Campaigners offered newt hope in battle against Croylands development

Great crested newt. Picture courtesy of Natural England

Great crested newt. Picture courtesy of Natural England - Credit: Archant

After two years of protests, hundreds of letters and countless fraught meetings, it appears that campaigners fighting the Croylands development may finally get their wish ... with a little help from the great crested newt.

Croylands, in Cambridge Road, Ely.

Croylands, in Cambridge Road, Ely. - Credit: Archant

The long-running battle by developer McCarthy & Stone to create 20 retirement flats at the Ely house is due to go back before East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee next Wednesday.

But, despite all its extra work, McCarthy & Stone is set to be disappointed after independent planning expert Keith Hutchinson delivered a withering assessment of the plans and recommended refusal.

According to Mr Hutchinson, a “lack of sufficient survey effort” by the developer in respect of great crested newts meant he refused to support the plans until a proper survey of newt numbers was carried out to his satisfaction.

The survey surrounds a water feature in the gardens of Croylands, which may or may not be supporting a population of the protected newt.

He said: “The lack of sufficient survey effort at the correct time by the applicants in respect of great crested newts means that the application cannot be supported.

“It is, therefore, recommended for refusal.”

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However, the final decision still remains with councillors.

At a meeting of the planning committee in July, the majority of councillors decided to ignore Mr Hutchinson’s recommendation to reject the plans and instead deferred them for more discussion.

The application to convert Croylands, in Cambridge Road, into retirement flats was first submitted in 2011.

The Cambridgeshire County Council-owned former care centre has been provisionally sold to McCarthy & Stone, which has put forward at least four revisions to its scheme.