New town campaigners: We can't be complacent

PUBLISHED: 12:43 02 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:43 04 May 2010

Cllr Bill Hunt, centre, briefs Cllr Shona Johnstone and and Cllr Brian Ashton on countryside that could be lost if developers build Mereham.

Cllr Bill Hunt, centre, briefs Cllr Shona Johnstone and and Cllr Brian Ashton on countryside that could be lost if developers build Mereham.

THE plight of campaigners fighting the massive Mereham new town project rests with the Government - but it has announced plans to build more homes in rural areas. With just three months to go before Multiplex takes its fight to appeal, the Government has

THE plight of campaigners fighting the massive Mereham new town project rests with the Government - but it has announced plans to build more homes in rural areas.

With just three months to go before Multiplex takes its fight to appeal, the Government has unveiled a green paper which promises to "rapidly increase house building to meet demand". It wants to deliver three million new homes by 2020.

Campaigners fear this could lead to the Government over-ruling local opposition to the 5,000 home Mereham new town and pushing ahead with the scheme.

"The Government could step in and over-rule local planners," warned county and district councillor, Bill Hunt.

"We can't afford to be complacent on this. You can't trust this Government not to over-rule local democracy.

"Locally people don't realise that this issue has not been put to bed. It is not a done deal."

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Gareth Wilson, who represents Haddenham, said: "This is a threat. We need to get as many people as possible to speak at the public inquiry. We must put the utmost into this fight."

East Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have promised to stand together in the fight against the new town which would merge the villages of Wilburton and Stretham.

Developers Multiplex, which built the troubled Wembley Stadium, decided to take the case to appeal after planners rejected the scheme last year.

The hearing will now take place at Haddenham's Arkenstall Centre on October 9 and is expected to last at least six weeks.

Cllr Johnstone, said: "We have been clear from the beginning that these proposals just don't stack up. We are united in standing against this proposal which would harm rather than help East Cambridgeshire."

Cllr Ashton, added: "There is no doubt in my mind that Mereham would be catastrophic for East Cambridgeshire. It would effectively merge the local villages and pour thousands of cars onto our local roads and harm our economy."

A Multiplex spokesman said: "In the lead up to the inquiry, Multiplex will be showing its revised plans for Mereham, demonstrating that it is not only able to come on stream quickly but also that it has highly sustainable features.

"The Government has clearly stated that it considers the delivery of decent, affordable homes as a major priority.

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