MORE than 500 people have signed a petition against controversial plans to build on a Hampshire park.

The city council is proposing to build 35 houses and flats on green open spaces at Abbotts Barton near Winchester as part of its new house-building programme.

Council chiefs says there is an urgent need for more affordable homes but protesters want to save the riverside park with its mature oaks and sweet chestnut trees.

The 530-signature “Save Our Parks” petition urges the council to “protect and preserve the large central park at Abbotts Barton and Dyson Drive Green.

Campaigners are calling for brownfield sites to be developed instead, including empty council offices in Chesil Street, Cattle Market car park in Andover Road and a temporary county council staff car park in Bar End.

Under the proposals, 15 per cent of green open space on the estate would be lost.

The council wants to build 20 homes in the park and 15 on Dyson Drive. However, less controversial proposals to convert garage blocks in Austen Close and Colbourne Court into housing, which some local people supported, have been dropped.

Other city parks targeted for new homes include Somers Close in Stanmore and Westman Road, Weeke – all council housing estates.

Mum-of-two Lorna Chandler said: “We think it is wrong to build on green open spaces, particularly in areas where people have limited means.

“We have a large number of people in council housing in Abbotts Barton who can’t afford fees for tennis or rugby clubs or to go away for summer holidays. But it doesn’t cost anything to play in the park or have a picnic. “Once these green spaces are built on, they are lost forever, and it opens the floodgates to building on other parks.

The 800 new affordable homes to be built at Barton Farm over the next 10 years won’t meet current and future need, says the council.

A city council spokesman said the local authority was considering all options for the future use of its former Chesil Street offices, including housing.

He said the current published council house building plan proposes 215 new homes over the next four years, including 49 on open space.

Since right-to-buy legislation was introduced in the 1980s, 3,000 council homes have been sold across Winchester district, including 100 – half the total – at Abbotts Barton.