Resident stands his ground to deliver speech calling for leader’s resignation over handling of Estover ‘windfall’ issue

Michael Rutter delivers his petition speech to FDC

Michael Rutter delivers his petition speech to FDC - Credit: Archant

A March man who spoke to a petition calling for the leader of Fenland Council to resign successfully stood his ground to insist he be allowed to deliver a speech in support of his case.

Michael Rutter, a Berryfield estate resident, claimed council leader John Clark was responsible for an “unprecedented” breakdown in trust between him and the people of March and Fenland.

Mr Rutter said the heart of the issue was the proposal to allow ‘windfall’ housing in NE March and on Estover playing fields despite the withdrawal of 400 allocated homes in the Local Plan.

“Whilst our petition mentions the leader by name, there is no personal vendetta,” said Mr Rutter. “But the leader is ultimately responsible for all the council’s actions, both good and bad.”

He said nearly 800 signatures had been collected for the petition in just over two weeks but the crux of the issue was the “totally unacceptable” way the council had supported windfall to mean up to 249 homes could still be built there.

“We think everyone would find it difficult to comprehend an estate four times the size of Berryfield as windfall,” he said.

At one point council chairman Ken Mayor tried to bring a halt to Mr Rutter’s speech but councillors allowed him to continue.

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Mr Rutter said anything above 10 homes must be considered major development and advise had been given by former planning officers “both from this authority and adjoining ones” that windfall of up to 249 homes does not reflect planning law.

“Windfall as determined by this district council has been defined in the local press as torrid, meaningless, disingenuous and incomprehensible,” he said. “As residents can only but agree. We have never seen such a breakdown in trust in the district council before.”

He told the council: “The majority of you have been dishonourable to all residents of Fenland and that was the main reason for our petition.”

Councillor Peter Tunley said the “sense of mistrust” between the council and the electorate was something he had not experienced in 30 years. “There is a message coming across, and if this council isn’t going to listen be it on their head,” he said.

Councillor John Clark said he would be responding in writing to the petitioner.

Councillor Steve Tierney he was uncomfortable about the way the petition was set up to target the leader. He described it as “negative” and said he also questioned if all those who had signed it came from Fenland.