Councillor calls for inquiry following claims of being ‘duped’ over Local Plan and Estover housing

Overview and Scrutiny committee of the leader’s annual meeting with the committee. Cllr Peter Tunley

Overview and Scrutiny committee of the leader’s annual meeting with the committee. Cllr Peter Tunley. - Credit: Archant

A councillor has claimed both he and many colleagues on Fenland Council were “duped” into agreeing to the Core Strategy which banned development in North East March.

Councillor Peter Tunley has already quit the Conservative group on Fenland Council over the issue and is now demanding an inquiry into the handling of the strategy, which later became the Local Plan.

Cllr Tunley held talks this week with Fenland chief executive Paul Medd and corporate director Gary Garford to voice his concerns over a loophole which could allow hundreds of homes still to be built there.

Cllr Tunley said it was not officers’ fault since they had been briefed by the council’s cabinet on what was required from the Local Plan.

“During this meeting it became clear to me that we have all been acting on misinformation or perhaps terminology,” he said.

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“I was advised that officers had been instructed to develop a Core Strategy providing a flexible approach to future development in Fenland, and this they have done; the Core Strategy identifies allocated sites to accommodate major development of over 250 dwellings and on all other unallocated areas.”

This meant the council would be forced to adopt “a flexible approach to development catering for 1 to 249 homes.

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“I was aware of the flexible approach being applied but not aware of the implications of such an approach. This was never made clear.”

Referring to the proposals put forward by county council leader Steve Count for homes at Estover in return for some sports provision, Cllr Tunley said the Local Plan had ruled out any form of development there.

“I do not know whether other members are aware of this flexible approach and the implications,” said Cllr Tunley. “What I do know is that I feel let down by the responsible FDC elected members who instigated this Core Strategy and gave the brief to officers. They have prepared a document to their instructions, and by those FDC elected members not effectively transmitting that information effectively they have let residents down.”

Fenland Council leader John Clark told March Town Council that after the 450 homes had been withdrawn from the Core Strategy, it was always known up to 250 homes could come forward as an “unplanned windfall”.

Cllr Clark said: “The Government inspector had even pointed out that ‘such ad hoc windfalls may come forward in the northern area of March in any event’”.

He said of Estover that it was “entirely down to land owners to prepare and submit proposals for consideration which the council will obviously consult the various stakeholders, including the town council, in line with our laid down process”.

He suggested talks with all those parties concerned about the issue to meet “to help find a mutually acceptable solution that will provide long term benefits to March”.

What do you think of homes at Estover in exchange for sport provision? Should the any housing be allowed there? Email

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