October 23 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Thursday, September 4, 2014
A Conservative councillor claimed his party faces “political ruination” after it was revealed that a technical loophole has kept open the door for up to 249 homes to be built at Estover.
Councillor Peter Tunley said it was “unbelievable” that a year after Fenland District Council had voted to remove any new housing from North East March, there was now talk of homes being built there.
He said an email on Wednesday from Graham Nourse, head of planning, went against “everything councillors stood for, and every principle I hold dear”.
In May of last year council leader Alan Melton paved the way for the vote which saw all 450 homes proposed for North East March pulled from the core strategy, now the local plan.
“Never in a month of Sundays did we suspect then that a year later we would be told the council could still build there,” said Cllr Tunley. “It’s a slap in the face for the whole town, and an affront”.
The email from Mr Nourse explained that although “North East March was deleted as a strategic allocation for growth, the locality is still subject to other policies contained within the adopted local plan”.
The planning chief explained that the plan allows for “windfall” proposals of up to 249 homes “in or adjacent to a market town to be considered for planning approval. This is in line with the plan’s pro-growth objective”.
In July Cllr Tunley walked out of the Conservative group at Fenland Hall after refusing to amend or withdraw a motion – later defeated – that would have maintained the anti housing stance for Estover.
Instead councillors opted for a compromise agreement that will see leaders of Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland District Council and March Town Council meet today (Fri) to consider options.
Various ideas for Estover –including that of an improved sports offer in return for some housing- will be discussed.
But Cllr Tunley believes “it is time for district councillors to stand up and be counted. It is time to decide out loyalties. It is time for those councillors who sit on both Fenland and Cambridgeshire councils to decide which master they serve and who are they are answerable to”.
He added: “They kicked me out, put me if you like in a corner over this issue. But I am determined to tell it as it is. It will be the ruination of the Conservative Party in March if we go back on this. It is a fictitious windfall they are talking about. Members of Fenland Council said last year – and voted with one abstention- to delete all housing from this area.
“How on earth can they say, a year later, that we could get 249 houses there because of a windfall policy? Not one councillor present last year knew about this windfall – and a windfall is certainly not 249 homes”.
Mr Nourse explained that “for any development to proceed at Estover, under the windfall policy, it would need to be tested against a robust suite of planning policies.”