Reader’s letters on village development, markets moving online and cancellation of Christmas Lights switch on

Charles Roberts, former council leader and now special adviser to Mayor James Palmer, is the driving

Charles Roberts, former council leader and now special adviser to Mayor James Palmer, is the driving force between Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust. He says a dossier has been put together of hostile commens bordering on abuse by opponents of the Wilburton scheme, He is seen at Camp's Field, Wilburton. Picture; JOHN ELWORTHY - Credit: Archant

All of the letters that you will find in this week’s Ely Standard newspaper.

Letter was ‘full of inaccuracy and misinformation’

I must respond to the extraordinary rant by Steve Griffiths in last week’s Ely Standard.

After finally reaching the end of this meandering correspondence, what are we left with? Convoluted, inaccurate claims which seek to discredit me and the SWCLT and smokescreen the real issues.

So let’s get real. If there’s any common ground here, it is that Mr Griffiths would appear to agree that we need more affordable housing in Wilburton, that Community Land Trusts are a good thing and that the SWCLT homes at Camp’s Field will benefit people. The SWCLT has worked on this basis too.

Trustees have investigated, engaged, negotiated, number-crunched and fine-tuned a plan that will deliver 35 community-owned affordable homes, with no public subsidy, to support local people with places to live now and for future generations. Homes that otherwise would not be delivered.

But Mr Griffiths, apparently fully cognisant of the issues of the housing crisis, doesn’t want them. He thinks there are better solutions out there.

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But where is this magic housing tree, this serendipitous happening, that will deliver something greater? And how long should the community wait for it? Five, ten, fifteen years?

Opposition to this scheme is fine. But it is quite another thing for Mr Griffiths to pontificate on fairytale affordable housing scenarios, presenting them as realistic, when in fact they exist only in his head.

If there are deliverable ways to create more affordable homes, tied to local need, I am all ears. Would any prospective local landowners, benefactors or volunteers please stand up.

And so back to reality. Manor Farm has delivered 19 affordable homes, soon to be 23, for local people, creating £6 million in property assets and a further £12,500 per month in rent, all legally tied to benefit the community. It’s working now, and it can work again at Camp’s Field.

Mr Griffiths is tying himself in knots about the affordability of our CLT homes. Better to talk about this in terms people can understand.

Will these CLT homes provide a nurse, a teacher, a health worker, a tradesman or delivery driver a place to live they can afford? Yes.

The facts speak for themselves; we have three NHS workers, and people with jobs of the kinds listed above, living in Manor Farm CLT homes right now, who might otherwise have been forced to move away.

He claims to have explored in depth the National CLT Network. Then he would know that our Manor Farm development was visited by the Network in 2018 as part of their ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative.

Manor Farm was described as an exemplar for ‘Working in Partnership’ and the visit allowed other CLTs to learn directly from its successes so far. We have hosted other visits from local authorities, a Government housing minister, and even from overseas, including from Australia, to see the award-winning work we have already done.

We must be doing something right if Homes England was prepared to support this scheme with a grant of £342,505 to cover development costs — money which will be reflected in the improved affordability of the homes.

And let’s not dismiss the benefits of new open market houses too. Not only are they paying for the affordable housing, they also provide much-needed new homes. They are also tomorrow’s friends and neighbours and may provide the energy behind future community endeavours.

We have engaged, we have held exhibits and the community has helped shape these plans. This will be a high quality development with a focus on green space and amenities that the whole village can enjoy. People do support what the SWCLT is doing and last week’s letters page was testament to that fact.

If I’m passionate in defending the SWCLT it is because I know what is at stake here. Local, often young people, are being failed by the housing system and forced out of the place they call home through no fault of their own.

By all means oppose Camp’s Field, but to do so via red herrings, nonsensical politicising, attacks and conjecture, and under the pretence that better solutions are out there, is to expose Mr Griffiths’ motive for what it is — a concerted attempt to torpedo these CLT homes by any means.

CHARLES ROBERTS, chairman of Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust


We are all stuck in this health crisis, most people are doing a great job and there are many heroes. I feel, some though could do with being a bit more considerate. I am saying ‘please’.

Dear fellow walkers

We are meant to keep our distances when we go out (two metres apart where possible). When you approach other walkers, please fall into single line.

This means – drop behind your companions. That way, all parties are better able to keep to the recommended two-metre distance (space permitting) when passing each other.

Please still wave and say hello.

Dear fellow shoppers

When you are in a queue whilst out shopping, please take your noses out of your mobile phones and pay attention.

Please move up the queue when the space becomes available. The recommended distance is two metres, 20 metres is not necessary.

Those waiting patiently in the queue behind you also want to get into the shop as soon as possible.

Dear fellow dog walkers

Pavements and food paths are not your dog’s toilet. If your dog gets caught short, please have the decency to pick up their droppings.

You can buy special bags for that purpose. If you are too lazy to pick up the poo, please train your dog to do their do-do’s in your own garden. It can be done.

Dear fellow drivers

There are currently more walkers around. When driving on a minor road without pedestrian pavement, please slow down to give walkers a chance to find a suitable place to move to so you can safely drive passed.

Dear Charles Roberts

As you know, my garden backs onto the SWCLT development at Manor Farm. (I feel for you, Wilburton!)

You permitted a bench to be erected (you know where), this causes noise disturbance when people sit and chat.

Please arrange for the bench to be moved to somewhere else, ideally where it does not disturb another resident. It is causing stress.


Mayor ‘Teflon’ Palmer is a fortunate man indeed!

What are the chances of the Conservative-run East Cambridgeshire District Council making the decision to remove vital funding from the Citizens Advice Bureau, resulting in this wonderful charity having to vacate premises owned by the district council, just as the said council’s former leader is deciding to move the Combined Authority from Alconbury to Ely? What a stroke of luck!

I recall that both the CAPCA’s long-standing “interim” chief executive and part-time chief executive of East Cambs Council and Mr Palmer himself, whilst leader of ECDC, were keen to measure customer service at the council by the yardstick of “goes the extra mile” when assessing staff performance.

Ironically this cannot be said for them, both obviously preferring a short commute to a trip out of the district. Home birds indeed!


Ely Markets moves online

Ely Markets is temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the markets aren’t running at the moment, our team is still working hard behind the scenes to support our traders and plan for the future.

Right now, we’re delighted that many of traders are still able to offer home deliveries and online ordering. A directory of our delivery options can be found on our website:

We’re updating this list weekly, plus sharing lots of news via our social media channels. Search for @elymarkets on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for all the latest news.


Premature to cancel Christmas lights cancellation

I felt that the decision to cancel the Christmas Lights switch on seemed a bit premature, particularly as we had not even heard the Prime Minister’s plans for the easing of lockdown yet.

Whilst I realise that these public events take along time to organise, it was a depressing story to read when it is only early May.

Infact, when I tactlessly told someone who lives on her own, she almost burst into tears. However, I am hoping it is not as bad as it seems.

Even if the switch on looks too risky (all those people pushing together) could the Christmas lights just be on anyway? Infact I would suggest that they are up for a bit longer this year.

The shop keepers are going to need all the help they can get in the coming months and the High Street needs to become an exciting destination (while obeying all the rules).

The public is also going to need some enticement, as we all scurry about in the darkness.

The cheery lights of Christmas will be just what we need – from November to February.


‘Supporting tourism’

I wonder how much the district council paid their retail advisors, WYG, who recommended against giving consent to the proposed retail park at Harlock’s Farm.

Funny really, I could have given them the same advice for free! Not so amusing is the impact it will have on the shopping centre’s in Ely and Soham.

We have seen in the past when the district council gets it’s greedy business hat on, it can see nothing else, but also shame on Ely City Council for being so feeble over this decision.

Just when they should be helping independent shops and market traders come out of one of the worst disasters for a generation, they deal it another blow. And they call this supporting tourism.


Just Giving (or is it taking?)

Colonel Tom Moore must be furious when he raised the magnificent sum of over £30 million in favour of the NHS only to find that £308,000 had been creamed off by the very company supposedly working for him, leaving a nauseous taste in the mouth. They are entitled to some recompense but only in moderation.

Sadly, this is by no means the exception and I believe there should be legislation to prevent such malpractice.

To put things in perspective, in 2016 £70 billion was amassed by 167,000 British charities and on average only 65 per cent went to charitable causes, whereas the top hundred bosses earned between half and three quarters of a million quid.

Even this apparently legitimate proportion of 65 per cent does not seem overly generous and remember that almost all the helpers work free gratis.

The National Heriditory Cancer Helpline was berated for allocating only 3% of its receipts to worthy causes.

Yet hundreds of thousands of pounds was squandered on advertising, salaries and administration costs.

Vast amounts were wasted on ludicrous foreign projects; take the RNLI who being £6 million in debt and having axed 135 jobs still managed to send £3.3 million to Bangladesh to finance creches and to provide swimwear for Muslims in Tanzania.

These are just examples and not isolations of the numerous reprobates abusing the system. I implore anyone contemplating making a voluntary donation that they do their homework first.

There is no way of determining the destination of money sent overseas and therefore local charities would be safer, such as the horse sanctuary in Isleham amonst other genuine causes.


Church alterations

Following the public consultation in February, St Mary’s Church Ely has now submitted a formal request to the Church of England for permission to carry out the proposed internal alterations to

this 13th century building.

The vicar, the Rev Chris Hill commented ‘I am delighted that we have reached the next stage in this exciting development which will secure the future well-being of the St Mary’s building at the

heart of the Ely Community for many years to come’.

Full details of the application can be viewed on the St Mary’s Church website:

Should anyone wish to object to any of the works or proposals they should send a letter, by email, stating the grounds of their objection to the Diocesan Registrar at so that it arrives by May 25.


East Cambs tax payers shortchanged

Rather than criticise Mayor James Palmer, as you did in last week’s Ely Standard, he should be congratulated for representing the interests of East Cambridgeshire residents, unlike the current local councillors and Hampstead resident (absentee MP) Lucy Fraser.

The universities and Addenbrooke’s Hospital receive millions of pounds in grants from central government employing thousands of people in Cambridge.

At least Mr Palmer is attempting bring jobs to East Cambs - against the county council policy of transferring all departments (and jobs) to Huntingdonshire.

The county council is in the process of transferring hundreds of jobs to the new Shire Hall at Alconbury, Huntingdonshire.

Both the police and fire departments already have their headquarters in Huntingdon.

There are eleven county council offices and sites in Huntingdonshire (not including the new Alconbury site). There are two county council offices and sites in East Cambs.

Better job opportunities in East Cambs would generate more local wealth and benefit young job seekers and local shops and small businesses.

East Cambs Tax payers see very little of the taxes they pay spent in East Cambs.

Combining the old Isle of Ely with Cambridgeshire has led to decades of neglect by politicians in safe seats.


The closure of Anglican churches

Further to the correspondence in the Ely Standard, the closing of churches has certainly fractured unanimity among clergy and congregations.

The Government’s directive based on expert medical advice clearly states that places of worship maybe open for private prayer and funerals which is contrary to the archbshop’s and bishop’s guidance.

While the church remains active the complete closure of the buildings has conveyed a message to the nation amidst a national crisis that the church has retreated to the security of its living rooms.

Actions not words are called for. Many feel that Jesus would have walked his talk and been in the frontline comforting the bereaved and dying.


Reunion dinner postponed

Unfortunately, the Needham’s Old Boys and Girls Annual Reunion Dinner planned for September 2020 has had to be postponed due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst this will obviously be a great disappointment to many people the chair of Richard Hobbs, the Needham’s Reunion Committee, is hopeful that the dinner will be able to be rescheduled for spring 2021 - provided that it is safe for us to do so.

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