Hear our protest’

PUBLISHED: 12:41 11 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:57 04 May 2010

Freda Crofts, who has lived in Haddenham for 57 years, protests outside the Arkenstall Centre.

Freda Crofts, who has lived in Haddenham for 57 years, protests outside the Arkenstall Centre.

PLACARD-WAVING demonstrators descended on Haddenham on Tuesday morning to lodge their objections to the massive Mereham new town project. Some took up their posts on a traffic island in the middle of the village while others were on hand at the village s

PLACARD-WAVING demonstrators descended on Haddenham on Tuesday morning to lodge their objections to the massive Mereham new town project.

Some took up their posts on a traffic island in the middle of the village while others were on hand at the village's Arkenstall Centre where the six week planning inquiry opened.

Protest signs declaring Say No to Mereham lined the route taken by the Government inspector, appointed to hear arguments for and against the project during the inquiry.

One protestor even slapped a poster on the car of top barrister, Robin Purchase, appointed to fight the case for Australian developer, Multiplex.

TV and radio crews also piled into Haddenham to capture the opening of the inquiry which, if successful, will bring a major new town to farmland between Wilburton and Stretham.

Torrential rain failed to deter the protestors but brought chaos to East Cambridgeshire.

Traffic clogged up roads around the village when an accident on the A14 near Huntingdon caused traffic to tail back almost to Earith.

Haddenham County Councillor, Bill Hunt, said: "The horrendous traffic problems underline the fact that Cambridgeshire can't cope now. I ask people to imagine what it will be like with lorries full of aggregate trundling on our roads for the next 20 years."

Over the next six weeks barristers and experts appointed by Multiplex and the district and county council will square up to fight their cases.

Opening the inquiry, planning Inspector Richard Ogier promised, as part of his investigation to brave the A10 in rush hour and visit the site of the planned new town.

Over the next few weeks worried residents will put forward their cases as to why he should throw out the project which they fear threatens to carve up their countryside and change the face of East Cambridgeshire forever.

BARRISTERS battling for and against the massive Mereham new town came out of their corners fighting on Tuesday as the six-week planning inquiry opened.

Simon Bird, representing the Cambridgeshire councils warned that the project was no more than a "planning smash and grab".

But barrister Robin Purchase, representing Australian developer, Multiplex, said the need and demand for housing in the area was exceptionally high.

The two leading legal minds will aim to prove their cases over the coming weeks, with the help of expert witnesses.

Mr Bird, who represents the district councils for East and South Cambridgeshire and Cambridgeshire County Council warned that Mereham was inconsistent with local planning strategies.

"East Cambridgeshire is comfortable meeting its housing requirement," he said.

Protesters in the public area laughed openly as Mr Purchase declared that Mereham would be a sustainable project promoting the idea of residents using buses along the A10 to reach Cambridge.

Several times, planning inspector Richard Ogier warned the public that it was a planning inquiry and not a planning meeting and objectors would have time later in the process to have their say.

Over the next two weeks, the councils will put forward their case followed by a week of evidence from local residents and organisations.

Two weeks will be set aside for the Multiplex fight and there will also be a week's break during the inquiry.

Mr Ogier, who will travel along the A10 in rush hour and visit the planned site of the new town between Wilburton and Stretham during the inquiry, said: "It's one of the most complicated cases I've seen in my career."

INFO: Check www.elystandard24.co.uk for daily updates on the inquiry.

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