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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 June, 2004, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Protest against park road plans
Protest in Dartford's Central Park
About 500 people marched through the park in protest at the plans
Hundreds of people have turned out in protest at plans to build a two-lane road through Dartford's Central Park.

About 500 protesters joined a march in the park on Saturday to show the impact the road would have on the area.

The road would also go through an ex-servicemen's club and is part of an application to build a superstore and homes in nearby Lowfield Street.

Dartford's Labour MP Howard Stoate handed Dartford Borough Council a 10,000-signature petition.

I think the council are being extremely short-sighted in thinking they can ride roughshod over the wishes of local people
Dr Howard Stoate, Labour MP
Objectors to the road have already staged a number of marches, but the council says the town needs the road in order for massive regeneration plans to proceed.

Campaigners say the road is unnecessary and will ruin the park.

Addressing them after the march, Dr Stoate said he had been told by council officers that 800 cars an hour would go through the park.

"That is one car every four seconds," he said, adding that it was a "cheap option".

The park was given to the people of Dartford by a local brewery more than 100 years ago.
Protest in Dartford's Central Park
The council says the park will gain another four acres under the plans

Dr Stoate said it should be kept for future generations and not "vandalised and destroyed".

"I think the council are being extremely short-sighted in thinking they can ride roughshod over the wishes of local people," he said.

He agreed that the town was in severe need of regeneration, but said it should be done in keeping with existing developments.

'More open space'

But the Conservative leader of Dartford Borough Council, Kenneth Leadbeater, said 85,000 people lived in the town, and it was the "silent majority" who were supporting the council's plans for regeneration.

He said the council was actually increasing the amount of open space in the town centre by incorporating the Glentworth ex-servicemen's club football field into the public park, adding another four acres.

A quarter of an acre of the existing park will be lost.

He said the park was currently separated from the rest of the town centre by a major road, but under the proposals the road would be moved south allowing pedestrian access to the floral gardens.

"I think that will result in a lot more usage of the park than we've seen in recent years," he said.




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