Creating ur legacy

JOHN HILL is the chief executive f East Cambs District Cuncil and he recently gave a talk t the Ely Sciety n his visin fr Ely fr the next 10 years. The Ely Standard has asked him t share that visin with ur readers. IT is rare t be given the

JOHN HILL is the chief executive f East Cambs District Cuncil and he recently gave a talk t the Ely Sciety n his visin fr Ely fr the next 10 years. The Ely Standard has asked him t share that visin with ur readers.

IT is rare t be given the pprtunity t write abut my visin fr Ely, but I hpe t give yu a persnal insight int what is facing ur great city ver the next decade.

I especially want t highlight the chices we will all be asked t cnsider as ur generatin leaves its legacy.

I have lived in East Cambridgeshire fr the best part f 13 years but I spent my frmative early years in West Brmwich, West Midlands. I grew up n the seventh flr f a blck f flats and we thught it was great.

What made life gd then was that I felt part f that cmmunity. I may have been perched in the sky in a building that was never ging t win an award fr design - but we had s many ther things.

I had a large green park n ur drstep, pprtunities t play safely and mix with my friends and their families.

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The swimming pl and leisure centre were nly a walk away and my father, wh wrked lng hurs in the lcal chemical factry, still saw us at night because he was nly a cycle ride away frm his wrk.

Why am I telling yu this? Well fr me it gives a first insight int the challenge fr the future f Ely. It is nt just abut the buildings r having a huse t live in, but the cmmunity and facilities this city shuld ffer ver the next decade.

It is abut creating ur legacy. I am nt seeking t ver dramatise this but I believe what we d in the next 10 years and the chices we make will leave a legacy which will be remembered well fr years.

In a way, Ely Cathedral persnifies the ultimate challenge fr thse wh care passinately abut the city. The 'Ship f the Fens' shws us the pwer a building can have. It makes the city special and draws grwing numbers t regard Ely as a great place t settle dwn with their families.

Herein, lays the crucial questin fr ur future - what is ur attitude t grwth? D we sit back and wait fr 'it t be dne t us' prbably in dribs and drabs r d we welcme and encurage it?

We may have different views n these crucial questins but what I am sure we all share the assertin that grwth shuld nt happen at any price.

Thse wh advcate welcming grwth must clearly articulate and fight fr a number f pre-requisites t this.

We must learn the lessns f the past and make sure they d nt happen again.

Ely in 2018 shuld nt just be a big husing estate detracting rather than enhancing ur architecture, diluting what makes Ely unique, relegating ur new children t playing in pstage stamp back gardens.

I shudder at the thught f a city withut fit-fr-purpse leisure and sprts facilities, cngested and unsafe rads, with wrk being hurs away rather than minutes and shpping all dne in Cambridge rather than in Ely.

T make Ely in 2018 a truly sustainable place t live, wrk, visit and play, we must lk at what we have dne well and nt s well in the city.

The prpsals fr Mereham shwed us all hw nt t g abut designing a sustainable settlement. Hwever, if we d nt get things right, there will be mre Mereham's and ne day a Gvernment sprinting fr mre huses may apprve them.

We have challenges ahead. We need t imprve the gateways t Ely and the lcal buildings.

Fr example, the retail unit n the Market Place is awful and much f ur recent husing has been f standard quality prviding little in the way f uniqueness.

Sme f it has nt been in the right place - n the edges f the city with very limited safe walking and cycling ptins and nt the retail t attract them in any case.

Nevertheless, there are sme gd examples f building in Ely - much f the recent develpment dwn the riverside. The prperties suit their lcatin because they were designed with a little bit f visin, risks were taken and I like t think crucially that the cuncil wned the land.

One f the reasns why Riverside has attracted higher quality grwth is the prximity f it t quality pen space. There is a lt mre t be dne in terms f accessing existing parks and prviding new pen space which is nt nly an after-thught t a residential develpment.

The pprtunity fr an Ely Cuntry Park bringing tgether existing and new green spaces perhaps interlinking new small residential develpments shuld be twards the tp f ur list f things t d.

The Ely Masterplan estimates that if Ely grws t 25,000, there will be a requirement fr 3,000 t 6,000 lcal new jbs t resist the grwing numbers f ut.

Certain levels f cmmuting ut f the district will be inevitable but we need t lk at pprtunities t attract businesses t Angel Drve and the expansin f Lancaster Way, which has been the real success.

We als need t prtect existing lcal emplyment in businesses in Ely wh are nw seeing the cmmercial case fr relcatin. We need t prvide a relcatin ptin lcally t these businesses t prtect quality emplyment in the type f jbs nt therwise readily available in the district.

Mving n t transprt - here again a dilemma fr us. The Railway Statin, ne f the jewels in the crwn fr the future prsperity f Ely, but a jewel which fuels the ut-cmmuting.

We need t see its value - nurture it as an alternative t an even mre clgged up A10, supprt its develpment and imprve access t it - even if its impact is nt always beneficial.

The Ely Masterplan tells us that a new Suthern Bypass, is 'seen as a tp pririty by almst everyne'.

Key t realising this, f curse, is mney, abut £27m at the last cunt. We need t find ways f accessing this as it is nt nly crucial t Ely but Sham and ther settlements as well.

Mving away frm transprt, they say: "All wrk n play makes Jack a dull by."

It was Naplen wh said, "Britain was a natin f shpkeepers" but I think it wuld be mre accurate t describe us as a natin f shppers.

In ur Residents' Survey last year, the few negative cmments frm these new residents were we "need better shps/restaurants/pubs". Judged in terms f vacancies and the number f charity shps, Ely is a relatively successful market twn, hwever, it estimated tw thirds f retail spending leaks frm the twn. Fr me Waitrse sets the benchmark fr retail in Ely and we must d everything t keep it in the centre and expand t meet demand. There are, f curse, ther retail needs, which can be accmmdated in ther lcatins.

Attracting a wide variety f shps t allw Ely t cmpete is very much a numbers game - thse wh argue fr "smarter grwth" make a gd case that this can bring better shpping facilities in the heart f the city - and that may require lking at relcating services such as plice, ambulance and even the cuncil frm key city centre sites.

Fr in ur visin fr Ely we shuld nt frget the essential services demanded by an ever increasing ppulatin new schls, new primary health care facilities, and pssibility fr higher and vcatinal facilities which are almst nn-existent.

All these things cst resurces and the Gvernment is nt gd at targeting resurces at relatively prsperus grwth areas - s it cmes fundamentally dwn t chice and pririties frm this lng list I have presented t yu.

Overall, I wuld say the best way t achieve higher-paid jbs withut lng cmmutes, better shpping and leisure facilities, quality infrastructure that minimises envirnmental impact, increased use f public transprt, walking and cycling is t embrace grwth but manage it fr ur benefit.


Let us knw if yu agree r disagree with Jhn Hill's visin fr Ely.

Write t: The editr, the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, CB7 4LS r e-mail