Residents' victory over homes demolition plan

PUBLISHED: 11:15 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

Residents of Walsingham Way and West Fen Road celebrate their planning victory. 	Photo: HELEN DRAKE

Residents of Walsingham Way and West Fen Road celebrate their planning victory. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

DELIGHTED Ely residents have secured a victory for people power, ending three years of uncertainty over the future of their affordable homes. They have defeated a developer s plan to replace their rented houses, built for soldiers returning from the Secon

DELIGHTED Ely residents have secured a victory for people power, ending three years of uncertainty over the future of their affordable homes.

They have defeated a developer's plan to replace their rented houses, built for soldiers returning from the Second World Ward with more than twice as many of the same site reducing the size of their gardens.

More than 30 angry residents from Walsingham Way and West Fen Road turned up to put their case to planners on Wednesday.

They were furious over plans by developer, Oxfordshire-based RPS Group, to tear down 11 of the Hereward Housing Association homes - built as Homes Fit for Heroes at the time - and put 29 others in their place in a double terrace.

They pleaded with councillors to throw out the project claiming it went against the Vision for Ely, expressed by John Hill, East Cambridgeshire District Council's chief executive, which puts the importance on a sense of community and well thought-out social housing.

Resident, Rebecca Genery told the Ely Standard after the meeting: "Morals shouldn't come into planning applications, but most of the residents are in their 70s or 80s, and I think when councillors saw some of them at the meeting, they realised that they couldn't do that to people.

"Hereward told us it would cost £1.5 million to repair all the houses, and that it made more sense to demolish them. But the alternative housing that they were offering was inadequate.

"There was only a possibility of being offered housing on the new site, and others would be rehoused elsewhere in East Cambs. On the new site they would be in higher density houses with postage stamp gardens."

Liberal Democrat councillor Sheila Friend-Smith appealed for the homes to be saved.

"The houses were built for soldiers returning from the Second World War, and were called Homes Fit for Heroes at the time," she said.

"These residents don't want to be part of a regeneration project. This area has community values that we are used to taking for granted."

Conservative Bill Hunt also weighed in on the residents' side: "I think that, as councillors, we have a duty to protect these people's quality of life," he told the committee.

Members of East Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee then rejected their officer's recommendation to defer and voted by a large majority to throw out the plans, earning themselves a round of applause from victorious residents.

Residents are concerned; however, that RPS Group will come back with fresh plans to develop the site.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Hereward said: "We are disappointed at the decision of the Planning Committee as we have undertaken extensive consultation with the council and local residents and believe that our proposals would have made a real improvement to the quality of the environment as well as providing new affordable homes for local people.

"We are awaiting the detailed reasons for the council's decision and we shall consider these before making any decision about any future regeneration proposals.

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