Housing at Estover inevitable says county council leader as he pledges £500,000 towards new sports facilities

Estover Playing Field. Picture: TREVOR WATSON

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

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has re-iterated his belief that housing on part of Estover is inevitable – but the upside will be new sports facilities including new changing rooms.

Councillor Steve Count said the Local Plan for Fenland did not rule out some homes being built despite the district council removing an original batch of 400 houses allocated for North East March.

Cllr Count was responding at a county council meeting on Tuesday to a question by Wisbech councillor Alan Lay who asked if the leader “personally supports” proposals to build there despite 700 people signing a petition objecting to any development.

The leader began by thanking Cllr Lay “for asking me that question: as leader of the county council I am sure it is of relevance to everyone here, not”.

Cllr Count said there was 80 acres of land involved in that area, of which the county council owned 20 acres.

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“It is a very complicated history including my role as a county council over the last three and a half years where I have worked tirelessly to bring forward sports provision there,” he said.

Cllr Count said the council owned land had a development value much higher than agricultural value and the county had a legal obligation to get best value.

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Turning to councillors at Shire Hall he said: “If I said to you lot will you relinquish £2-4million of county council assets at peppercorn rents so I can get sports provision in my division, your answer would be no. That’s why the law is there is to stop people like me abusing the system.”

He said the council had brought forward a “compromise proposals” on the 20 acres which would include two full size adult pitches, new changing facilities, two tennis courts and a multi use games areas.

That would take account of 12 acres and “I would ask for 99 homes on the remaining eight acres”.

A long lease would become available to the playing field federation with £500,000 from the sale of the homes helping to deliver the improvements.

He described Estover at the moment as “a bare field, virtually unused – with one sometimes a second, but inadequate pitch”.

Cllr Lay claimed the proposals would be “political suicide” for Cllr Count but any further debate was halted after former leader Councillor Martin Curtis intervened.

Cllr Curtis said it was “not appropriate” for a leader to be challenged on something affecting his own ward.

Earlier this week it was revealed that an application for 30 homes is expected to go before planners shortly near Berryfields, which backs onto Estover.

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