READER LETTERS: Debate continues over village development plan

Charles Roberts, former council leader and now special adviser to Mayor James Palmer, is the driving

Charles Roberts, former council leader and now special adviser to Mayor James Palmer, is the driving force between Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust. He says a dossier has been put together of hostile commens bordering on abuse by opponents of the Wilburton scheme, He is seen at Camp's Field, Wilburton. Picture; JOHN ELWORTHY - Credit: Archant

Save our village of Wilburton from over development

Plans for the CLT development at Wilburton unveiled at public meetings and among those to speak was

Plans for the CLT development at Wilburton unveiled at public meetings and among those to speak was Charles Roberts, chair of the land trust and now housing adviser to mayor James Palmer - Credit: Archant

We were surprised to read Mr Roberts’ unsubstantiated accusations on the front page of the Ely Standard.

Our impression is that the scores of residents involved with Save Wilburton from Overdevelopment are concerned by issues like the large size of the Camps Field development proposal relative to the village, negative impacts on infrastructure and the character of Wilburton, and faux community engagement exercises.

Open democratic debate should be encouraged with respect to any potential ‘community led’ development.

We are concerned that the aggressive stance taken by Mr Roberts towards members of our community who disagree with him about the issues, without presenting evidence that these unnamed individuals have done anything wrong, is his considered response to the recent parish council survey which indicated that an overwhelming majority in the village oppose his plans for Wilburton.

Results of survey reflect widespread opposition to the land trust development,

Results of survey reflect widespread opposition to the land trust development, - Credit: Archant

The tone and language used in his published comments may intimidate residents who ought to be celebrated for caring about the future of their community.

Perhaps the chair of the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust might consider accepting responsibility for how upset many villagers in Wilburton have been by the submission of this planning application immediately after a clear NO was returned by the village survey, and just as the virus lockdown began.

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Some in Wilburton feel powerless in the face of a development proposal being aggressively promoted by well-connected and powerful political figures in our region.

Many worry that the laudable aims of community led development are undermined when this is the case.

Results of survey reflect widespread opposition to the land trust development, Scenes from a very ea

Results of survey reflect widespread opposition to the land trust development, Scenes from a very early public meeting where the plans were discussed - Credit: Archant

The members of the Save Wilburton From Overdevelopment are as follows:

1. Viv Bamborough

2. Robin Tome Fernandez

3. William Everitt

4. Keith Furness

5. Pauline Furness

6. Susan Greene

7. David Greene

8. Rod Goodhew

9. Mary Goodhew

10. Stephen Smith

11. Pamela Smith

12. Susan Everitt

13. Sue Warren

14. Phillip Warren

15. Peter Warren

16. Jenny Warren

17. Mark Duckworth

18. Maureen Harrington

19. Geoff Peck

20. Linda Peck

21. Nicholas Michelsen

22. Victoria Michelsen

23. Barbara Yarrow

24. Alan Yarrow

25. Steve Griffiths

26. Sandra Knight

27. Neil Gott

28. Michelle Gott

29. Ronnie Turpie

30. Fraser Turpie

31. Michelle Turpie

32. Tomas Turpie

33. Ruth Everitt

34. Phil Parker

35. Mary Parker

36. Rob Sampson

37. Margaret Sampson

38. Richard Sampson

39. John Smith

40. Eileen Smith

41. Sandra Scott

42. Brian Scott

43. Marty Garbutt

44. Ruth Garbutt

45. Charlie Gienke

46. Georgie Gienke

47. Nigel Pymont

48. Brenda Pymont

49. Chris McIntyre

50. Natalie McIntyre

51. Samantha Naidu

52. Bruce Prime

53. Joy Prime

54. Chris Day

55. Val Limb


Support from land trust chairman

I write in response to last week’s front page, ‘New homes plan causes outrage in community’.

For months now, trustees of the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust - and seemingly anyone associated or showing a modicum of support for our work - have been the subject of a targeted, largely clandestine and highly orchestrated campaign of bitter nastiness.

This “outrage” to community homes at Camp’s Field, Wilburton, comes from a small cadre of mean-minded, pitiless individuals who the Ely Standard for some reason is unable, or unwilling, to name.

So let’s shine a light on what their real issue is. Because I do know some of them, and I’m now calling out their behaviour for what it is.

And first let me say that I have absolutely no issue with robust, forthright views which oppose the plans at Camp’s Field.

That’s a sacred right.

But this particular streak of opposition goes beyond that.

These people are wreckers and they are blockers.

They target from behind keyboards, via social media.

They have no concern for creating a community which offers a place for everyone, regardless of wealth or background.

Yet they say they want affordable homes for local people.

They say they understand the misery of the housing crisis, where lack of affordability wrenches people from communities where they work or have strong ties.

They then have the temerity to come out to clap our NHS staff during coronavirus, many of whom couldn’t afford to live in Wilburton.

The message being: ‘We’ll praise our heroes FROM our doorstep, but we don’t want them anywhere NEAR our doorstep’.

Because the 35 affordable homes at Camp’s Field would absolutely offer a place to live for a nurse, a teacher, a care home worker, a supermarket employee and an Amazon delivery driver.

We have a solution, right here, right now, driven by the community, for the community.

We’ve been successful in Stretham already, and we can do it again.

Not only are we helping to create a thriving community for everyone, but we have already built £6 million in property assets, producing £12,500 in monthly rental income, all legally locked to the community for its benefit.

Community-led development is not synonymous with winning over 100% of the village.

It is local people taking back a little bit of control to deliver something that will benefit everyone for generations to come.

But they want to bring it down.

Many of them have moved here recently from outside the county, to see out their sunset years in an ossified village exclusively made up of wealthy retirees in a feudal community where they have control.

“If you can’t afford to live here, tough luck. Clear off.”

So it’s no surprise they don’t believe there is a long waiting list of local people wanting an affordable home.

And no surprise they state new community-owned assets like green spaces, sports facilities or other amenities are “neither needed, nor wanted”.

Neither needed, nor wanted. That’s also the message they send to a young family of key workers, who grew up here, but have no hope of living in the place they call home.

CHARLES ROBERTS, chairman of the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust

Unanswered questions

I am writing to you as someone who has looked in depth into CLTs across England, and support the general aims that they stand for.

The National CLT handbook is a good source of information on how it should be done. I have also attended every possible public event SWCLT have held in an attempt to ask questions and be informed - they claim to be “open and honest” - but rarely do they provide the information.

I made an informed decision to object to the proposals, with the location, scale and low provision of affordable housing pinned to high market prices being main concerns.

The two letters published from Mr Hennessy and Mr Roberts demonstrate the attitude taken towards those who do form their own opinion which differs from theirs - with attempts to silence opposition apparent both in Wilburton and in other CLTs in East Cambs, particularly Kennett.

Yet neither letters demonstrated community support, a policy requirement in the local plan and an “essential requirement” Mr Roberts has previously presented.

For Wilburton, this sizeable development is some distance from the centre of the village. Distance figures quoted in the planning documents are from the entrance to the site, not the middle or furthest houses.

To get to the main bus stops serving Cambridge (a single bus at around 7:30am out and 6:30pm return), would require crossing the main road twice and two side roads - one which is getting

increasingly busy during peak time.

Traffic calming has been suggested - via a pedestrian crossing: are they seriously proposing to slow traffic by having children cross the road in a 40mph limit - if so then maybe they would like to volunteer as lollipop men?

One of my main concerns is the provision of only 30% of affordable housing, with prices based on a high market price, not local wages.

It is misleading to label that “genuinely affordable”. Figures from the National CLT (from Feb 2019) show that for almost 800 houses developed by CLTs in England, over 80% were classed as affordable, with a just under 17% being market houses.

In South Cambridgeshire, including Cottenham, CLTs are aiming to provide at least 80% affordable housing - even commercial housing sites are required to provide 40%.

In the south of this district, the local plan stipulates 40% affordable housing - yet the provision for Kennett CLT is only 30% - how can that be something to support?

Figures from CLTs around England show the provision suggested for Wilburton (and others supported by ECDC) is one of the lowest.

The development will also not provide any social housing. I have previously asked questions regarding affordability and total cost of ownership of these homes - something neither Mr Hennessy nor Mr Roberts has been willing or able to answer.

Given that this has been the key point made throughout the box-ticking engagement process, the community should to be informed.

A figure of 20% below market rate is often stated - but what does this relate to? Just the value of the house, not the expected total monthly payments.

If local market housing is 12x local wages, 80% is 9.6 times - how is that “genuinely affordable”? It seems to be a bit less expensive.

There are also ongoing costs of rent and service charges on top of any “leased share” - the total costs are important, not an overly simplistic 80% figure.

I agree it will help some, but is it really as affordable as we are being led to believe? At various SWCLT box-ticking public events, the combined forces of the SWCLT and some Parish

Councillors have been unleashed on the community.

Important questions were asked by many, but answers avoided when the SWCLT didn’t want to answer. It is odd that these two letters do not mention their behaviour in meetings - which has in part increased opposition to the development as people doubt it is as genuine as they claim - shouting does not answer questions.

As Mr Hennessy picked a quote, then so shall I after reviewing the 3rd event. One that particularly caught my attention was “I’ve got to make sure that this school doesn’t close” - where did he get his facts from to suggest the school was going to close?

It has been repeated several times since around the village, causing obvious concern. At the time of the meeting (Feb 2019), the school was preparing documents to submit to the county council to extend the use of the temporary classroom beyond August 2019 - with the planning documents stating: “te latest pupil forecasts from the county research group indicate that the number on roll will be well in excess of the school’s permanent capacity of 120 places for the next five years.”

When later asked if the school could take the numbers, Mr Roberts stated, “We are told by the school that actually, yes, more is important”. It may be now, due to two consecutive low intake years going through the school, but this is a planning issue which has to be based on forecasts for the years to come and cumulative development in the catchment area.

Mr Roberts also said “you are talking about 120 houses on here but many many years away” - which clearly will not help the current situation in the school.

We can now see from the County Council document submitted to the planning portal that, based on catchment forecast figures and development in the village, “this means that by 2022/23 the total

population will be 184 and there will not be capacity at Wilburton CofE Primary school”.

Although only a catchment forecast, it is the best knowledge available and suggests a school unlikely to cope rather than one to be saved from closing.

The county council propose to take the additional children via an extension of Haddenham School, not Wilburton.

I invested a lot of time and effort in helping both the pre-school and school via committees when my daughter attended and I want to see it thrive - but I also did not expect it to be used to gain support for a large development in the way it has.

The intake figures for 2019 and places offered for 2020 are both at or above the level recommended for the school (20). The county council decide on the school, and were happy to make their forecast figures available.

One SWCLT trustee was unable (or maybe unwilling) to give an answer regarding catchment and potential intake figures for 2019 when asked directly at a meeting, despite being a school governor.

It should be noted that neither the current Stretham nor Haddenham CLT developments have made or will make Section 106 payments for school facilities (Freedom of Information Request FOI/EIR

20/21-001) - this has not been mentioned at any SWCLT event.

How can this be allowed to happen for large scale development across the villages? Maybe one for ECDC as the LPA to answer. At the other end of the age range, both Mr Roberts and Mr Hennessy have stated the village risks becoming a geriatric village.

What are they basing this on? The last census shows Wilburton to have a lower percentage of older people as a proportion of the population than the district as a whole (totals of 75 and over - 7.6% in Wilburton, 8.1% in the District, 2011 figures).

Current school pupil forecasts suggest there are an increasing number of young families here, with pupil numbers growing steadily from 90 in 2008 to over 120 now.

The census does show a higher proportion of retired people in the village - but many are younger retirees, not geriatrics.

Of those I know, some have either already moved away and others plan to - as do we, this will not be our “sunset” home. Having moved away from it’s historic farming heritage, Wilburton is now a commuter village, serving Cambridge.

The SWCLT developer previously stated proximity to Cambridge being a reason to build here. Yet 34 of the proposed houses on the SWCLT site are to be bungalows (Planning Statement, para

6.26) - that is almost 30% of the development - with at least 25% of the CLT houses being bungalows.

We have been repeatedly told these are homes for people to live and work locally - not to retire to. It would appear to be a development neither Mr Hennessy nor Mr Roberts should

support, given the opinions they have expressed.

Mr Roberts also made the statement that “I would imagine there will be hundreds of jobs in Wilburton” - with no clarification of any details. I am also surprised that the village survey was mentioned - a lot of hard work was put into the

survey, and many in the community appreciate that. Of those who responded, the survey shows only 18% supported the plans (or 33 out of a population of 1013, just 3% of the village).

The parish council this week also suggested there were too few respondents. Should we then void local election results in Littleport Ward (22.1% turnout) and Soham South Ward (23.6% turnout) -

removing five Conservative party candidates from the district council?

If the survey result had shown 75% supported the proposal, would the argument of a low turnout still be made? The survey was suggested by an SWCLT trustee, but vehemently opposed by two other trustees - surely that would suggest they knew they did not have the support of the community.

The wording was agreed by the Parish Council, and the survey included a link to the SWCLT site for information. It had more respondents than any other SWCLT related feedback, possibly even any

CLT feedback in the district.

It would appear toys are being thrown out of the pram, but the community has never shown support for large development. In a document on the ECDC website prior to the 2015 Local Plan (a

document Mr Roberts stated did not exist when I mentioned it) - the results showed the community supported smaller developments of up to 10 houses, but not large developments.

From a planning perspective for community led development, the support for a particular scheme has to be evidenced, not the opposition. To date, this has not happened for Wilburton. Stating there are 132 members of the CLT is misleading in terms of support for a particular scheme unless their opinion on that scheme has been requested.

Many SWCLT members have submitted letters of objection to the planning portal. Members are saying they have had no input to the process at all. Does that even constitute a sound CLT given their legal definition - one of being democratically run by their members who should be involved in key decisions throughout the process?

To suggest “If you can’t afford to live here, tough luck. Clear off” is insulting to many of us in this community who support the notion of a CLT development, just not this approach to CLT

development. It shows the level to which “supporters” are prepared to stoop.

Members of my family are working on the front line, in the NHS, and I shall continue to support them. Maybe his beloved Tory party should be supporting the NHS with more than clapping?

My view is we should be providing more affordable housing locally tied to local wages, not high market prices - without the majority expensive open market housing for commuters.

The planning policy states an “element of open market housing” may be allowed, not the vast majority. But would that provide much need funding to ECDC via their trading company to cover massive future funding shortfalls? Probably not.

As one SWCLT trustee stated at the Feb 2019 event, “this is a golden opportunity for an authority”. He quickly changed what he said.


There is a housing crisis in Britain - and East Cambs is no exception

My main concern is that there is a housing crisis in Britain, and East Cambs is no exception.

People find it difficult to get on the housing ladder, there is an increasingly number of households in the UK, and we need to find different ways to help them.

When it comes to the development in Wilburton there seems to be two issues, the first is that it will spoil the nature of Wilburton, the second is that the development will not provide truly affordable housing.

I don’t agree with the first point, Wilburton is a small village, it has a lack of facilities, and traffic issues.

I hope that if there are more houses in the village, we may get more facilities, and all the traffic will be spending money and supporting the village, rather than just travelling through it at significantly over the speed limit.

There are a lack of homes for young people growing up in this and nearby villages.

There is plenty of space in Wilburton, if we don’t use it, where are they meant to build houses?

It doesn’t always feel very welcoming to “newcomers” and this does feel more like villages closing its doors to outsiders.

I disagree with the assertion from the protest group that this is “threat to the character and setting of the village”, every village has to evolve and grow.

The defining characteristic of Wilburton is traffic.

The new houses won’t lead to a huge increase in traffic levels, and may lead to things like more traffic calming measures, and over time a better business case for improved school facilities, more shops in the village etc.

In terms of the concerns about the whether this will deliver truly affordable housing, there is probably a genuine concern.

This is clearly an attempt to try to provide housing.

I do have questions and concerns about the allocation process for these houses, but doing something has to be better than doing nothing.

There are also accusations of croneyism which are not without foundation.

This is a good idea that has been executed very badly.

Thank you for maintaining my confidentiality.

If you ever run a story about speeding vehicles in lockdown, you should also pop over to Wilburton, to most residents it is a far bigger concern it’s just dangerous at moment.


View from local parish councillor

I am writing to you as one of the Wilburton Parish Councillors who resigned (as mentioned in your column) as a result of personal abuse on social media and elsewhere which was organised by the ‘Save Wilburton from Over Development’ group.

At least three councillors have resigned because of their campaign, including the two most recent chairmen.

I am in favour of the development, and I have absolutely no issue with any opposition to my views, and I fully accept in democratic society others may be against it.

What I find harder to accept is personal attacks aimed at those you don’t agree with, which flies in the face of democratic debate.

I am also concerned that such attacks from a very small but very well organised and committed group may dissuade other people from expressing their views.

The reality is that having orchestrated as much support as they possibly could, the group managed to persuade 145 individuals in a population of 1,013 to support them.

That is 14 per cent, which they are portraying as ‘emphatically overwhelming opposition’.

I am unsure how they believe they can describe 14 per cent as ‘overwhelming opposition’.

Their campaign has contained a significant number of opinions, which they are absolutely entitled to, but they have portrayed their opinions as factual evidence. One might interpret this as ‘fake news’.

It might be of interest to note that one of the organisers of the campaign, who describes himself as a ‘professional academic’ has actually had papers published on fake news and the way societies can be manipulated.

To quote one of his papers: ‘the partial displacement of one-to-many media platforms, like the BBC, by many-to-many social media platforms seem to have rendered it easier for very small groups to foster extremism’ . I think he is right.

I am not suggesting that the work of the Save Wilburton group is being carried out to demonstrate the truth in this theory, however it is a point of interest.


Our community is suffering because of this scheme

I am writing to you in regard to the article published in last week’s Ely Standard (dated May 7) about the new development in Wilburton, and the SWCLT.

I was born and brought up in the village and have lived 56 of my 61 years here.

I think you could call me a ‘local’ and I very much welcome newcomers to the village.

Our community is as wonderful as it is because of the new people who have moved into Wilburton.

I was a fan of the Community Land Trust when it was first set up.

I was very excited about the proposed development in Stretham with its added benefits for the village like the new doctor’s surgery and other promised amenities which would be good for the villagers.

Our youngest child was wanting to buy a house so this opportunity of an affordable home for him and his partner was wonderful. His partner got a job in Wilburton and together they went to look at a property in the Stretham CLT development and they loved it.

But then they tried to buy it, finding out very quickly that it was not affordable at all. With two bedroomed, so called affordable homes costing £250,000,

the costs of purchasing an 80 per cent share along with rents for the remainder and a service charge were prohibitive, and beyond the means of many local people on local wages.

In the event they looked at market homes in the area and are now happily in their own home just a few miles away in Littleport,

purchased (100 per cent not 80 per cent) for £180,000 - £70.000 cheaper than the “opportunity” in Stretham.

As for the doctor’s surgery, this has still to materialise at all. I understand there are now houses on the allocated site?

Since 2002 there have been two attempts to build towns on our doorstep so excuse us if we are a bit wary.

Apart from the Camp’s Field plans there are other smaller developments and infill plans for Wilburton which have or will provide around 80 extra houses in the Village, including some affordable homes. For the most part these extra homes within the village envelope.

Do we really need another 115 houses on top of these more sensibly placed developments?

NO, we really don’t.

• The area that the Camps Field site site is on, isn’t in the village envelope so it’s not going to be ‘in’ the village.

• This area could easily be enlarged to take up a huge area starting at this point. Sorry I don’t trust them.

• The one entrance proposed is very narrow for the number of proposed houses (and only one entrance?)

• Why, if this development is primarily about giving local people affordable houses, is it planned to provide the absolute minimum number required by any development. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

• Apparently, the planners have done their research and only 22 per cent (think that was what was stated) will be actually going to work down Twenty Pence Road (that’s a relief then - sorry I sound a little sarcastic!)

We live at West End and the traffic is usually static in the mornings, a result of heavy traffic numbers travelling from the direction of Haddenham and because traffic coming from the A10 has priority turning into Twentypence road.

There are literally 100’s of new homes being planned in the surrounding villages which will only make this worse.

• I personally have great respect for the Save Wilburton from Over Development Group (which is far far more than just three people. The group has done so much work looking into this whole scheme and reporting back to the community. They have been transparent and have reported back (with evidence) what they have found.

• Contrary to the suggestions made by Mr Roberts, I can say that as an avid follower of the Save Wilburton social media pages I have never seen any postings which might be construed as abusive to anyone.

• As this scheme was moving quite fast my husband and I wanted to find out more about it.

So when an offer was made to join the SWCLT we jumped at the offer as we thought as last we would find out what was going on apart from the few occasions there were ‘sales pitches’ at the village hall.

We filled the form and posted it with our money. A long time later we finally got our certificate saying we’d been accepted (some were refused I believe).

Then we waited for news…… and waited…… and waited, nothing.

I understand that the SWCLT are of the opinion that their obligations to consult with their membership have been satisfied by the issue of leaflets to the wider community!

Then, very recently, we both received an email saying we could watch the virtual SWCLT AGM meeting on May 20. The cynical side of me wonders if they have been pressurised into this as I know others have complained about the lack of communication?

It stated in your article that there are “132 local members who support their aims”. In actual fact, supporting the aims of the SWCLT is a condition of membership so the statement is hardly surprising.

But supporting the aims does not mean supporting everything that the SWCLT says or does and as far as Camps Field is concerned my husband and I are two who certainly don’t. And we haven’t been asked.

Also, your article states “73 eligible local families who have expressed an interest in an affordable home” well I know of just two people who have looked into it.

It seems unlikely that there are so many but then perhaps my son and partner are still on the list.

Your article also states “the scheme was initiated by, and is being led by, a “legitimate local community group” and has general community support, with evidence of meaningful public engagement”. But where is this evidence?

• I did attend a parish council meeting when the village survey results were presented. It was unfortunate that the meeting was arranged for when only three councillors could attend.

And it was disappointing that the PC chose to take the survey results personally instead of grasping the clear message that the results conveyed. In the event the Parish Council did nothing, and still hasn’t.

I was also quite shocked to discover that members of the parish council who are also SWCLT trustees are allowed to vote on the issue of whether the parish council should endorse this proposal or not.

Conflict of interest or what! On a personal note I was very pleased to discover that the survey results showed that those who took part in the survey were heavily against the idea of the scheme.

I was also pleased to see that those who were obviously very anti the scheme were most respectful and not unpleasant during this meeting.

Wasn’t too impressed when the item was finished and I got up to leave that I was heckled from a member of the council.

I feel this community is suffering because of this scheme. I am not at all surprised that the wonderful community spirit is being torn asunder with all this going on.

At least with the two previous huge developments it was us against the planners whereas the Camps Field plans appears to be led by those in authority over us in the village.

No wonder the whole village is in such distress.


Scheme is a ‘fantastic idea’

I am writing to express my support for the CLT project in Wilburton. I currently live in a CLT property in Stretham and have done for nearly three years.

The scheme is a fantastic idea to ensure local people are provided with affordable housing in a village they have a strong connection with.

It has meant that my partner, three-year-old daughter and I can live in the village I grew up, and in which several family members also live.

The architecture and design of the properties is rather unique and not comparable with the typical bland housing estates you see these days, in which properties all look very much alike.

I feel this adds much more character to the village. From what I have seen of the plans for Wilburton, I feel the facilities that are looking to be provided would be an excellent addition to a village that at present doesn’t have a great deal.

It would only add value to the residents of Wilburton and surrounding areas.


Four-bed CLT property would ‘change our lives’

I am writing in support for CLT at Wilburton on behalf of myself and my family (myself, husband and four children).

We currently live in Littleport. I was born and raised in Haddenham, my husband Stretham.

We have been in Littleport for 17 years living in a mortgaged property, but cannot afford to buy or rent in Stretham or Wilburton due to high property prices compared to Littleport and average earning wages.

Our children are at Stretham Primary School, my husband works for the family business in Stretham and our boys play for Stretham Sporting.

My husband’s parents, grandmother, brother and uncle live in Stretham. My family Wilburton and my father Haddenham.

I am a trainee nurse, and very much depend on family for childcare and support. They very much help raise our family.

If a CLT property (we are seeking a four-bed property) comes available in Wilburton, it would change our lives.

There were no four-beds with CLT at Stretham, so if Wilburton CLT cater for larger families it would be life changing for us as a family.

We are constantly up and down the A10 back and forth from school and after school activities and spend many hours in the car.

Both sets of parents are aging and need our support more and more. My father at Haddenham is very frail and lives alone and I often get calls to support him.

I hope you acknowledge our want and need to get to Wilburton.


‘Wonderful idea’ to build more affordable housing

How are you? Just to let you know I am in complete support of the housing plans for Camp Field, Wilburton.

While on a trip to Ibiza I got knocked down one night by a hit and run driver leaving me paralysed and unable to ever walk, talk or use my right arm again.

So I think it is a WONDERFUL idea to build more affordable housing.

My wife lives in Stretham but she cannot house me because of my disabilities. I live in a very small, separate bungalow some 40 minutes away and neither of us can drive, so a modified home in the next village or even Stretham itself would be perfect.


Returning home would be ‘unachievable’ without this scheme

I saw your appeal on Twitter about the Wilburton community land trust applications, and I wanted to voice my opinion. I am currently a tenant in one of the SWCLT houses in Stretham.

I was extremely fortunate to be offered this property, because despite the fact that I am a young working professional (veterinary nurse) who has always lived and worked in the local area, I was unable to afford a property within the area due to high prices and lack of housing suitable to a single person wage.

I look forward to the development in Wilburton. For me, personally, it will mean that I have the opportunity to return and live in the village which I was born and grew up in.

My elderly parents still live there and being close to them and in the village which I consider my home would be unachievable without such a scheme.

I know several people (such as my neighbour who is also a Wilburton local) that would benefit greatly from this.


‘Huge asset’ to the village

We were offered a rental property within the Stretham development at the end of last year.

This has been extremely beneficial for us, as a family, as we have finally been able to gain independence again. Previous to that, we were living with my parents.

It was vital for us to remain in, or near, Wilburton where we have always lived. However, private renting was not feasible because of the extortionate prices (even with two consistent wages). Staying local means that both my partner and I can continue with our current jobs, without additional commuting, as well vital childcare arrangements that have been in place (with my parents).

The children can continue consistent relationships with friends in the villages - rather than having to relocate which was looking like the only option!

Our network has extended since moving to Stretham and we have a greater network of friends.

I honestly believe that if we had gone into private renting, we perhaps would not be able to build this network as there are few areas developed in a such a way - integrating residents.

There is definitely a community feel within the development (and not just with the CLT occupants).

I think Camps Field in Wilburton would be a huge asset to the village. The additional play areas would be beneficial for the children of the surrounding areas and the housing would be positive for residents with current applications that are unable to private rent or get on the housing ladder without assistance.

I have always been in support of the CLT and the benefits the properties bring to the villages and it’s residence.


Being able to set up base in a place I already call home is perfect

I’m emailing to express my strong support for the development of more affordable home for local residents in the Stretham and Wilburton area.

Being a resident of Stretham for 22 years after being posted here when my father was in the British Army, and now being in the Royal Navy myself, wanting to stay in the area is not possible financially due to soaring house prices in the area.

So having these opportunities that the SWCLT offer is perfect for me and my partner to set up base in a place that I already call home - just not my own, yet!


Why are CLTs going wrong?

If you live in East Cambs, you will know there is growing concern around the CLTs in Wilburton and Kennett.

From initial investigation I think we have a problem, but it’s a complex story and this article is the first part of what I expect to be a long and difficult dialogue.

First, some background. Community Land Trusts (CLTs) exist to help local people lead, define and manage human-scale developments that are genuinely wanted by the community.

They are often gifted or offered land at very low cost, and are an antidote to big, impersonal, commercial developments. It’s a great idea. I support it.

Yet there is growing opposition here, so I decided to take a closer look.

I analysed the concept as for any system, process or organisation: by first identifying the weaknesses.

I think CLTs, as they operate in our district, have three built-in weaknesses. See what you think.

First, CLTs are NOT regulated. They are part of a network, and they are registered with the FCA but they are NOT, repeat NOT regulated. Who says? The FCA, that’s who.

And if no-one regulates you, then you cannot be held accountable against clear rules. So what kind of rules should govern CLTs?

We might want to start with the distinct but similar UK Government Community Right to Build approach, which… “enables the community to design, plan and build a small-scale development of community facilities or housing. 

“The development cannot increase the size of the community by more than 10% over a 10-year period.”

It also states that proposals must “have the agreement of more than 50% of local people that vote through a community referendum”.

With this, everyone knows where they stand. Not the same with our CLTs. At Kennett, the proposal is for over 300% growth.

At Wilburton an initial 20%, with other plans likely to take it to 30%. As for community support, Kennett residents wrote 165 objection letters, against only 75 for.

At Wilburton, no-one knows what support there is, because it has not been properly measured.

Second, CLTs have the power to create wealth. They can sponsor developments outside the existing planning envelope, which means land chosen for the development can significantly increase in value. No problem if the land is gifted to the CLT. If it’s sold for commercial value, however, well, do you see the problem? I sincerely hope so.

Third, there is a conflict of interest in planning policy. In our area, CLT-led development is at the heart of housing strategy, while the council’s finances depend on it, so planning refusal is, shall we say, unlikely?

At Kennett, the development was actually included in the original Combined Authority Devolution Deal and a council-owned company is lead developer. Why?

At Wilburton, the former leader of ECDC personally helped drive through the project while he was council leader. Why?

In our district, the same people are involved at every level: the people driving the projects are the people in charge of the council which grants planning permission and depends on the profits, and also in charge of the Combined Authority, which lends the money to finance the CLT-led projects. This is banana republic territory.

I make no accusations against any institution or individual. I just point out that the in-built weaknesses of this system make it possible for abuse to occur.

I prefer systems that are designed to eliminate abuse. At East Cambs, the administration has bet a lot on CLT-led development, which may explain why Charles Roberts tried to intimidate Wilburton opponents by threatening to sue them.

A bizarre twist in a very strange tale. What is happening here? Answer: don’t know, but I think we need to find out.


I support the development

I can only speak from a rental perspective and would say I would support a development that provided affordable rental properties for local people.