300 protest letters and 1,000 signature petition in bid to stop council going ahead with new housing
PUBLISHED: 22:17 11 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:42 12 October 2020
A petition with 1,000 signatures and 300 written protests form part of a campaign to stop East Cambridgeshire District Council building 53 homes on open space in Ely.
The land has been open space for 40 years and forms part of the former MoD site – and existing housing – bought by the council through its trading arm.
A Lib Dem councillor revealed that dozens of letters sent out inviting residents to a public meeting to gauge support were sent to empty properties.
Cllr Alison Whelan says when she checked on the houses which were consulted, she found that half of the addresses were former MoD houses that remained empty at the time.
She said: “I met various people when I was checking on the properties and there are many who are still amazed that the green is being built on.
“I was even asked why they aren’t re-instating the play park that was there. That was a well-used, and rather loved play area for children.”
Of the numbers writing in to protest she said “I have never been aware of so many on one planning application”.
City of Ely Council says it agreed to the principle of infill development around the existing houses but feels this application should be refused due to the loss of this green space.
They told East Cambs Council: “This is a major concern, that such a facility will be lost, especially as the 2012-13 ECDC (East Cambridgeshire District Council) Play area report concludes that there is a shortage of such areas, not meeting the minimum open space requirement.
“This will also result in increased traffic numbers in a very narrow road, Kilkenny Avenue, which is not suitable for such high numbers, especially as it also joins the feeder road to the hospital.”
The housing complex already built was occupied by the USAF from 1992 to 2012: most remained empty until the MoD sold them to in 2018 to the council owned East Cambs Trading Company (trading as Palace Green Homes).
The overall site measures around 22 acres and consists mostly of 88 former houses for military personnel.
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The site also has three supplementary buildings, one of which is currently used as a cadet training centre for the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the other two, once used as a medical storage facility and a gym / squash courts, remain redundant.
“The site represents an exciting opportunity for family living, once more, with the landscape already benefitting positively from tree-pruning, grass cutting and planting with further street scene regeneration planned,” says Savills.
They say that Palace Green Homes undertook a public consultation with East Cambs District Council and the local community
A meeting then took place with the district council on the January 11 two days later.
“The response was generally supportive,” says Savills but there were concerns about the number of houses proposed.
The concerns included the “cramped” appearance of the three blocks of flats accessed off Nigel Road and Heaton Drive. Open space provision was listed among other concerns.
Savills say they consulted during the last two weeks of January and letters were sent out to 200 homes in Moreton Close, Lumley Close, Davidson Close and Fitzgerald Close.
At a public meeting 51 people attended and “the general tone of the engagement from local residents was positive and inquisitive”.
Savills say they responded by revising the plan, dropping the number of units proposed, and dropping blocks of flats along the northern boundary of the site and south of Heaton Close, as well as the row of terrace properties south of Heaton Close.
But Cllr Whelan believes the levels of opposition is overwhelming.
“This follows on from the highly unpopular development on Barton Road carpark and is to be followed with the also unpopular crematorium on the Mepal Outdoor site,” she said.
“This really highlights the way that the council can bulldoze through their own applications by using these companies, claiming to benefit from the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) and Council Tax from these additional properties, while the trading company accounts look concerning to say the least.”
Cllr Whelan added: “This reliance on commercial activities is a concerning trend.”
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