First Public Meeting of Masterplan Takes Place
Email: email@example.com THE first public meeting of the new process to draw up a Masterplan for Ely took place on Tuesday. Conservative councillor Peter Moakes, who was instrumental in drafting the original Masterplan and also sits on the
THE first public meeting of the new process to draw up a Masterplan for Ely took place on Tuesday.
Conservative councillor Peter Moakes, who was instrumental in drafting the original Masterplan and also sits on the new working party, said: "We have looked back on the feedback we have had from the original Masterplan process and there has been consensus on many areas, from proposals for a greener Ely, to improving entrance gateways and tackling congestion. As it is accepted that in these areas we have agreement, we want to move on and tackle the issues where there is diverging views."
The original Masterplan, a 20-year vision for the city, had to be suspended after a Freedom of Information request from Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Allen revealed legal flaws in the process. Councillors met in secret and did not take minutes or keep records. The FoI request also revealed that leader of the Conservative party, Brian Ashton, had sent an email to one of the consultants commenting on plans for land that he owns. Mr Ashton resigned immediately after admitting an "error of judgement" and is to face a Standards Board inquiry later in the year.
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A new working party was formed at an emergency meeting in May and councillors have emphasised that involving the public is a priority.
Councillors are planning to steam ahead with a study for the Southern Link Road, after receiving just 228 responses to their original Masterplan questionnaire.
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Tenders have already been put out for a transport study into the Southern Link Road, after a majority - 76 per cent - agreed with the idea.
The district council has been awarded £685,000 to foster growth in Ely but this has to be spent before April 2009, so councillors are keen to move the Masterplan forward.
Among the other issues raised by members of the public in their Masterplan responses was a need for cultural facilities - galleries, museums, arts and cinemas, and there was a distinct lack of response from young people.
Cllr Moakes told the Ely Standard that £685,000 allocated to the district from the Government was not a bribe to soften the blow of extra housing growth, but a move on the part of councillors to ensure that Ely had "planned growth" and to secure money to pay for improvements needed to the city.
"We have been given money from the Housing Growth Fund which must be spent before April, and we want to move on from the issues that have happened in the early stages of the Masterplan, but we are also keen to have genuine consultation.
"The members of the public who responded to the original questionnaire did so in good faith. Even if the original document has its flaws, there is all that information sitting there - we can't just throw it away," he added.
The Housing Growth Fund money is channelled through Cambridgeshire Horizons, a Government quango tasked with implementing government housebuilding targets in the county.
Consultants URBED are likely to be re-employed to carry out further studies - and their re-appointment is not up for discussion, it will be made by one high-ranking council official.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Allen, questioned this approach. "I would ask if the involvement of URBED is appropriate," he told the Ely Standard. "Nicholas Falk took instruction in an email from one individual, and whether it was knowing or not that has tainted the Masterplan process."
"It's a case of lets rush it through and spend the money," he added.
So how will the £685,000 Housing Growth fund grant be spent?
n£40,000 Soham and Littleport Masterplans
n£56,000 Ely Masterplan (process ongoing)
n up to £53,000 Study into the movement of Ely sewage works (underway)
nSouthern Link Road study (out to tender).
nCountry Park (out to tender)
= £536,000 left in the pot, likely to be spent on 'evidential studies' such as the Northern Growth area, and improvements to the city centre.
* Go to www.elystandard24.co.uk to read all the background stories and correspondence on the Masterplan.