Mereham: Timeline

PUBLISHED: 12:44 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:32 04 May 2010

'Say No to Mereham' Campaign

'Say No to Mereham' Campaign

THREE years ago, Multiplex announced plans to build their eco/sustainable settlement, in a couple of presentations given quietly to Wilburton and Stretham parish councils. In a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath, the council, who had refused planni

THREE years ago, Multiplex announced plans to build their "eco/sustainable settlement," in a couple of presentations given quietly to Wilburton and Stretham parish councils. In a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath, the council, who had refused planning permission, were pitted against a multinational developer, who was represented at a subsequent enquiry by specialist QCs, while the council had to scrape together funds to put together a crack legal team.

CATHERINE ATKINSON looks back on the epic efforts of a community united in their opposition to the dormitory town and the end to a three-year waiting game.

Summer 2005

Multiplex announce plans to create a 5,000 settlement to Wilburton and Stretham parish councils.

October 2005

Planning application submitted by Multiplex. It was refused by the planning committee three months later.

2006

May

Multiplex lodge an appeal

An early victory was getting the planning inquiry to be held at the Arkenstall Centre rather than in remote London - the planning inspector was able to experience for himself the turmoil of a journey up the A10 during peak times, and drive past hundreds of signs bearing 'Say No To Mereham' and '12,000 more cars' slogans.

2007

October

Planning enquiry begins under the auspices of inspector Richard Ogier.

Specialist planning QC, Robin Purchas, who helped get the Cambridgeshire guided bus route through planning channels, turns out for the developer, and various councillors, residents and interested parties pack the hall, only to be bombarded with complex planning-speak. Planning inspector has to get the crowds to hush, while outside, Say No To Mereham placard-wavers block traffic islands and put posters on the Mereham barrister's Jaguar.

2008

January

Planning inquiry concludes after 28 sitting days.

March

Richard Ogier submits his report to Department for Communities and Local Government Minister, Hazel Blears.

July

Bill Hunt submits a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the planning inspector's report before Hazel Blears makes her decision, which is refused.

August, 29, 2008 VICTORY! HAZEL BLEARS SAYS NO TO MEREHAM

The lessons from Mereham is that if you are organised, united, and in it for the long haul, then government will sit up and listen - as long as you have £250,000 to spare.

Hanley Grange, a town planned in South Cambs may be dead in the water - and Mereham was rejected as an eco-town, but look out for new town projects planned in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Can Tim Henman's dad (one of the organisers of the Weston Front campaign in rural Oxfordshire) do a Mereham? It's time to get those chequebooks out.

Facts

Mereham: the costs

£150,000 legal bill

£100,000 council officer hours spent on the enquiry

£9,000 Say No to Mereham campaign

£1,000 auditing a 10,000 signature petition

TOTAL: £260,000

Cost per taxpayer (excluding Say No To Mereham Campaign which was funded by members of the public): approximately £7.

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