As protestors rally against Fenland’s controversial ‘windfall’ policy, March family prepares for ‘windfall’ policy to build 30 homes

Estover Playing Field. Picture: TREVOR WATSON

Estover Playing Field. Picture: TREVOR WATSON - Credit: Archant

As the fight over Estover playing fields rages within three local councils, a surprise move was announced today to build 30 homes on other land in NE March.

Wisbech estate agent John Maxey has submitted an outline planning application to Fenland Council for 30 homes on three of the 20 acres owned by the Wilkinson family and to extend the Berryfields estate.

Mr Maxey believes the smaller scale of the Wilkinson application is more likely to win residents’ approval, using part of the 249 homes maximum that Fenland Council says is possible under its windfall policy.

“What we are saying is that here is a sensible proposal that doesn’t have to be too many houses and shouldn’t affect the playing field at Estover,” he said.

Mr Maxey confirmed the application would include some affordable housing and a possible contribution towards open space/leisure which could possibly be used by the Estover playing fields.

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The success of the Wilkinson bid will be determined by Fenland District Council Planning Committee in the New Year but will be affected by the ongoing debate over the Local Plan.

Cambridgeshire County Council owns 20 of the 80 acres in NE March, including the playing field, and want housing on part with the proviso of producing money to improve the playing facilities at Estover.

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And there also remains the likelihood of a bid from St John’s College, Cambridge, for housing on the 40 acres in NE March that they own. Recent excavation work in the area is thought to have been undertaken by the college ahead of a possible application.

But Fenland Council continues to argue whether its Local Plan removed all housing from NE March – councillors having voted to remove a strategic allocation of 400 homes last year.

However officers believe this leaves room for up to 249 homes under the council’s windfall policy but some councillors have argued there is no such policy and than the withdrawal of 400 homes meant a ban on all future house building there.

On Friday officers from the county council met Councillor Kit Owen, the mayor of March and town clerk Clive Lemmon to try and find a solution to the ongoing arguments.

Last week the county council postponed a possible sale of Estover to the January meeting after some councillors claimed insufficient information had been prepared.

One item missing from the debate was the decision by the town council – ratified by the district council- to make Estover an asset of community value.

Cllr Owen and Mr Lemmon issued a statement to other town councillors today in which they accused Fenland Council officers of “deliberately” passing on private correspondence between the town and district councils.

This, they argued, would enable the county council “to move quickly with their proposals in order to avoid the potential constraints contained within the emerging March Neighbourhood Plan”.

The town council is to a make a formal complaint to Fenland Council claiming that a senior officer had attempted “to undermine our efforts in a manner that, in normal circumstances, would not be found out. It surely cannot be right for a planning authority to give a planning applicant inside information to attempt to foil the actions of opposition groups or the local council in question.”

Meanwhile county council leader Steve Count, who is also a town councillor but who has spearheaded the move for a mix of housing at Estover in return for help with sports facilities, faces a tough few days.

On Thursday he will be at a meeting of Conservative Association officials in his bid to become a district council candidate at next May’s elections.

• A public meeting about the future of Estover is at 7.30pm on Wednesday at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel, March. All welcome.

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