CAMPAIGNERS plan to go against a council decision which has banned them from holding a petition signing protest in Wickford.

Members of Wickford Save Our Space community group were planning to host an event on Saturday on The Wick, promoting their petition against development on the site.

Councillor Chris Jackman helped residents organise the event, only to be told it could not go ahead due to health and safety concerns.

A risk assessment had been completed, but Basildon Council bosses stated it did not meet their requirements.

But the community group has insisted it will persist anyway, as it aims to gain signatures protesting against a pub and motel being built on the site.

Wickford SoS aims to encourage the council and Wickford residents to officially recognise the Wick Green as a protected space and prevent the town centre merging into the Wick.

Campaigner Yvonne Child said: “It is absolutely disgusting. I am really, really disappointed.

“It comes down to freedom of speech. We have a right to petition and protest against these plans but the council wants to block us from having our say.

“The majority of people I have spoken to around The Wick are against it.

“This is pretty much the only piece of green space we have in Wickford. It is full of wildlife; I love walking around the area and hearing the birds.

“Think of the traffic and noise pollution this plan will bring, we do not want and do need it.”

Mr Jackman branded the council’s objection bizarre, fearing it was blocking residents’ democratic rights to put their views across.

He said: “It is just very bizarre. The residents will be promoting their petition and it is only an issue because we are making it an event.

“The council sent me confirmation in writing on Wednesday saying officers were not happy with the risk assessment, and my insurance as a councillor would not cover the event.

“It is ironic actually, if I wanted to hold a street surgery in the park and talk to residents, there would be no issue.”

A spokesman for Basildon Council said: “The council has a duty to ensure the safety of the public invited to use its open spaces for public events.

“We try to make the process as easy as possible, but as a minimum anyone who wishes to hold an event on open space in the borough needs to complete an appropriate risk assessment and have in place the necessary insurance.

“Unfortunately the application for an event on open space in Wickford this Saturday (27 April) does not comply with these requirements and consequently the council is unable to approve the event.”

Campaigners will still be at The Wick from 1pm to 3pm on Saturday.