Town council’s move to secure March playing field

Eastover Rd Playing field G/V March ENGANL00120130804093104 ENGANL00120130804093104
Eastover Rd Playing field G/V March ENGANL00120130804093104 ENGANL00120130804093104

A town council move to secure a playing field for future generations could take its first step forward at a meeting tomorrow.

Fenland District Council’s Cabinet is due to consider a request by March Town Council which could potentially save Estover Road playing field from housing development in years to come.

In a bid to win control of the land from Cambridgeshire County Council, town councillors have asked the borough authority to list the 19-acre site as an “asset of community value”.

Under this law, the town council would be given the opportunity to buy the land should the county council decide to sell it.

A report before the Cabinet says: “Once an asset is confirmed and registered as an asset of community value it enables local groups the opportunity to prepare a bid alongside other potential buyers should the owner of the site decide to sell.

“Once an asset is agreed for listing nothing will happen unless and until the owner decides to dispose of it – either through a freehold sale or the grant or assignment of a qualifying lease.”

If the move is agreed tomorrow, and the county council decides to sell the field, it could potentially see the town council asking the people of March to help pay for land through an increase in its part of the council tax bill.

Tomorrow’s meeting comes after suggestions for mixed housing and sporting facilities at Estover were widely condemned at a recent public meeting organised by county council leader Steve Count, who is also a member of the town council.

This week, March mayor, councillor Kit Owen, said: “If the field is listed as an asset of community value the town council should have first refusal on it if the county council decides to dispose of it.

“We would like it to remain a community venue, with sports and recreation. It has established use dating back 75 years and lots of local football clubs use it. Local opinion strenuously opposes any residential development there.”

He also said the county council’s own studies have shown March has a deficit of around 48 acres of sports facilities and football pitches.

“If Estover goes under concrete then we’ll have even less,” he said.

If the Cabinet agrees to the town council’s request, the field will be listed as an asset for five years, at which point it will be reviewed.

The idea to wrest control of the land by listing it was suggested to councillors by March resident Ian Dickerson, who told them it would be a “shame to see such a valuable community asset lost to the town”.