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Could little known planning rule be key to saving a well-loved Fenland meadow?



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A countryside charity is urging local communities like Chatteris and Doddington to consider using a little known rule to help protect green spaces.

CPRE, formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, says there's huge untapped potential to level up access to nature for people living in towns and cities by giving local parks the same sort of protection from development as national parks.

A little known yet hugely powerful rule allows local communities to ring-fence their recreation grounds, community gardens and other locally valued green spaces from development.

Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621837)
Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621837)

This provision contained within the National Planning Policy Framework is designed to protect the pockets of nature most valued by local people like Wenny Meadow in Chatteris and possibly the land around Doddington mill, which is currently subject to a planning application.

However, Alan James, chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CPRE branch, curiously it is almost unknown.

Now the charity is calling on the Government to encourage all local authorities to promote the use of the Local Green Space designation as widely as possible. It is a unique clause in planning rules that empowers local people to apply national park-style protection from development to their most valued local green spaces.

Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621841)
Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621841)

Research by CPRE has, for the first time, mapped the total number of Local Green Spaces protected. Over 6,500 have been created since 2012, often to protect valued land on the edge of villages. The research shows inner cities and densely populated urban areas, more likely to be populated by poorer communities and people of colour, are the least likely to have benefited.

Local Green Spaces are small parcels of land, close to where people live, that are demonstrably special to their community, for reasons that can include their beauty, historical significance, recreational value, tranquillity or richness of wildlife. It is a neighbourhood planning tool with unique power, because it implies being valued by local people is in itself a strong enough reason to protect small patches of green space.

And Mr James believes it could help protect Wenny Meadow, which is under-threat of development and save it for residents.

Wenny Meadow was a manor park in the Georgian and Regency period. (54621846)
Wenny Meadow was a manor park in the Georgian and Regency period. (54621846)

He said: "Since learning of this legislation I have contacted Lawrence Weetman, one of those fighting to save the meadow, to let him know about it and look into whether it can be applied to save the meadow from being developed.

"It is one of the few areas of green open space in Chatteris and is well used and well loved, it is also home to a rare false scorpion and has some really mature trees - again this area is sadly lacking in woodland so that makes it special.

"It would be such a shame for it to be lost to housing. Although we are in a rural location there is actually very little public green space for people to enjoy, so it is vital we try to protect what we do have.

Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621849)
Campaigners want to save Wenny Meadow from development. (54621849)

"There is a lot going on in Cambridgeshire are the moment, the whole county feels like it is under attack. But this legislation could be a weapon to help communities fight back."

Crispin Truman, the charity's national chief executive, said: “This is a solution to levelling up that has been hiding in plain sight; a planning superpower in the hands of ordinary people. All people have to prove is they use and value the land for it to be eligible to be protected like it’s a national park. Unfortunately, there is a sliding scale of injustice when it comes to who is benefitting.

"Put simply, the poorer you are and the more nature- deprived your neighbourhood already is, the less likely you are to have any protected Local Green Space. It’s time to address this inbalance and level up everyone’s access to nature.

"That is why we’re calling on the government to promise the equivalent of a national park for every neighbourhood.

“Our iconic national parks are rightly celebrated and protected. But research repeatedly shows they are not accessible to all – and that the poorest in society benefit the least. That’s why it should be a national priority to protect our local parks and green spaces so that everybody, no matter where they live, has access to the benefits of nature."



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