AN online petition seeking to protect Bournemouth’s historic cricket ground has been signed by more than 1,600 people in just a couple of days.

Hundreds of people are calling for Dean Park to be protected from unsuitable development and the campaign has been publicised on Twitter by cricket legends Ian Botham and Alec Stewart and comedian Rory Bremner.

The cricket ground was put up for sale last year but that process stalled when residents got it listed as an asset of community value, which effectively prevented the ground from being sold for six months.

This moratorium will be lifted in mid-June and Alistair Cowen, a trustee of the Cooper Dean estates, confirmed the ground would then go back on the market. But he said residents’ fears it could ever be sold off for housing were unfounded. “The interest we’ve got, which is quite considerable, all of it without exception includes keeping the cricket ground,” he said.

“The chances of it being developed in anyway outside a sports field or a cricket ground are very, very few and far between.

“We will be re-advertising it and we will see what happens after that.”

Chris Kelly, a Dean Park resident who helped set up the online petition at 38degrees, said: “The response to the petition has been phenomenal, it’s been amazing to see the number of supporters grow and grow.

“Dean Park is such a wonderful little oasis in the middle of Bournemouth. Bournemouth has not been very good at looking after its assets in the past and this is one of the town’s jewels and we think it’s worth fighting for.

“We would love it if it could stay as a sports ground.”

n Hampshire back at Dean Park... See special feature in Sport.