Speak up now to stop housing plans and save sports field

MORE than 100 people turned out for a meeting on Saturday to discuss proposals that could see more than 800 new homes built on the north side of March.

Concerned residents have been urged to comment on Fenland District Council proposals being made as part of its new Core Strategy by the deadline of September 5.

Around 80 acres of currently arable land together with the Estover Road playing field are being earmarked for development in the Fenland Communities Development Plan and campaigners fear that once it has been included in council policy there will be no going back.

Saturday’s meeting organised at short notice by concerned resident Trevor Watson together with Sue Clenshaw of the Estover Playing Field Committee and football coach Tielo Pearce saw more than 100 people of all ages attend.

Mr Watson said few people were aware of what is being proposed in the draft document currently out for consultation by the district council and fears that unless the issue is highlighted it will simply be rubber-stamped.

He criticised the way Fenland Council had set about the consultation process and said the proposals were buried deep in a very complicated document that many people would not fully understand.

“I only picked up on it when I saw a notice in the Citizen and I made some enquiries. I just want everyone to be aware of what is being proposed, so they can have there say,” said Mr Watson.

Welcoming everyone to the meeting Mr Watson outlined the proposals and said in all the district council was earmarking land for up to 4,200 new homes to be built across March within the next 20 years - that is almost half the amount already in the town.

The 79 acres on the North East side of the town was the main concern on Saturday. He said once the land is set down for housing there will be little anyone could do to prevent development.

He pointed out the amount of land being set aside would accommodate around 800 new homes with at least 1,600 vehicles, in an area where there is already traffic issues and a lack of amenities.

Estover Road playing field would be lost without any guarantee it would be replaced with new sports facilities nearby.

Mrs Clenshaw, who has campaigned for years to keep Estover Playing Field going, said it was vital people use it and make it clear they want to keep it as an amenity for the whole community.

Mr Watson said it was not a case of “nimbyism” but rather a desire to preserve the rural identity of March which was driving him to campaign.

Many of those at the meeting were deeply concerned about the proposals and particularly the loss of the playing field, which is the last remaining public open space in that area of March.

There were also concerns about the town’s infra-structure, especially the poor road system, which already gets highly congested. The sewerage system, potential flooding issues and also the lack of school places were also worries raised.

Mr Watson urged everyone to contact the area’s three district councillors: Trevor Quince, Peter Tunley and Mike Cornwall to make them aware of the concerns.

Comments on the Core Strategy must be submitted by September 5 and can be made directly on-line via the consultation portal: fenland.newgrove.com or on forms available at the Fenland One Stop shop in Broad Street, or the town’s library.