Masterplan To Be Revised But Cost Unknown

ELY S Masterplan is to be revised – at a currently unknown cost to the taxpayer – and this time, the public is going to be consulted all the way. At a hastily scheduled Strategic Development committee meeting on Tuesday evening, councillors voted to re-e

ELY'S Masterplan is to be revised - at a currently unknown cost to the taxpayer - and this time, the public is going to be consulted all the way.

At a hastily scheduled Strategic Development committee meeting on Tuesday evening, councillors voted to re-examine the draft Ely Masterplan and "maximise community involvement" throughout the process.

Liberal Democrat party members objected strongly to the lack of consultation in the original Masterplan and tabled an amendment to make sure this time, the public would not be presented with what they termed "a fait accompli."

Councillors ruled out any suggestion of starting the Masterplan from scratch, which could have cost the taxpayer as much as £54,000.


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Members of the public told the assembled strategic development committee that they had serious concerns about the consultation process. Seventy-seven people were present at what consultants termed a 'visioning meeting,' held at The Maltings in January, but Liberal Democrats said the City Council and other democratic bodies were not consulted.

"We were told what the plan was, we were never asked as a group 'what do you see for Ely's development," Sheila Friend Smith said.

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Resident Jean Wall, of Lynn Road, Ely asked councillors "Were you just relying on the natural apathy of Ely and thought you could railroad it [the Masterplan] through?"

Consultants URBED, who drew up the first Masterplan, will also be involved in the process, at a cost which is currently unknown. A formal working party, made up of Tory councillors Mark Duckworth, Mike Rouse, and Lib Dem Sheila Friend Smith was set up at Tuesday night's meeting, and will determine how deep it digs into the Masterplan, and what revisions it makes. It will however, report to the Strategic Development Committee.

The future of the Soham and Littleport masterplans have been delayed, as the working parties have to be officially re-established on June 17 to include members of opposition parties. The Ely Standard has been told that Soham North councillor James Palmer has stood down from Strategic Development Committee and will be replaced on the Soham Masterplan working party by Independent councillor Derrick Beckett.

Councillor Mark Duckworth emphasised the need to progress quickly with the Soham Masterplan: "There is a need for long-term strategic planning to safeguard the future of the district," he told councillors.

"If there is any real delay due to finite resources, and the Soham and Littleport masterplans are put back, that will be truly unacceptable to my constituents, and I ask you to bear that in mind when making your decision."

But Liberal Democrat Sheila Friend Smith cautioned against hasty decision-making. "Haste isn't always a way of achieving a good result," she told Cllr Duckworth.

Cllr Andy Wright took the opportunity to launch a stinging attack on officers after the Head of Legal Services, Jeanette Thompson read out her report into the Masterplan's legal flaws. "I'm very concerned that the meeting of these representatives is about events leading up to today's unfortunate situation. It's the future of the Masterplan the committee should be concerned with.

He questioned: "We are just the lay people. Why has it taken the vigilance of one councillor to bring these improprieties to light?"

The original Ely Masterplan cost £54,000. Extra costs for the new public consultation alone will be another £2,000. So what projects could £56,000 get you in East Cambridgeshire?

A year's funding for Ely Museum (£47,000)

Partial restitution of the ADeC grant (they lost £70,000 off their budget for this year and are closing the Babylon Gallery).

Street Naming and Numbering for a year (£51,519)

Reprographics' Printing and Stationery costs for two years (annual costs £21,666)

Excluding Masterplan costs, this financial year, the council has budgeted to spend £89,409 on external consultants across all departments.

SOURCE East Cambridgeshire District Council annual budget 2008-2009.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How would you like to see your money spent in East Cambs? Write to: the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely CB4 7LS or email: catherine.atkinson@archant.co.uk.

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