Campaigner joins parking battle

PUBLISHED: 16:36 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 13:30 04 May 2010

MARY EDWARDS

MARY EDWARDS

FRIENDS of the Earth campaigner Mary Edwards has joined the fight to stop a car park being built on cathedral land - almost 20 years to the day that she fought the Church of England to save the adjoining paddock. She believed when campaigners won their ye

FRIENDS of the Earth campaigner Mary Edwards has joined the fight to stop a car park being built on cathedral land - almost 20 years to the day that she fought the Church of England to save the adjoining paddock.

She believed when campaigners won their year-long battle to prevent a housing estate being built on the paddock in May, 1986, the cathedral grounds would be safe from the developer.

But now the adjoining orchard is in danger of becoming an extension of the city's Broad Street car park in a bid to create an extra 59 parking spaces.

"I am absolutely flabbergasted by it," said Mary, regional campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth. "This only makes sense if you go with Alice through the looking glass.

"They really do lack a deep appreciation of what we have got here. They have no appreciation of this jewel.

"You are stewards only of this area. It is not yours to destroy for a little gain today. Once

you have built on it is gone."

Planning permission was granted for 67 retirement homes on the paddock next to the land now under threat.

But campaigners fought the scheme which was designed to bring in cash for essential repairs to the cathedral and the capitular buildings.

After many months of negotiation, the Paul Getty Charitable Trust, set up by the American oil millionaire, offered a £500,000 grant for the work.

Mary claims the cathedral Dean and Chapter were loathe to abandon the plan.

"I had to go right to the top of the Church of England to put pressure on to accept the grant," she said. "It was almost a year to the day that I and people like me spent a year of our lives to make it happen.

"People tell me you can't fight city hall, but I fought the Church of England and won!"

It was agreed that no building would take place on the paddock for 99 years and campaigners believed cathedral land was safe.

"But the fight to save the paddock has not been included in the book, which tells the history of the cathedral, even though I believe the cathedral

was enhanced by the battle," added Mary.

"This was a monument to how much people cared, but we have been written out of the history book.

"This plan is designed to enhance the commercial viability of the area. But the great joy of Ely is having this beautiful, quiet area where people can be away from cars and commercialism which is crammed down our throats 24/7. The idea that we should make it commercial is appalling."

A website launched by resident Anna Hitchin, who lives near the Broad Street car park, has been receiving 160 hits a day since it was launched just two weeks ago.

Anna told the Ely Standard: "I am struck that all responses to the site have been against the proposal and positive about the campaign.

"If this little green space goes no other green space in the region is defensible. This is a real landmark. We are hoping to set up an action group to keep an eye on it."

An Ely Standard poll has drawn 92 per cent of votes against car parking on cathedral land with just over seven per cent in favour.

Cathedral dean, the Rev Michael Chandler, said: "We were approached by representatives of East Cambridgeshire District Council some time ago and the matter was given consideration. But we are not in negotiations with anybody about this land.

"We would never consider putting a permanent car park in the meadow that would impinge on the cathedral or the park. We would never do anything that would be seen as a negative development for the Cathedral or the city of Ely.

"If we were to support this extension to the car park we would not give permission for anything that was visible from the park or the cathedral. All these things were clearly defined in our discussions.

"If it were to go-ahead it would be on a lease basis and any developments would be reversible once the lease came up for renewal or concluded. The dean and chapter today is very different to those of 20 years ago and that has to be a consideration. We are very protective of the cathedral. The people of Ely will have to trust us."

To vote in the Ely Standard cathedral car parking poll visit the website at www.ely-standard.co.uk.

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