Battle on to stop plans

Resident Trevor Watson holds the petition with other residents outside Fenland district council.
Resident Trevor Watson holds the petition with other residents outside Fenland district council.
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INFRA-structure including new roads and even a school needs to be agreed before any decision is made on proposals for up to 4,200 new homes for March.

That is the argument being voiced by residents and councillors alike as consultation on Fenland Council’s policy document for the next 20 years closed this week.

On Wednesday concerned residents from the North end of March lined up at Fenland Hall to present a petition with nearly 700 signatures opposing proposals made in the Core Strategy that would see 80 acres including Estover Road Playing Field earmarked for housing over the next 20 years.

Leading the fight is Trevor Watson, who helped organise a public meeting at the Estover playing field last month to raise awareness of the Core Strategy and just what it means for the future of March.

He said the impact on the town will be traumatic making traffic problems even worse than they already are, and he also highlighted potential issues with schools, sewerage and sporting amenities.

“There will be no going back if the Core Strategy is adopted. The land highlighted will be earmarked for housing and the only discussions then will be about the finer details of types and numbers of homes. It will be too late for objections,” said Mr Watson, who feels Fenland Council has made it very difficult for people to fully understand what is being proposed.

As a former council planning officer he understands the need for proper consultation and said: “In my day there would have been public exhibitions and briefings highlighting what was being proposed. But there has been none of that. People have had to wade through lengthy and complicated documents to find out what is going on and even I have found it difficult to find out exactly what is being proposed.”

Mr Tunley agreed and said: “To my mind we going about this the wrong way. We should be doing a Core Strategy on infra-structure first and getting that in place before doing a Core Strategy on housing.

“There are real issues with infra-structure in March. Traffic in the town centre is already a nightmare with the roads unable to cope. Schools are full to capacity, the sewerage system is operating at capacity and there is a need for sporting facilities.

“None of this is properly addressed in the Core Strategy, there is no mention of how these issues are going to be addressed. We need to know what improvements are going to be made to the infra-structure to address these very real concerns before we can agree on the Core Strategy.”

He and fellow North ward councillors Mike Cornwall and Trevor Quince are lobbying fellow members to defer a decision on the Core Strategy until the infra-structure has been looked at.

“I have been told that the Core Strategy is about agreeing in principle to the housing, but once the principle has been agreed there is no going back. In my view there should be no agreement in principle until such time we have agreed the infra-structure.

“The consultation is ended now and the officers and relevant member will be looking at all the comments and concerns raised and taking those on board before coming up with revised proposals for the Core Strategy, but if it is very much the same as what we have now I will advocating no acceptance of the principle - they will have a fight on their hands.”