Battle could be fought on home ground

PUBLISHED: 12:27 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:50 04 May 2010

THE battle to stop Mereham new town being built in the countryside could be fought in Haddenham. Council chiefs may decide to hold the planning appeal by giant developer, Multiplex, at the village s Arkenstall Centre. Members of the centre s committee are

THE battle to stop Mereham new town being built in the countryside could be fought in Haddenham.

Council chiefs may decide to hold the planning appeal by giant developer, Multiplex, at the village's Arkenstall Centre.

Members of the centre's committee are pushing to host the inquiry because they believe it will give the Government inspector the opportunity to see village life and the traffic congestion on the A10.

Usually the appeal would be held at East Cambridgeshire District Council's offices but, as it is expected to take 24 days, it would be impossible to tie up the council chamber for that length of time.

The inquiry, scheduled for November, has been put back to February to allow a suitable building to be found.

Now council officers are looking for a suitable building in the district which could cater for the large number of public and representatives of organisations expected to attend.

Arkenstall Centre committee treasurer and Haddenham councillor, Gareth Wilson, said: "The Arkenstall Centre is available and we thought it would be useful to have it nearby so that the inspector could see what rural life is like and the traffic situation. I think this would be good for Haddenham and the other villages."

Giant Australian development company, Multiplex, is appealing against the council's refusal for planning permission for Mereham new town which would include at least 5,000 homes, three schools, leisure facilities, and industrial space in the countryside between Twentypence Road, Wilburton and the A10.

Campaigners fear it would merge the villages of Wilburton and Stretham, changing the face of East Cambridgeshire and leading to traffic gridlock throughout the district.

The deadline for written comments on the plan closed yesterday (Wednesday) and now an inspector will be appointed by the Environment Secretary to hear the appeal.

He will hear arguments for and against the project and will make his decision about six weeks after the inquiry closes.

Haddenham county councillor, Bill Hunt, who has been campaigning against Mereham, said: "I have been absolutely knocked out by the support and commitment I have received from villages, such as Sutton, Cottenham, Landbeach and Milton, that I wouldn't normally deal with.

"They have sent me copies of letters they have sent to the inspector and we are all staggered that this development could be considered against our wishes.

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