BREAKING NEWS: Cambridgeshire County Council to give 99 lease to the people of March - Estover is forever ours

Hands off Estover

Hands off Estover - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council has voted to give a 99 year lease- at a peppercorn rent- for the entire Estover playing fields.

The remarkable break through came during a debate at Shire Hall this morning when the general purposes committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion freeing the land to be developed for sports.

It wasn’t without a fight- the Labour leader on the county council Paul Sales describing it as a “scandalous decisions with no costing in terms of lost revenue. You cant make decisions like that on the back of a fag packet.”

County councillor Peter Reeve thanked the Cambs Times, residents and March Town Council for their campaign and also apologised to March people.

“Until now the people of March have only been given short term leases on this land for years meaning they have not been able to get longer leases so not been able to get funding to develop it for sport.”

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(More reaction coming shortly - with photos from the extraordinary meeting at Shire Hall)

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The mayor and deputy mayor of March were among those lobbying Cambridgeshire County Council today to support the ‘Hands Off Estover’ campaign.

Councillor Kit Owen and Councillor Rob Skoulding were joined by councillors Peter Tunley and Jan French and around a dozen other lobbyists to see the motion for possible disposal of Estover debated.

A decision is expected to be taken at the general purposes committee to dispose of Estover playing fields, March, as “surplus to requirements” by the county council.

The crucial vote will be whether county councillors support its ‘disposal’ to the town council under peppercorn lease terms or whether officers still believe it could fetch millions if some is sold off for housing.

For the best part of the past year the argument over whether Estover qualifies for ‘windfall’ housing under the district council has raged.

Two of those at today’s meetings were Peter and Fern Baker of Asplin Avenue, March, who said they were keen for Estover to remain as open space and for its sporting facilities to be developed.

“We care about what’s happening at Estover,” said Mr Baxter who recalled playing football there in his younger days.

Jeannette Shermer of Almond Drive is also at the council meeting, angry that what “Cambridgeshire County Council bought the land for public use so surely it should remain for public use”. She said the town was already badly under provided for with sporting facilities and with health a key issue it was vital Estover remained.

Reporter Kath Sansom and photographer Steve Williams are at Shire Hall for the debate. Their coverage will appear on line later.

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