This week, some of us attended a meeting at Fenland District council to discuss the upcoming review of the Fenland Local Plan with two development/planning officers. We are very grateful to the Fenland staff who made us welcome, and kindly gave their time to explain the process in detail.
The meadow is part of the strategic allocation in the current Fenland Plan, which declares it to be land suitable for development. A full review of this Plan is now underway, in a process which will conclude in 2022. There is extensive public consultation in the first year, and the Save Wenny Meadow group have been accepted as consultees, so we will be able to make representations for the removal of the meadow from the plan. We will publicise the public consultation platforms as widely as possible and hope that a unified cry of outrage from the people of Chatteris may result in the meadow being spared.
However, in the meantime, the existing Plan still dictates policy, and the imminent risk of the developers seeking planning permission is very real. We remain poised to oppose that application and will channel local support at the time. We can expect a very tough fight, because while the meadow remains allocated as development land in the Local Plan, councillors will be advised by planning staff to pass a viable planning application.
So, we have an ongoing two-pronged mission. We will fight any immediate planning submissions and separately lobby for the removal of the meadow from the revised Fenland Local Plan.
Our campaign was featured on ITV Anglia News on 15th November 2018. Thanks for Mandy, Laura and Kirsty for braving the camera to spread the word about our campaign, and to Lawrence for creating this video.
On Friday 12th October, Dr Sarah Spooner, Senior Lecturer in Landscape History at the University of East Anglia gave a talk in entitled “A Landscape History of Wenny Road Meadow”. The event was co-hosted by CPPF (Chatteris Past, Present and Future, the Civic Society) and the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign.
Dr Spooner spoke with passion and authority to a full house. She used historic maps, recent surveys and photographs to compare Wenny Road Meadow to other 18th and 19th century manor parks. Bringing in references to the Enclosure Acts, the Napoleonic Wars and even Jane Austen novels, the talk was informative and entertaining. Perhaps most revealing was the LIDAR image (shown here), which clearly exposes the “ridge and furrow” earthworks, which date back to early medieval (15th century) agricultural practices. Dr Spooner explained that because the land has never been developed, it can reveal its own story to those able to interpret the landscape. Once built on, the meadow’s history will be lost. Summing up, Dr Spooner said ““Wenny Meadow is special. It’s the only thing like it in Chatteris. It’s an important 18th and 19th Century designed landscape; not only has it not really changed since the 1820s when it was first created, but like the ridge and furrow earthworks there just are not that many parks like that in the Fens. It’s also really significant because it preserves that medieval origin. Here you have got not just the 18th Century Georgian and Regency period, but medieval Chatteris as well.”
We’d like to express our deep gratitude to Dr Spooner for her time preparing and delivering the talk. We feel it has given us further ammunition to resist the proposed development, and will be sharing her findings with Fenland District Council shortly.
Volunteers spent a busy day in blazing July sunshine spreading the word about the campaign at the Chatteris Midsummer Festival. They had many visitors to the stall, resulting in a boost to the number of signatures on our petition.
On Saturday 2nd December the annual “switch-on” of the Chatteris Christmas lights took place. Mark manned a stall outside the church to spread the word about our campaign, and collected well over 100 new signatures. This was a great opportunity to reach residents who are not active on social media. Thank you, Mark – and Helen for helping too!
On Wednesday 8th November we met with the planning consultant who has been working on the proposed development on the Wenny site for many years. He kindly took time to explain the current state of progress in some detail, but stressed that the process is already too far along to consider major divergence from the Broad Concept plan which has been agreed with Fenland District Council. However, he is receptive to suggestions from us for how the green space within the allocation of land is to be used and designed. He also said that a further public consultation process would take place before the final plans were submitted. We’re still digesting this information, and will give a fuller update in due course. The campaign is still very much on!
The website went live today and we’re starting to distribute the petition which is also available to download from our resources page. Please spread the word!
The officers explained the planning process in detail, and advised that that our letters need to address the full planning application, and not the Broad Concept plan. As soon as the formal planning application is submitted, we have a window of just 21 days to register objections. (It’s likely to be submitted shortly.)
So, we’ve removed the resource pack for now, and we’ll make a new guide letter as soon as the consulting period opens. We should be able to re-use existing letters then, but we need to save them up until the right time.
The Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign was featured twice in the Fenland Citizen on the 18th October, in the form of an article and a cartoon. Read both below:
Following our press release, our campaign has been covered in three local papers. You can view the articles below: