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Girl Guide fails to sway councillors with plea to stop homes plan for Wenny Meadow

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A Girl Guide who made an impassioned plea to councillors in a bid to save a town's historic meadow has accused them of failing to listen to her 'because I am only a child'.

Evelyn Patterson was one of two Guides who attended last Tuesday's Chatteris Town Council meeting to urge members not to support the building of 93 homes on Wenny Road Meadow.

During a passionate speech she had written herself, 11-year-old Evelyn told councillors how she visits the meadow for running, picnics, and to play with her siblings in a horse chestnut tree that they refer to as “squirrel tree” - a place that she says holds many happy memories for her.

Evelyn Patterson, right, made an impassioned plea to councillors in a bid to stop houses being built on Wenny Meadow. (51165766)
Evelyn Patterson, right, made an impassioned plea to councillors in a bid to stop houses being built on Wenny Meadow. (51165766)

She revealed that her brother's class had recently visited the meadow to explore the wildlife there, pointing out that there is nowhere else in Chatteris where children can experience nature in this way.

Evelyn told councillors: “Children my age are told we spend too much time indoors and that we should get off our screens. Wenny Meadow is a safe place to do all the things we’re told we’re supposed to do. Climb trees, roll in the grass, have picnics, listen to birds, and find shapes in the clouds. There isn’t anywhere else like it in Chatteris where we can do all of these things.”

Concluding her speech, Evelyn told councillors: “If you vote in favour of building on Wenny Meadow, how can we have the kind of childhood you had when you grew up? What will be left for children like me, and what will Chatteris have for children who are yet to be born, or who will move into the new houses that are already due to be built?”

Responding to Evelyn, mayor Councillor Linda Ashley said her speech was “well written” and Coun Julie Smith said it took a lot of courage.

Later in the meeting Coun Alan Gowler, deputy chair of the council’s planning group, confirmed the town council’s decision to support the proposals.

He said: “We support this application. We are happy with the design of the houses, and we look forward to the payment of the Section 106 funds being honoured so that the money can be used for the benefit of Chatteris residents.

"We would recommend that, instead of supplying play equipment on the development, we would prefer to see funds spent on enhancing the nearby Wenny recreation ground area as local councils are not prepared to take responsibility for further play areas in the town. We would also like to see the inclusion of swift bricks in the houses."

After the meeting a disappointed Evelyn said: “I am a bit disappointed that the council didn’t even talk about the things I’d said in my speech. They thanked me for speaking and said my speech was well-written, but they didn’t talk about it at all. It was like they were impressed that I was there, but didn’t take me seriously because I am only a child.”

Campaigners are redoubling their efforts to persuade Fenland Council, who will make the final decision on the application, to refuse planning permission for what they consider to be a unique area within the town.

A spokesperson for the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign said: “We expected that councillors might discuss the contents of Evelyn’s speech, but instead the application was simply waved through. People often say that young people are not engaged with what’s going on in their local area. Evelyn isn’t old enough to sign our petition, and it isn’t clear whether children are able to comment on the planning application - even though they’re the ones who stand to lose the most from these proposals.”

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