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Stop this assault on ‘open countryside’ housing plea

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Campaigner Trevor Watson is fuming that a small housing estate stopped by planners – and supported by the Planning Inspectorate – has emerged as a possible candidate for an even larger development.

He told March Town Council: “No doubt you have noted that the Draft Plan has allocated a large area of land north of Estover Road, March, for housing, some 13.7 Ha (about 294 dwellings).

“A large area of this allocation was refused for 95 houses, some four years ago, mainly on the basis this development would be a major visual intrusion into the open countryside.”

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Mr Watson said: “The applicants, St. Johns College, Cambridge, appealed against that decision, but the Secretary of State, dismissed that appeal, basically on the same grounds as that stated by the district council.

“As part of that application, the developers also indicated that they would wish to extend the housing in the longer term, to the north and west, almost identical to the current allocation.

“That did not form part of the application, but it did indicate their long-term plans. I also understand that the town council refused the application.”

Mr Watson said: “It seems totally wrong that this new allocation is now being considered as suitable for such large-scale housing development.

“Only four years ago, both Fenland District Council and the Secretary of State, stated that such a large area of the current allocation was not suitable for large scale housing due to the reasons given, both by FDC and the Secretary of State.

Fenland Council leader Chris Boden: “I know that you all care passionately about Fenland and want to help ensure that the towns and villages grow and prosper in the best possible way to bring benefits to all communities”

“I have been informed by the planners that the reason it is now being considered as suitable is that, and I quote, ‘the previous appeal site was considered more detached from the main built form of the town, whereas the proposed allocation provides a more comprehensive scheme and scores well against the assessment criteria’. 

“I see no justification that an even much larger area can override the decisions made by the district council and the Secretary of State just four years ago.”

He added: “In fact, the larger area would be an even larger visual intrusion into the open countryside.”

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Mr Watson has reminded the district council of “several factual mistakes in the Draft Local Plan which make it difficult for the public to make proper comment.

“For instance, on page 123, this area off Estover Road, is stated as ‘land Southeast of 433 Wisbech Road’.

“That obviously is wrong and is confusing, especially in such a complex report.

“The report also states in the Local Plan justification that ‘the site would relate to existing built development to the south, west and north and provide a suitable extension to the town’.

“Well, as you are well aware, the land to the west is mainly the Estover Playing Fields, this could not be termed as the built development!”

He added: “I understand that many people are horrified about this proposal, given the recent history of this area. It just is not logical and is plainly wrong.”

Mr Watson says he “trusts the town council will again object to this housing allocation”.

He plans to submit his own formal objections.

Emerging Local Plan – Fenland District Council

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