Close to 200 Motspur Park residents angered by plans to turn a much-loved green space behind their houses into a 20-acre cemetery have protested against the proposed development.

More than 600 signatures have also been collected on a petition criticising Irish millionaire Ben Dunne's plans for a cemetery on the old BBC Sports Ground site.

The site was well used by families and sports clubs before it was bought for development three years ago.

Residents are also angry at the news that the 1,200 grave spaces available at Kingston Council-owned sites in the borough are expected to last for up to 40 years, with extra land currently being surveyed in Surbiton to extend this by an extra 30 years.

In a statement, Kingston Council said it had not yet needed to look for cemetery sites.

Protester Liz Gage, whose home in Ancaster Crescent, Motspur Park, would overlook the proposed cemetery, said: "This whole thing is upsetting an awful lot of residents. It seems there's no need for the cemetery.

"It's something that's not required in the area. Until it is, there is no reason to take away such a well-loved sports field.

"I have spoken to at least 30 local sports organisations which have said they would be more than happy to use the land again. Therefore, it seems ridiculous to try to get rid of a sports ground that would still be really well used by the local community."

Mr Dunne's original plans for a state-of-the-art sports and leisure centre on the site, which were welcomed by much of the community, had to be scrapped when council officials told him the Metropolitan Open Land must remain as green space.

He said: "I fully understand why people are upset - if I had 20 acres behind my house and it was closed down, I would miss it.

"That is why I thought the sports centre and outdoor swimming pool would be a good idea. But why waste my time when the council has made it clear that it's a non-starter?"

Mr Dunne said the scheme had cost him in excess of £4million to date and he was no closer to recouping any money.

He said: "I don't want to be annoying anyone but it's either sell the land, lock it away or put it to some use.

"I'm a human being myself and I know how people react to these things but I think if it's done attractively and well kept it could really open up the space."

Councillor Howard Jones, who jeopardised his ability to speak on the subject in debates by attending the protest, said Mr Dunne's dream of a sports centre was not dead.

Coun Jones, who represents the St James ward, said: "I'm sure there's a chance. I would say to him that the council's mind is not closed and that he should make one last offer on his original intentions."