Wilburton Public Meeting
The public meeting in St. Peters Hall, Wilburton on Friday 28th September chaired by Paul Massey was very well attended, with over 100 people coming to hear an overview of the proposal and the process, and to be able to ask questions about it. Some key points from the meeting are:
- Wilburton Parish Council is committed to sustainable organic growth - they are not against growth. But in context, Ely is around 14,500 people, and the whole parish around 16,000 - Mereham will be almost as big as Ely in terms of population.
- 15 sites were considered during regional planning - this site came 14th (Six Mile Bottom was 15th) - the top 5 went through and CCC say that Northstowe will go ahead
- an examination in public in 2002 upheld the decision that due process had been undertaken, and the site was dismissed
- from the developers figures, around 30 houses will be built per month - that cannot be good environmentally or from sustainability aspects. The developers claim minimal impact on the surrounding area (this was laughed at)
- dubious claims to ownership of the land from the developers
- new developments have to have minimal impact on traffic and existing communities
- the inspector will be aware of what is going on in the local environment - and will see the signs
- letters will be seen by the inspectors even if they are received after the closing date (28th Sept) - so if you haven't sent one, do it now
- the petition (both paper and online) will continue until April 2008
- the inspector should report between Jan and April 2008 - then it goes to Hazel Blears
- Wilburton PC will focus on the impact the development would have on local communities (not just Wilburton, but all of them - no NIMBYism here)
- the infrastructure is not there - only access is by road, no easy access to rail links
- examine the process - plenty of the application is incorrect - so query what else is wrong - would you buy something from a salesman who can't get his facts right?
- joint approach - so not a lone voice
- the parish council has produced letters and ordered signs (paid for by those who have them on display, not by the parish), raised awareness and have asked questions
- Haddenham - they are questioning:
- sustainability of the development
- transport - highlighting one aspect of the proposal which had the audience laughing - showing how poor the transport proposal is and how little local knowledge has gone into it
- the appeal process - it has to happen - it is a legal process, so expect it to be at a legal level. You can register to speak on the day, but be sure about technical issues as you can be challenged. As a member of the public you can just make a statement.
- it may be useful to the inspector to add "colour" to the inquiry - the facts will be black and white, but if you can add some personal touch then do so, e.g. if your house is shaken every time a lorry goes past - as no amount of measurements and computer models can replace real experiences
- Multiplex (you know, the developers who can't build a football stadium) say they have consulted people extensively - so the audience was asked who had been consulted. A grand total of zero, none, nought, nobody had been consulted from the audience, apart from going to the local public exhibition in 2005 which were requested repeatedly by Bill Hunt and others. Nothing has happened since 2005. So register to speak and say you haven't been consulted
- if the inspector says 'yes' - we have the right to appeal
After questions (see below), the audience applauded the presentation and many came to get more information or to register to help.
Many questions were asked, highlighting that the developers haven't consulted the local community enough. The questions included:
Q: The Downing Street website petition doesn't appear to let every member of a household enter a name?
A: There may be a problem with using shared email addresses
Q: Is our MP on board with this?
A: (Jim Paice) Yes he is.
Q: Is it purely coincidental that it is the same inspector as in previous examination in public?
A: Yes - although it may be due to inspectors been allocated to geographical areas.
Q: Concern was raised about Hazel Blears being able to override things, and it removing the democratic decision - siting the recent Centre Parcs ruling in Bedfordshire?
A: We still have the right to appeal if that happens.
Q: Who is responsible for the infrastructure submission?
A: The County Council - by Section 106 - they have to agree services if it goes ahead.
Q: what local traffic studies and such like have been carried out?
A: Wilburton Parish Council have regular talks with the transport agency about signs, cameras, etc. but it's done on accidents (and deaths). The proposal includes widening the A10 by 2.5m and adding lights to the junction at Haddenham. One example of such a wide road was known locally (to the police force in that area) as the "coroners lane".
The Highways Agency have completed a recent survey and submitted it as proof of evidence to the inquiry.
(A comment) - even if the A10 is widened to 6 lanes it won't make any difference as you hit the Milton roundabout
Q: 15 sites were mentioned, with 5 going though - what has happened to those?
A: Top site was Northstowe, second Waterbeach - unsure about the level of "need" for Waterbeach or others.
Q: Rumours of building work past Stretham?
A: Not part of the overall planning for the region, so most likely to be organic growth of Stretham.
Q: (a comment) Working in Milton, once you are in Milton you can't leave until it has gone 9.00am - the place is just clogged up with traffic.
Q: If the proposal doesn't get the go ahead, will it reappear?
A: That depends on the options on the land that they do have - if they end soon then maybe not.
Q: (a comment) If the inspector takes a drive around here during peak time he'll see what it's really like!
Q: The proposal is said to be "meeting the needs of Cambridge" - is the Cambridge along or Cambridgeshire?
A: Just Cambridge.
Q: (a comment) A research park in Waterbeach was set with the idea that 85% of people will travel from Ely. But only a very small percentage of the building are occupied. It seems that businesses only seem interested in the CB1/CB2 postcodes.
Q: (a comment) With the proposal of the wetland area and the talk of expanding Wicken Fen we'll be overun by mosquitos! (further comments made about blue tongue disease)
Q: Does the housing include affordable housing?
A: The application has to - but developers often water down their commitments once they get permission to build. (a comment from audience) - the houses will only be affordable to the first buyer anyway.
Q: How much of the top third do they have options to buy?
A: A large amount of it isn't covered by options, despite what the developers say. And we're not sure they control all the land for the A10 scheme either. Recent reports in the Ely Standard also highlight that at least one major land owner doesn't want to give up their land.