‘How can we have the childhood you had?’ - Girl Guides object to proposed homes

Third Chatteris Girl Guides, Scarlett (L) and Evelyn Patterson (R) who attended the town council meeting on Tuesday.

3rd Chatteris Girl Guides, Scarlett (L), and Evelyn Patterson (R) who attended the town council meeting on Tuesday (September 7) where Evelyn presented a speech for the rejection of 93 homes on Wenny Road Meadow. - Credit: 3rd Chatteris Girl Guides

Two Girl Guides called upon town councillors to reject controversial plans to build on an historic meadow in Chatteris. 

Evelyn Patterson and Scarlett, who are working towards their campaigning badges, told councillors at a meeting that they had shared the news of Wenny Road Meadow with their fellow girl guides. 

“My unit was devastated to hear it will be built on,” said Evelyn. 

Developer Cannon Kirk is asking Fenland District Council for permission to build 93 homes on Chatteris’ former Manor Park. 

During a passionate speech that she had written herself, Evelyn told councillors at the meeting on Tuesday (September 7) how she visits the meadow for running, picnics and to play with her siblings. 

“The place holds many happy memories for me,” said Evelyn. 

“My brothers’ class recently visited the meadow to explore the wildlife there. 

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“There is nowhere else in Chatteris where children can experience nature in this way."

Evelyn told councillors: “Children my age are told we spend too much time indoors and that we should get off our screens. 

“Wenny Meadow is a safe place to do all the things we’re told we’re supposed to do. 

Concluding her speech, Evelyn asked councillors: “If you vote in favour of building in Wenny Meadow, how can we have the kind of childhood you had when you grew up? 

“What will be left for children like me? 

“What will Chatteris have for children who are yet to be born, or will move into the new houses that are already due to be built?” 

Responding to Evelyn, Mayor Linda Ashley said her speech was ‘well written’ and councillor Julie Smith said it ‘took a lot of courage’. 

Later in the meeting, councillor Alan Gowler, chair of the council’s planning group, confirmed the decision to support the proposals. 

“We support this application,” he said. 

“We are happy with the design of the houses, and we look forward to the payment of the Section 106 funds being honoured so that the money can be used for the benefit of Chatteris residents.” 

“We would recommend that, instead of supplying play equipment on the development, we would prefer to see funds spent on enhancing the nearby Wenny Recreation Ground area. 

“Local councils are not prepared to take responsibility for further play areas in the town. 

“We would also like to see the inclusion of swift bricks in the houses.” 

Campaigners are redoubling their efforts to persuade Fenland District Council, who will make the final decision on the application, to refuse planning permission for what they consider to be a unique area within the town. 

After the meeting, Evelyn said: “I’m a bit disappointed the council didn’t even talk about the things I’d said in my speech. 

“It was like they were impressed I was there but didn’t take me seriously because I’m a child.” 

Scarlett said: “I’m really sad the town council supported the application because I love Wenny Meadow. 

“It’s somewhere that I enjoy taking my dog for walks and playing with my cousins.” 

A spokesperson for the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign, said: “It is frustrating that the Town Council didn’t discuss such an important planning application in detail at a meeting that was open to the public. 

“Instead, they made a decision at a planning meeting behind closed doors. 

“We expected councillors might discuss the contents of Evelyn’s speech, but instead the application was simply waived through. 

“People often say that young people are not engaged with what’s going on in their local area. 

“Evelyn isn’t old enough to sign our petition, and it isn’t clear whether children are able to comment on the planning permission – even though they’re the ones who stand to lose the most from these proposals. 

“As well as failing to fight for the future of this special place in Chatteris, councillors are settling for a bad deal for residents in the process.”