PLANS to hold Olympic equestrian events in Greenwich Park were approved by a planning committee last night (Mar 23).

The application has been a hugely divisive issue and both sides of the debate were heard in a mammoth five-hour meeting at Woolwich Town Hall.

It will see the park fully closed for four weeks in 2012 while it hosts the cross-country and modern pentathlon events, with other areas partially closed from April of that year until November.

Chairman of the Olympic Organising committee Lord Sebastian Coe was heckled at one point as he made his speech to the Greenwich Council committee.

But only councillors Dermot Poston and Geoffery Brighty voted against the proposals, citing fears over damage to the park and the length of its closure.

Campaign group No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events (Nogoe) were joined by a host of other residents, concerned at the event's effect on the park.

The group had organised a petition against the event signed by 13,500 people Nogoe's John Hine told the meeting: “It's hardly believable that we should be here tonight discussing a virtual takeover of our royal park.”

The group and others raised concerns that not enough detail had been provided in the application and the possibility of long-term damage.

Mr Hine warned: “It won't be put back and can't be put back to where it was today.”

But Lord Coe told the committee: “We will protect the park and return it to them in the condition we received it.”

The application was approved with 38 conditions attached.

Lord Coe said afterwards he hoped to work with groups like Nogoe in the build-up to the games.

He said: “We were a better bid because of the external scrutiny.”

And he added: “This park is only on loan. I think we'll have a fantastic opportunity to showcase it around the world.”

Speaking after last night’s meeting, Greenwich opposition spokesman for culture and Olympics, Conservative Councillor Nigel Fletcher, said: “Whatever your view of the plans, it was right that the views of residents were properly heard by Lord Coe and his team, and by the douncil.

"I want to see that public engagement continuing now that the application has been approved, including as many residents as possible.

"After last night there can be no doubt how much people love the park. We will continue doing everything we can to ensure there is no damage to it as a result of LOCOG’s plans, and to ensure the games are good for Greenwich.”