Mereham Housing Plan Has Been Resubmitted

PUBLISHED: 17:48 05 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:35 04 May 2010

CAMPAIGNERS thought they had stopped a 5,000-home Mereham settlement in its tracks – but a multimillion-pound developer has other ideas. Leave us alone was campaigner Bill Hunt s message to multinational developer Multiplex, but it seems the campaigner

CAMPAIGNERS thought they had stopped a 5,000-home Mereham settlement in its tracks - but a multimillion-pound developer has other ideas.

"Leave us alone" was campaigner Bill Hunt's message to multinational developer Multiplex, but it seems the campaigners will have to dust off their Say No to Mereham banners less than two months after they had assumed they were home and dry.

Following a three-year fight by residents, East Cambs District Council and the county council - who together spent £200,000 of taxpayers money on legal costs - government minister Hazel Blears refused planning permission for Mereham, a proposed town between Stretham and Wilburton.

Undaunted, planning agents Barton Willmore have submitted a new proposal on behalf of Multiplex for a 4,000-6,000 home settlement to the East of England Regional Authority at the end of October.

The proposals will then be considered by the authority - with contributions from the district council. Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on a complete review for the East of England, which sets out parameters for development between 2009 and 2031, in the spring.

"I can't believe it," said Bill Hunt. "It's going to be another fight. We are all exhausted but these wretched people are motivated by greed. They have come up against people who have stood up for their community against huge odds and will continue to do so. We are completely determined to see this off."

The East of England Regional Authority - one of eight "regional government frameworks" which bridge the boundaries between district, county governments and their national counterparts at Westminster, are citing "housing pressure, affordability and projections" - as reasons for allowing more than 24,500 new homes to be built in the region each year, up to 2031.

East Cambridgeshire is currently meeting government targets for housebuilding - one of the reasons that Mereham was a contentious issue. The council argued that East Cambs had no need for 5,000 new homes.

However, more than 350 homes need to be built every year, between 2008 and 2011, and numbers are likely to increase after that date, to meet the government's national target of 3million homes by 2020.

One of the government's own scrutiny committees reported on Tuesday that policies on housebuilding, especially on greenfield land, should be scaled back in view of the economic crisis as there was a risk that houses could be built using environmentally toxic processes, then left unoccupied, as the buyers' market plummets.

Current Cambridgeshire policy is to create "infill housing" where possible - rather than creating new towns and villages.

Other parts of the county, such as South Cambridgeshire, have not met their targets for new or affordable housing. At the hands of developers, they stand to suffer most if proposals get the go-ahead. Nine bids have been put forward of more than 20,000 homes in total - but just two bids for East Cambs - Mereham and one of 270 homes for the north Ely area.

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