Mereham Campaigners Celebrate After Government Throws Out Plans For New Town

PUBLISHED: 13:22 29 August 2008 | UPDATED: 10:32 04 May 2010

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating a major victory for democracy after it was announced that the Government has thrown out plans to develop a 5,000 home town just off the A10 near Ely. Plans for Mereham, as the Australian development company Multiplex dubbed i

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating a major victory for democracy after it was announced that the Government has thrown out plans to develop a 5,000 home town just off the A10 near Ely.

Plans for Mereham, as the Australian development company Multiplex dubbed it - will not go ahead. The company's plans to create a 'sustainable' community with a massive supermarket between Wilburton and Stretham has now been rejected at every level of the complex planning process.

Local authorities, campaigners and 10,000 signatories to the petition are delighted with the success of their grass-roots campaign, 'Say No to Mereham', following an anxious six-month wait for Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears to announce her decision.

Councillor Fred Brown, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "This is a great victory for local people. We have said throughout that this town was not wanted or needed and thankfully the Secretary of State has listened to our voices. Everyone deserves credit for this hard-fought and well-managed campaign to show just how ridiculous the new development would have been. It is unbelievable that the developers ever thought their plans would succeed.

"The good news means we can now go about planning for future growth in the right way - at a local level. By working together we have shown that major developers can't bully residents and local authorities into accepting major development where is not wanted. I am sure there will be a big party in the villages of Haddenham and Wilburton tonight and I think we should all raise a glass to celebrate our victory.

East Cambridgeshire district councillor Bill Hunt, local member for Stretham, who led the 'Say no to Mereham' campaign said: "The decision by the Secretary of State is the best news I have heard all year. It goes to show that when people stand up and fight against something they believe in their voices can be heard. I am so proud of all the people who have been involved in the 'Say no to Mereham' campaign. They have spent many hours working to bring about today's decision for no other reward than their desire to protect their way of life.

"We all said throughout that building 5,000 new homes in the middle of the countryside without thinking about the consequences this would have on the area was an absolute folly and we have been proved right. Lets hope this sets a precedent, that no large developer will ever try to force it's way into an area of our countryside again. Today is a time for celebration and I think it is well deserved."

"We are absolutely thrilled," said Wilburton Parish Council clerk Maureen Harrington, "It's been a long wait - let's hope this is the last of it."

Both planning inspector Richard Ogier, who presided over an inquiry held in November, and Ms Blears, agreed that extra congestion on the A10, the potential of Mereham to become a dormitory, commuter town which was too far from Cambridge were both factors in granting refusal. The Secretary of State also raised concerns over Multiplex's proposals for affordable housing, and said she was not sure how they could successfully be implemented.

However, Ms Blears did acknowledge that housing targets set for the East of England were "minima" and that development in East Cambridgeshire was inevitable to meet a shortage of affordable housing in identified areas of Cambridgeshire county. 10,000 people in the county are on the waiting list, according to government figures.

If Multiplex decide to appeal the secretary of state's decision, they have six weeks to lodge their complaint with the High Court.

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