‘Champagne not brandy’ moment for residents celebrating Ely Standard backed campaign to halt flats development
10:28 21 May 2014
A two year campaign by residents – backed by the Ely Standard- to stop a historic vicarage being converted to 21 upmarket retirement flats has ended in victory.
Croylands, a former day centre in Cambridge Road and owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, has been sold at auction to a local family.
One neighbour, Councillor Bill Hunt, who had helped mount the campaign, said he was delighted.
“It looks as if it will be champagne bottles for locals and not brandy,” he said, describing the sense of “relief” felt by the community.
Cllr Hunt attended the London auction on Monday and watched nervously as the price for Croylands crept up and then bettered its reserve, selling for £610,000.
He said McCarthy & Stone, who had failed to win planning consent for the retirement homes but who many thought might still return to bid for it, seemed to be nowhere to be seen.
“As far as I could tell the bidders were all from Ely or the Ely area and the successful bidder is a local family, who, so far as I know, have only modest plans to improve the building,” he said.
The building was put up for auction in February when it failed, by £14,000, to meet the reserve price of £650,000.
County council cabinet then debated the building, at one time considering whether to accept a conditional offer – subject to planning- that might have allowed time for developers to come forward with an acceptable scheme.
In the end, however, it was felt a quick sale, at a lower than previously proposed reserve, would offer best value for the council. McCarthy & Stone first put forward their redevelopment proposals at a public meeting in September 2012 when they outlined plans for 22 “high quality later living apartments” for older people.
Previously some 70 people had attended a public meeting to consider the proposals and although McCarthy& Stone claimed “supportive feedback” it unleashed a fiercely fought battle to stop them.
“I think it’s fair to say the community is gratefully relieved that the house has gone to a local family,” said Cllr Hunt.
The campaign to stop the site being developed won support from MP Jim Paice who argued that “the key point must be whether the development itself is appropriate to the site. I do not believe it is”.