‘Stand up and be counted’ plea to March councillor who happens also to be Fenland Council leader and a county councillor

Estover playing field.

Estover playing field. - Credit: Archant

A plea to ‘stand up for March’ has been made to the leader of Fenland District Council John Clark in the continuing row over possible development of Estover for housing.

Cllr Clark finds himself torn between his home town of March and his role both as district council leader and a member of Cambridgeshire County Council as pressure grows to allow up to 249 homes at Estover.

That plan was first suggested by county councillor Steve Count, also of March, who told a public meeting this summer that the only chance of sports facilities being provided at Estover was in a possible trade off for housing.

But March Town Council has always insisted the changes to the core strategy, which removed the plan to allow up to 400 homes at Estover, must stay.

The issue has prompted the resignation from the Conservative group on Fenland District Council of Councillor Peter Tunley who is spearheading a rebellion to keep Estover free of housing.

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On Friday councillors Count and Clark met the chief executives of Cambridgeshire County Council and Fenland District Council, Mark Lloyd and Paul Medd respectively, to discuss the future of Estover.

Also present was Councillor Kit Owen, the mayor of March, and the town clerk, Clive Lemmon, together with some council officials.

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All parties agreed to continue negotiations but I understand a letter has now been sent by Cllr Owen and Mr Lemmon, on behalf of the town council, calling for Cllr Clark to re-affirm his commitment to March.

And that would mean Cllr Clark, who insists his options remain open, being asked to state publicly whether he supports the veto on housing at Estover, a policy shift brought forward in 2013 by the previous leader Alan Melton.

None of the parties who attended Friday’s meeting will discuss what was said although I understand Cllr Tunley has a meeting this week with Cllr Clark and cabinet member Councillor Ralph Butcher.

The issue looks set to dominate next year’s local council elections with Cllr Tunley expected to put his name forward either as an independent or UKIP candidate to fight a March North ward seat.

Local UKIP organiser John Skoulding is also looking to find candidates who would also fight March North, with the future of Estover topping the list of local issues.

Mr Skoulding said Estover had always been public open space and his party was committed to ensuring it remained so.

The core strategy, now the local plan, wouldn’t be amended if homes were built at Estover following a letter sent last week to Cllr Tunley by planning chief Graham Nourse

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