CONTROVERSIAL plans to convert part of “the last bastion of rurality” in Bournemouth into a public park have been rejected by councillors.

BCP Council’s application to create a suitable natural alternative green space (Sang) on land in Throop was refused by its own planning committee on Thursday.

But the decision will hamper the efforts to encourage more development in Bournemouth town centre, with a permission required for such a site before larger schemes can be started.

The land at Hicks Farm between the River Stour and Watery Lane was preferred by the council following its search for a site for a Sang and a linked 20-space car park.

It is required to provide one as mitigation for large-scale developments planned in Bournemouth, including the Winter Gardens scheme, which cannot be started until a Sang is approved.

Despite the proposal for Hicks Farm attracting more than 200 letters of objection, planning officers had recommended that it be approved saying it would “relieve pressure on nearby heathland”.

But councillors said they had to “reflect” the views of people living in the area and criticised its choice of site for the Sang, backing the view of ward councillor Lisa Northover who supported people living in the area to oppose the application.

Cllr Ann Stribley said it would be “totally inaccessible” to people living in the town centre due to the lack of car parking provided in recent developments.

And Cllr Stephen Bartlett said the car park would negatively affect the character of the Throop area.

“The suggestion of adding a car park to one of the view remaining places of tranquillity in the area is almost beyond comprehension,” he said.

“It seems incomprehensible to me that the council is promoting walking and cycling while encouraging people to use their cars to get to this site and it provides no public transport link either.”

Other councillors said the decision was “difficult”, with Cllr Paul Hilliard warning the council’s failure to provide a Sang – and subsequently delay development in the town – could lead it to miss housing targets and weaken the council’s permission to control schemes it deems inappropriate.

He was one of three members of the committee to vote against a move to refuse planning permission, however the remaining 12 councillors supported it and the scheme was refused.

Throop Village Conservation Group welcomed the decision as “a huge victory for local democracy”.