Alternative proposals which aim to safeguard step-free public access to Greenbank Gardens in Falmouth have been put forward following a meeting which saw up to 200 local residents brave the rain to voice their concerns.

The meeting was called by MP Sarah Newton to enable residents to ask questions of the Cornwall Council officers who are proposing a land swap with the Greenbank Hotel which is opposed by some locals.

A grassed triangle of land had been leased to Cornwall Council by the hotel, but when that lease expired in 2009 it was not renewed and the two sides have subsequently been locked in negotiations for the past four years.

The council applied to the court for a new lease, but was opposed by the hotel.

Eventually details of the proposed land swap were revealed earlier this year, but residents are generally not in favour this and turned to Mrs Newton for help.

One told her: “I am totally opposed to the land swap deal currently on the table.

“If the council were to put covenants in place that would forever protect this land from any building or car parking development and allow continued public access to the area in question, then I might take a different view.

“If there is no protective covenant in place then the county council planners’ land swap proposal should be taken off the table at once as it has no public support and is a car crash waiting to happen.”

Following the meeting, residents have suggested alternative proposals which include establishing a legal precedent of public access to the site, compulsory land purchase of part of the site by the council and a council-supported village green application which has already been lodged by residents David and Sarah Culling.

In a letter to Jon James, the council’s natural environment manager, Mrs Newton said: “Given Cornwall Council’s commitment to acting on the views of local people as decisions affecting the future of a community are made, I would be grateful for your close consideration of these suggestions with a view to acting on them.

“It is essential that public access to the harbour at Greenbank Gardens is retained and I look forward to working with you to secure this.”

Alex Folkes, the council’s cabinet member for finance and resources, who attended the meeting, said: “Cornwall Council is committed to retaining open access to the gardens and has negotiated a draft land swap agreement to achieve this. It was very good to hear from so many people who want to have their say on the plans.

“A number of ideas and comments were put forward which will be taken into account before any decision is reached. I believe that local residents and the council have the same aim, but may have different ideas about how this can be achieved.”