Petition - backed by former colleague- wants John Clark removed as Fenland Council leader for ‘dishonourable behaviour’

Estover Playing Field. Picture: TREVOR WATSON

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

An online petition – likely to be supported by at least one councillor - emerged tonight calling for the resignation of Fenland Council leader John Clark.

In a move hinted at throughout the day, one of the leading protagonists in the fight to prevent any homes being built on 20 acres of public open space and 60 acres of farm land in NE March, Trevor Watson posted the comment ‘ ready to launch 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, we have lift off!’ shortly before 9pm.

Moments later an online petition appeared inviting signatures to a petition calling for Cllr Clark’s resignation “following an unprecedented break down in trust between him and the people of March and Fenland”.

The petition alleges he has “systematically broken pledges to the people of March to prevent housing development on a key public open space, Estover Playing Field.”

The petition alleges Cllr Clark has gone against his own party’s resolution to keep Estover development out of the Local Plan “despite a 700 signature petition and 150 letters/emails objecting to any housing development on this playing field.”

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The petition concludes: “His behaviour has been dishonourable to the people of March and the whole of Fenland.”

It is expected ward councillor Peter Tunley, who walked out of the Tory group on Fenland Council over the Estover furore, will propose the vote of no confidence at the November meeting of Fenland Council.

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Last week Cllr Tunley claimed both he and many colleagues on Fenland District Council were “duped” into agreeing to the Core Strategy which they thought banned development in north east March

Cllr Tunley held talks last 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.

In a further development today March Town Council described recent statements by both the county council, district council, their officers and their respective leaders as being “not compatible”.

Clive Lemmon, town clerk, told Cllr Clark: “If councillors and officers are giving massively different versions of the same story, how is this matter going to be resolved? Should the Fenland Local Plan be reviewed, or should there be a public inquiry?

“In either case, shouldn’t FDC be putting all planning decisions relating to unallocated areas on ice until all parties are satisfied that correct procedures have been adhered to?”

Mr Lemmon told the FDC leader he had “failed to provide adequate responses to our previous e-mails” and the complaint would be taken further.

Cllr Tunley is expected to use the support from the petition to launch a vote of no confidence at the next council meeting. With a strong Tory majority he is expecting it will be defeated but hopes, with possible support from other Tory colleagues, to force an embarrassment in the council chamber. He could also expect to win support from disaffected Tory councillors, particularly those ousted during the earlier leadership battle this year which saw Cllr Clark elected and Councillor Alan Melton removed.

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”.

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

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