80 homes threaten access to ‘rural haven of rare beauty’
- Credit: PLANNING PORTAL/SOPHIE RIXON
Demolition of a £450,000 home to create access to 80 homes proposed on a 12-acre site behind is attracting mounting opposition.
Pigeon Investment Management Ltd has submitted a hybrid (one part outline, another part full) application to East Cambridgeshire District Council with the five named landowners to build the estate.
Here objector SOPHIE RIXON explains why she has serious concerns about the proposals, now in the final stage of consultation.
80 homes on this site threatens ready access to ‘a rural haven of rare beauty’
I know the Ely Standard is aware of the proposal to build 80 houses opposite the portion of East Fen Common, Soham, upon which the horses graze and through which the Lode runs.
But I wonder if the Standard is aware perhaps of all the implications.
I have serious concerns about this proposal.
The pandemic has brought into ever sharper focus the need for green spaces to combat the nationwide epidemic of depression and anxiety and to provide enticing areas for exercise, thereby promoting physical well-being.
The nurturing of some aspects of mental and physical health may be especially important in Soham.
For instance, if I understand correctly, both Soham wards had ‘significantly worse’ levels of ‘hospital stays for self-harm’ than were the norm in England.
Again, if I understand correctly, from 2015–2019, Soham North had significantly worse levels of ‘deaths from all causes, all ages’ than the norm in England.
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And significantly worse levels of ‘deaths from coronary heart disease, all ages’ than the norm in England.
Soham South had significantly worse levels of ‘deaths from circulatory disease, under 75 years’ than were the norm in England.
Ready access to green spaces would appear then to be singularly important.
And yet a rural haven of rare beauty, within easy reach of the town, which affords residents and visitors the opportunity to walk along a meandering river between untamed countryside on the one hand, and charming fields, divided by pretty hedgerows, on the other, is under grave threat.
Use of this portion of East Fen Common increased very markedly during and after lockdown.
Over the last two summers I have seen many more strollers, dog walkers, fishermen, youngsters playing and picnicking, and families enjoying days out.
Certainly, and most importantly, I would utterly reject the claim that a development of 80 houses in this location would not very significantly and permanently impair the character of this rural sanctuary (notwithstanding the measures proposed to mitigate the damage).
Moreover, it is not simply the visual impact on the landscape which is at issue.
The destruction of this green space will reduce the roaming, hunting and feeding grounds of our precious wildlife – I have seen kingfishers, swans, herons, moorhen, deer, foxes, ducks, voles, dragonflies, butterflies and, a little further afield, barn owls.
I am concerned that the ‘ecological assessment’ prepared on behalf of the developers may not do justice to the wildlife in the area.
Likewise, the report asserts that “the site itself is wholly unsuitable for swans and geese, not least due to the small sizes of the fields”.
Yet I have pictures of swans floating down the Lode in the direction of, and directly opposite, the site whilst, according to another objection, ‘large numbers (100 approximately) of Canada geese...use this field as a stop off from their migration every autumn’.
The broader environmental implications of overdevelopment are too well-known to rehearse here.
If we have learned nothing from the pandemic about the necessity of retaining our rural landscape, then I very much fear for our future.
Furthermore, residents living near the site object to the proposal on other important grounds.
Some residents who live in proximity to the site of the proposed development of some 80 houses already experience flooding, rise of foul wastage, etc. (One or two even state that they have been refused insurance.)
There is considerable concern that a new development on this site will worsen the situation for existing residents in the vicinity and will itself be filled with uninsurable homes.
The Commons of Soham are a vital part of the history and present of the town. It is singularly important that not merely they, but their character, be preserved.
There must surely be places in the locality better suited, or at least less ill-suited, to a development of 80 houses.
I am afraid that time is very pressing: the deadline for a decision is 9th December.
So, I would be extremely grateful if the issue could be addressed as a matter of urgency.