FRESH hope has been given to a campaign group against plans to build on a well-used planning field.

Plans were approved by the former Taunton Deane Borough Council earlier this year for the building of a Maggie’s Cancer Centre on Galmington Playing Fields.

Hundreds of residents signed a petition against the building of the centre - not because of its purpose, but the planning location.

But despite the concerns, eight members of the planning committee voted to approve the plans, while three voted against.

Residents say the land was left as a ‘deed of gift’ to the people of Taunton in 1931, so therefore the centre should be built elsewhere.

But planners said the application would include provision for a new children’s play area to replace the old one where the centre would be situated, and the playing pitches would not be impacted.

The centre would include a kitchen, exercise room, library and multi-purpose room, and would cater for around 7,500 visits a year providing support for cancer patients and their families.

But under the new leadership of the Liberal Democrats, council leader Federica Smith-Roberts has highlighted the plans as a ‘special project’ for the new Somerset West and Taunton Council’s CEO, James Hassett.

She said: “I have given this project to Mr Hassett to look into. We are looking into it with no specifics in mind. I have asked him just to report back in the summer so we can investigate all the options.

“I am keen to listen to the residents so I have made it something the council is looking into. We want to make sure we are listening to all parties involved and to be open, honest and transparent.”

Residents continue to speak out against the plans, stating concerns about parking, health and loss of green space.

Now, they say the new council leadership offers ‘exceptional hope’ an alternative location can be found.

A spokesman for the Friends of Galmington Playing Field hit out at the handling of the application by the previous council.

“We’re feeling very optimistic with a change in the political leadership at the council,” he said.

“The whole handling of the matter by the authority has been shambolic and conducted without the best interests of the community at their core.

“Given the Liberal Democrat’s stood on a manifesto that promised no building on green spaces then we are exceptionally hopeful this proposed development is now shelved, that adequate protections are put into places for all our parks and that a more suitable location for Maggie’s is found.”

Following approval for the plans, a spokesman for the Maggie’s Centre said they were keen to speak with residents to enable them to feel involved in the project.

Maggie’s Centre said it did not wish to comment further on the plan.