Oh, all right then... ask the experts

PUBLISHED: 12:05 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:47 04 May 2010

The proposed 59-space extension to the Broad Street car park.

The proposed 59-space extension to the Broad Street car park.

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build a car park on cathedral land took another twist on Tuesday as councillors finally decided to call in the experts - five weeks into the battle. They backtracked on their plans for a public consultation deciding instead to see

Lib Dem councillors who staged a protest against the parking plan.

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build a car park on cathedral land took another twist on Tuesday as councillors finally decided to call in the experts - five weeks into the battle.

They backtracked on their plans for a public consultation deciding instead to see whether English Heritage would throw up its arms in horror at the proposals to build on an ancient orchard behind the paddock or back the scheme.

The national conservation group's view could decide the future of the plan, but it could be well into the new year before a final decision is reached.

The move comes in a week when the Conservatives have canvassed peak-time shoppers in the Broad Street car park, which they say revealed that 78 per cent were in favour of the project, contradicting other surveys which have shown overwhelming objection.

This includes the Ely Standard poll, which showed 98 per cent of people were against the decision and also our Letters Page. All the letters we have received have been opposed to the plan. (See Letters Page 6 and Letters Extra Page 20).

Liberal Democrats have also

been out staging a placard-waving demonstration in Cherry Hill Park as they fight to keep the land as open space.

Residents have formed a new Ely Conservation Society in a bid to protect the orchard and the cathedral's Dean and Chapter have released a statement to reassure their congregation during Sunday service that they are not in negotiations over the land.

The plan, originally discussed in a secret behind-closed-doors council meeting, would see 59 spaces provided on an extension to the Broad Street parking spaces and paid for by closing the Cresswells Lane car park with the loss of 70 spaces.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Allen, pictured above, took the chairman's seat at East Cambridgeshire's environment and transport committee on Tuesday to "make certain that the consultation process is carried out as widely as possible."

He said: "We believe all stakeholders deserve to have their voices and views taken into consideration, including English Heritage, who may well have strong feelings about the future of this issue."

Ely Conservation Society member, Neil Hitchin, said: "The idea is to head-off a big waste of money and time by waiting to see if English Heritage has objections so serious that it would be unrealistic to proceed.

"It is normal in conservation-related proposals to approach English Heritage and other relevant stakeholders very early for this reason."

Environment and transport committee vice-chairman, Liberal Democrat Cllr Michael Allan said: "Obviously if English Heritage has strong views about the use of Cathedral land for car parking, then the whole proposal will be dead in the water."

Conservative members quizzed 590 people for their survey and claimed that, once they knew the exact location of the land, they backed the scheme.

Deputy Conservative Leader, Cllr John Humphreys, said: "Misleading reports had created widespread confusion and most shoppers were very surprised to see that the plot in question was not meadowland, but the remains of an old orchard at the end of the Deanery garden.

"The proposed extension would square off the whole car park to make it level with the existing boundary of the Deanery garden and the meadow, behind hedgerow and the long-established mature trees that already hide the car park from visitors enjoying the park."

# Do you want to see car parking on Cathedral land? Vote in our website survey at www.ely-standard.co.uk.

Or express a view by writing to : the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email: editor@ely-standard.co.uk

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