Fenland’s core strategy approved despite protests against 450 homes planned for north-east March

Estover Road residents petitioned against proposed housing on Estover playing field.

Estover Road residents petitioned against proposed housing on Estover playing field. - Credit: Archant

PLEAS to scrap plans for 450 homes north of March fell on deaf ears when councillors approved Fenland’s planning framework for the next 18 years.

Fenland District Council approved its Core Strategy at its meeting last Thursday, despite a former planning officer calling for an allocation of 450 homes in north-east March to be scrapped.

The plans had been met with sustained opposition from residents, with a petition signed by 569 residents and 110 letters of objection sent to the council. A separate petition for children received 42 signatures.

Trevor Watson spoke on behalf of objectors at the meeting and said: “Our reasons for objecting to this allocation are based upon sound and logical planning reasons. We are not NIMBYs.

“We care passionately about our environment and the special qualities that make our part of town a pleasure to live in. Please share our passion and delete the North East Housing Allocation.”

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Mr Watson told councillors that the plans would add to the area’s existing traffic problems.

He said: “Can you imagine what an additional 1,600 vehicles coming from this proposed housing allocation would result in?

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“The traffic issue at the moment is bad; please do not make it worse by adding vast amounts of extra traffic.”

Mr Watson said putting more than 60 acres of farm land under concrete, at a time when he believed the district should be growing more of its own crops, is “not only wrong, it is unsustainable”.

He added: “This development would be totally at odds with one of the council’s key objectives, which is to retain our district’s special qualities.”

Lib Dem councillor Gavin Booth declared his opposition to the north east March housing plan. Before the Core Strategy was voted on, Cllr Booth proposed several amendments.

He said: “I accept the core strategy but I am against the housing allocation on North East March.”

He was seconded by Cllr Patrick, but the amendment was rejected in the subsequent vote by 24 votes to four.

• IMPROVED sports facilities for Estover Park have been included in plans for the redevelopment of March North.

Two football pitches, changing rooms, a cricket oval and, depending on demand and funding, a tennis and multi-use games area could be provided under Fenland District Council’s core strategy.

Residents had voiced concerns about the possible loss of the Estover playing field due to the allocation of 450 homes in March north.

Councillor Steve Count, Cambridgeshire County Council cabinet member for resources and performance and councillor for March North, said: “I am very pleased to see that enhanced sports facilities have been included in plans for March North, as part of the cabinet paper.

“This is something the county council has been adamant about and I have championed. We have worked very closely with Fenland District Council on making sure that top quality sports facilities form part of the plans of any new development proposals coming forward.

“We envisage proposals could include facilities such as two football pitches, changing rooms, cricket oval and, depending on demand and funding, possibly tennis and multi-use games area.

“This would give certainty for local community groups to be able to bid for funding, such as from the lottery and run the facilities for the benefit of the community.

“Once Cabinet agrees this policy we hope that landowners will be coming together to see how this can be taken forward as quickly as possible.”

Fenland Council leader Alan Melton said: “Fenland District Council has strived to get the balance right between the need for new housing and enhanced sports facilities.

“I am very pleased that we have worked so closely with the county council to help achieve this and deliver high quality sports facilities for the north of March.

“I will be asking officers to now push on with this so it can be delivered.”

Trevor Watson approved of the sport facilities at last Thursday’s meeting of Fenland Council, but reaffirmed residents’ objections to the housing project.

He said: “All parties need to be part of any discussion on the future of this idea. I would like to thank the council for putting this idea forward.”

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