There is already a sporting space shortfall - building on Estover would make the problem worse
The homes proposed for Estover Playing Field is contrary to both the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012 and the adopted Fenland Local Plan 2014, primarily because there is already a 60 per cent shortfall of ‘outdoor sport’ provision in March.
The loss of Estover will only increase this shortfall.
The NPPF paragraph 70 requires planning authorities “to deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs and decisions should ... guard against the unnecessary loss of valuable facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs”.
The Fenland Local Plan Policy LP6 (Community Facilities) requires the retention of facilities unless it can be “demonstrated there is a lack of community need”.
In this case, the council’s retained ‘Play Space Provision 2003’ Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), updated by the ‘Open Space Audit 2006’, identifies March as having an outdoor sport space shortfall of 19.61 hectares (48.5 acres).
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This is some 60 per cent below requirements in relation to the SPG’s standard of 1.7 hectares per 1,000 population.
This is the largest shortfall of the four market towns in Fenland, followed by Wisbech with a more modest shortfall of 7.6 hectares (some 22 per cent).
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Also, Table 4.1 in the ‘Open Space Audit 2016’ calculates the future outdoor sport space shortfall in March will increase to 26.6 hectares (65.7 acres) by 2021.
The loss of all or part of Estover Road, to housing will only make this shortfall worse and would therefore be contrary to both Local Plan Policy LP6 and the NPPF.
The Fenland Local Plan 2014 does not contain a ‘windfall policy’, as widely reported in the press.
It does include Policy LP16 ‘Delivering and Protecting High Quality Environments Across the District’. This requires any proposed development, on unallocated sites, to meet certain sustainable development criteria.
Criteria (g) requires that developments “provide public accessible open space”.
However, the current situation is that there is already a significant shortfall in outdoor sport space provision in March, contrary to Local Plan Policy LP6.
It is therefore considered that any development of Estover, resulting in the loss of public accessible open space, is also contrary to Local Plan Policy LP16.
In addition, planning law defines ‘major development’ as ‘development of 10 dwellings or more’.
Therefore the development of all or part of Estover, notwithstanding that it is an existing sports ground, cannot be considered as a windfall site - the latter are usually defined as less than 10 dwellings and on previously developed land.
Any development of more than 10 dwellings would be a major development, contrary to the sustainable development policies of the Fenland Local Plan, in particular Policies LP1, LP6 and LP16.
Former strategic planning manager,
Fenland District Council