500 homes for Kennett looks less certain as 140 objections flood in and parish council brands garden village ‘disproportionate and unreasonable’

Kennett Action Group hand in over 140 individual objections at Ely to district council as part of th

Kennett Action Group hand in over 140 individual objections at Ely to district council as part of their campaign to halt 500 homes 'garden village' proposals. The parish council labelled the scheme unreasonable and disproportionate. Picture; ACTION GROUP - Credit: Archant

A flurry of protest letters – at the last count more than 140 – and all signed by villagers destroyed any lingering notion of ‘overwhelming support’ for 500 homes at Kennett.

And the parish council described the proposals as “unprecedented, disproportionate and unreasonable”.

Growing opposition comes ahead of a decision on the planning application on April 24 – eight days before the local elections.

Rebecca Saunt, planning manager of East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) confirmed the date in an email to agents Strutt and Parker.

She said the original target date for a decision was September 28 last year but whilst every endeavour had been made to reach a decision within the statutory time frame “unfortunately this will not be possible”.

Protests handed into ECDC signal widespread and sustained opposition to the garden village scheme.

“Will ECDC still ignore this evidence that the 500 home development is not ‘community led’,” said a spokesman for Kennett Action Group that co-ordinated the protest.

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The letters join other significant protests in recent days including a renewed objection from Kennett Parish Council.

A 900 word objection by the council opens by maintaining that it would be unfair for the village which has just 152 homes to absorb a 330 per cent increase.

“ECDC outlined in the local plan of 2015 that they want to spread the development across the district on a pro-rata basis but this definitely exceeds normal development proportions by some margin,” says the council.

“There is considerable strength of opinion in the village that this growth is disproportionate and unreasonable.

“If the development were to go ahead the current village would possibly become little more than a suburb of the new garden village and its identity would be lost.”

The parish council says impact would be massive including loss of light or privacy, noise, disturbance, significant traffic increase and damage to the countryside.

“Almost the entire rural aspect to the west of the village will be lost,” says the council.

“A small village (as described in 2015 local plan) should not be expected to be increased by over 300 per cent: this is simply not in context with the other East Cambs districts and unprecedented, disproportionate and unreasonable”.

The parish council says the addition of such a large development “will significantly alter the character of the village and will significantly overstretch its facilities.

“The lack of an A11/A14 spur means the village is treated as a ‘rat run’ by heavy goods vehicles in addition to lighter and local vehicle traffic movements”.

And the parish council is critical of the Community Land Trust set up to help deliver the new garden village.

They claim the CLT “is not representative of wider community view” and are questioning whether the CLT membership vote 18 months ago showing only 75 in favour and 35 against can be relied upon to demonstrate the ‘overwhelming support’ claimed.

Retiring ECDC leader Charles Roberts said the CLT for Kennett retained and always had full community support.

“If there is not community support it does not go ahead,” he said. In Kennett that support “has been tested and we are confident of strong support for it”.

He said the Kennett scheme – that formed part of the devolution package for Cambridgeshire – came about after the land owner’s agent approached the council with a view to selling the land on the open market.

He said: “We were aware the landowner was interested, his agents were offering land on the open market and we saw an opportunity to tell the community this may happen, and to use CLT defensively. We said that if it going to be developed the community could be involved and influence and control it and benefit from it long term.”

He said: “There is potential for that site to deliver significantly for East Cambs Council and I don’t apologise for this.

“There are several tens of millions of pounds of potential profit so yes this is significant. There is potential profit in the scheme but of course everyone is going to profit.

“The community is massively profiting through infrastructure and East Cambs taxpayers will profit.”

Because of the council’s involvement, the final decision rests with the Secretary of State.