council could consider leasing a small part of Leigh Road Recreation Ground to Sainsbury's for the expansion of their Eastleigh town centre store (subject to an application receiving planning permission).
“In making a decision the council would consider whether or not the proposal was likely to be beneficial for the town's economy, physical regeneration and residents.”
If a planning application gets the go-ahead, the 43-week construction programme could begin next year.