May 19 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy
Friday, March 22, 2013
DEVELOPERS called for urgent talks with Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton to consider the “potential effects” of his arbitrary decision to scrap 450 homes planned for Estover in March.
Estate agent John Maxey, who chairs a Fenland wide forum of builders, developers and architects, said today that as recently as Wednesday senior council officers had been saying there would be no alterations to the Core Strategy.
“I am not clear as to the reasoning or need for a sudden change……unless it is connected with forthcoming elections,” says Mr Maxey in a letter sent today to Cllr Melton.
Cllr Melton dropped his bombshell during a Cabinet meeting yesterday when he announced he would be recommending to councillors that the proposed allocation of housing for Estover is deleted.
“The council will discontinue promoting the site,” said Cllr Melton, a surprise announcement that only a handful of those closest to him are thought to have known about.
According to Mr Maxey his vice chairman of the forum, Gary Garford, corporate director of Fenland Council, hadn’t been warned of the pending announcement.
“At our meeting on Wednesday officers were specifically and at some length asked about the process for any changes to the Core Strategy as a result of representations,” said Mr Maxey.
“We were advised by Mr Garford that the council, having adopted the current draft for submission purposes, there would be no alterations prior to the examination in public, other than minor corrections that are permitted by the process.”
Mr Maxey told Cllr Melton that “I am sure Gary gave his answer in good faith and your announcement the next day demonstrates a lack of coordinated management of the affairs of Fenland.”
The forum chairman also claimed such changes could hold back house building in the whole of Fenland and also begged the question as to who would pay for work already done on the existing Core Strategy.
Privately many developers believe Fenland Council have left themselves open to legal challenges because of the time and money they have spent and which will now be wasted.
Mr Maxey believes that many will have spent money on schemes that will now be wasted and that clients will be unhappy at having to pay for this aborted work.
“Who will pay for this wasted time and cost – FDC?” he told Cllr Melton. “The timing of your announcement is most unfortunate.”
Cllr Melton insists he has been listening “very carefully to the concerns that many people and local members have expressed. I share many of those concerns”. For that reason he had questioned whether the council had made the right decision in promoting the Estover development- and had now decided it hadn’t.