How Effective Will Masterplan Consultation Be?

PUBLISHED: 16:45 28 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:23 04 May 2010

THE Ely Masterplan consultation is at last underway, although how effective it will be in finding out what people think about the proposals remains to be seen. The questionnaire that the council has designed does not give the full picture of the impact of

THE Ely Masterplan consultation is at last underway, although how effective it will be in finding out what people think about the proposals remains to be seen. The questionnaire that the council has designed does not give the full picture of the impact of the plans, and seeks to limit any thorough analysis of the possible benefits, or disadvantages that could arise.

The plan has as a basic premise, the building of 5,000-plus new houses on Greenfield land to the north of Ely, completely absorbing Chettisham, filling the whole space between the Ely bypass and Queen Adelaide. Yet the consultation does not even mention this, and does not ask the fundamental question if there is any public support for it.

The consultation makes a lot of the delivery of the Ely southern link road. This has much public support but regional government has consistently placed it at the bottom of their list of transport priorities, and it would, in any case, not be critical in managing the huge traffic growth that development on the scale envisaged would bring. Despite trumpeting the growth of local employment, figures provided in background documents show us that the actual numbers of people out-commuting, using the A10 would vastly increase. Unfortunately, this is not made clear in the consultation and in any case improvements to the most critical road for Ely residents are not mentioned or even hinted at.

Some proposals in the plan could reasonably be supported, better linkages between the town and river, for example, or an improved retail choice and leisure facilities, possibly some re-designation of land in Lisle Lane, the creation of a country park and protecting green space.

The problem for me is that the new Local Development Framework (Local Plan) has been in production for two years, has had considerable local consultation and fulfils the Regional Spatial Strategy (Government target) for housing growth. The figure for housing growth is in the plan at 1,700 houses, only 300 of which are to be on Greenfield sites. The public, land downers across the district and other interested parties have had time and opportunity to get involved in the process.

The Masterplan in contrast has been written behind closed doors by members of one political group, and officers, with assistance from Cambridgeshire Horizons, an unelected Quango dominated by business interests. Worse than the closed nature of the steering group meetings, the notes from them are not brought to any committee of the council, is the speed that the proposals have become, in essence, council policy.

Officers have now been instructed 'to proceed with arrangements for the delivery and management of the implementation of the Masterplan.' This was passed by strategic development committee on April 15 despite amendments proposed by the Liberal Democrat group asking for a more lengthy and balanced consultation. A Small group of Conservative councillors, one with a direct interest, are hell bent on fundamentally altering our city; as you can see from the above committee minute quoted, the decision has already been made. Perhaps your readers might like to let those in power at the council know how they feel about a shopping development entirely covering the Paradise Field. I understand that residents have already been contacted regarding compulsory purchase possibilities in Lynn Road, or for example, moving all leisure facilities to beyond the bypass in Downham Road; or maybe asking questions about traffic management proposals fore the 10,000 cars generated by the extra houses not mentioned in the 'consultation questionnaire'. Do get involved, you never know, you might be listened to.

At a market stall last Saturday a group of Liberal Democrat councillors asked questions prompted by the Masterplan, in a snapshot consultation exercise, designed to give all councillors a better idea of public acceptance of the proposals. The results - rejected as a stunt by Conservatives at council - were startling. Only 12 per cent supported the increased housing figure, the vast majority opting for the more modest and acceptable 1,700. Why are we being told to welcome three times the target figure for new build, especially since the council has committed more than £100,000 fighting Mereham, a settlement of similar size?

IAN ALLEN

Lib Dem Environment and Transport spokesman

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