Category: News

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Wenny Meadow is an important site for wildlife within Chatteris, but Cannon Kirk want to build 93 homes on it. It is the last Natural Green Space within the town, and the applicant’s own ecologists said it is of “county level importance” for certain types of wildlife and of “district level importance” for others.

On Wednesday 5th July 2023 councillors on the planning committee voted 6-to-1 to accept the officer recommendation to approve building on the site. Cllr Paul Hicks voted against. We think the decision to approve the application was fundamentally flawed, so we want to take it to Judicial Review.

Our argument hinges on the fact that the extent of Biodiversity loss was dramatically disputed, with the applicant’s own ecologist believing the on-site loss to be 19.28% of biodiversity units and The Wildlife Trust assessing the loss at 32.19% of units. With “off-setting” at a site 11km away, the applicant thinks there will be a 5.80% net gain but The Wildlife Trust has assessed this to be a 12.9% loss of units overall.

In December 2022, the Wildlife Officer emailed the applicant’s ecologist, explaining why he did not adjudicate on this dispute:

“Fundamentally, there is a disagreement with the overall classification of the grassland within the Biodiversity Metric, which is the source of this disagreement. You are correct that your client is not required to reach 10% net gain and that no net loss is a policy and not a legislative requirement, as such all that is required is that it is demonstrated that the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy has been followed. This means that while net gain is not an absolute requirement demonstrating that the development is as close as possible to no net loss is required. As the Wildlife Trust is a statutory consultee in this case their comments hold the same weight as my own and as such their comments will need to be responded to directly.”

The planning officer’s report dismisses The Wildlife Trust’s concerns on the basis that the Wildlife Officer did not make any objection:

“The Wildlife Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have been consulted as part of this application and they have raised objections to the proposal. However, Fenland’s Wildlife Officer has also been consulted and not raised an objection to the proposals subject to a range of conditions. Natural England have also not raised an objection.”

We’re in a position where the council’s wildlife officer didn’t account for The Wildlife Trust’s concerns because they expected that the planning officer would, but the planning officer assumed the wildlife officer had accounted for them so didn’t give them any weight. In the end, neither person gave weight to The Wildlife Trust’s objections and they appear to have been given little-to-no weight at all.

From November 2023, developers will need to provide a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain by law. This will be based on calculations from the “biodiversity metric” tool, which is the same tool that has led to disputed calculations between the applicant’s ecologist and The Wildlife Trust. Clearly decisions can’t be taken where these figures are disputed, and there needs to be some mechanism for resolving them.

We’re now seeking legal advice on whether we can apply for a judicial review of the council’s decision to approve the application, but we only have six weeks to do so. We will work with other organisations to do this, but we need your help.

If you would consider pledging a donation to our crowdfunding, please fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch when we launch our crowdfunder:

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Save Wenny Road Meadow meeting: 30th September 2021

We had a meeting on 30th September 2021. It was advertised via Facebook and (unfortunately a bit late) via email to previous attendees.

What have we done so far?

Website update

The website was updated in early September 2021 with details on how to object, including lots of information that people could refer to within their objections.

We also added more images and some press releases in the latest news section of the site. Some of these press releases have resulted in local news coverage.


We had leaflets printed, and these were delivered around town by more than 50 volunteers. These leaflets directed people to the website. There have since been more than 330 objections on the planning portal, with two neutral comments. There are no comments in support of the application.

We printed and delivered the leaflets in two batches. We delivered to houses closest to the meadow first, working outwards from the meadow until we ran out of leaflets. We haven’t done any analysis to see how much the response rate dropped off as we delivered leaflets further away from the meadow.


We printed 7 banners, which are displayed around town. We wanted to include a picture of the meadow so that people can easily see the space we’re seeking to protect, but this has resulted in the banners not showing up very well in the dark. The banners in town (Park Street and High Street) are probably more effective when on-foot. If we decide to get more banners printed then we’ll opt for higher contrast colours, but we don’t think there is time (or sufficient reason) to buy more banners unless the application is delayed. It could be determined on 27th October (at the earliest).


We have had some success with getting stories in the press. We typically issue press releases with photographs, and try to do as much work for the newspaper as possible (in terms of providing quotes and text that can be used in the article) so it is easier for them to carry our stories.

The Fenland Citizen:

  • Two articles (a general one, and one about Evelyn speaking at the town council meeting) in 17th September edition and online
  • A letter from Chatteris Town Council the following week
  • Further press releases not picked up
  • [Since the meeting] An article about the children’s letters appeared online and in the 6th October edition

The Cambs Times:

  • A general article (including developer viability claims) on the front page of 10th September edition and online
  • An article about Evelyn speaking at the town council meeting online
  • A letter from Chatteris Town Council the following week
  • Further press releases not picked up
  • [Since the meeting] The article about Evelyn speaking at the town council meeting appeared, somewhat belatedly, in the 1st October edition – including in the masthead of the front page

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire:

  • A marvellous piece, including an on-location report from Johnny Dee, on the Jeremy Sallis show on 21st September 2021 (available on BBC Sounds until mid-October)

Children’s letters

Evelyn organised a children’s letter writing campaign. More than 50 letters (now nearly 60) have been written and sent to the council. If your child would like to do this too, there are some letter templates here.

Letters to Steve Barclay and the Combined Authority

We have written to:

  • Steve Barclay MP
  • Cllr Chris Boden, who has a Health and Wellbeing role at the Combined Authority
  • Cllr Bridget Smith, who has an Environment & Climate Change role at the Combined Authority
  • Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of the Combined Authority

Environmental Law Foundation

We have written to The Environmental Law Foundation to ask for help. They give legal advice on environmental issues, including planning applications affecting biodiversity and green spaces. They have 150 volunteer lawyers and work with university student law centres. We haven’t yet heard back.

Consultee Responses

A number of consultees have commented on the planning application. Here’s the latest from each of them:

  • Wildlife officer: insufficient information to make a decision (the applicant must provide more information)
  • Wildlife Trust: rejects claim there will be net biodiversity gain, instead estimating a 25%-36%+ net biodiversity loss
  • Froglife: concerned about habitat loss for reptiles
  • Highways: insufficient information, asked FDC not to determine until more information has been provided
  • Ambulance service: wants more than £20,000 developer contributions and new traffic calming measures
  • Cambs County Council: says that approx £950,000 developer contributions are needed to cover capital needs of education provision
  • Anglian Water: not currently acceptable, unacceptable flood risk downstream (The Elms?)
  • Ramblers: the council should consider making it a park and improving access

New consultees have been added. The Conservation Officer has until 14th October to comment. Natural England has also asked to be consulted, and has until 15th October to respond.


All spending by the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign has been covered by residents, and other kind residents have contributed to covering some of these costs. The campaign group hasn’t done any general fundraising so doesn’t hold any money.

Things we’ve spent money on include:

  • The website renewal (~£45)
  • Leaflets (~£90)
  • Banners (~£70)
  • Other small costs such as printing, etc.

What should we do next?

If you can help with any of this, please get in touch or post on the Facebook group.

A Public Event 

We have been offered a venue to host an event. We want to hold a series of talks in the run-up to the decision.

We’d like speakers on the following topics:

  • The landscape
  • Ecology (especially bats)
  • The impact of green space on health
  • Forest schools
  • Photography at the meadow
  • Anything else that seems relevant

We have some people in mind for some of these sessions, but none are confirmed. If you know of anyone who could speak on one of these topics, please let us know!

We’d invite:

  • Townsfolk
  • Local Town, District, and County Councillors
  • The members of the planning committee
  • Steve Barclay MP
  • Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of the Combined Authority
  • Local press (papers, radio, TV)

If you’re able to volunteer to take on the organisation of the event, or an aspect of the event, or even just help out on the day, then we’d also love to hear from you.

Letter writing

We discussed some ideas:

  • Writing letters to the planning committee
  • Encouraging people to send photos of their walks in the meadow to councillors on the planning committee
  • Sending postcards to councillors

Some of these pose some challenges:

  • People may already feel that, in writing objections, they’ve done a lot so uptake might not be high
  • If engagement is high, councillors might feel less “engaged with” and more disgruntled
  • Printing and sending postcards could be expensive (eg, 66p per postcard for a stamp): who will pay for that?

If you have any thoughts/ideas, or want to co-ordinate a campaign, please get in touch.

Engaging with a barrister or planning consultant

We are looking for a barrister or planning consultant who could represent us at the planning meeting. We have started discussions with some, but if you know of anyone who could help out then please get in touch as soon as possible.

Drawing up plans for a country park vision

We’d like to draw up some plans for what a “country park” at Wenny Meadow could look like. We think that some scepticism we hear comes from a lack of understanding about our vision.

Obviously, the aim of keeping the meadow would be to retain it as it is as much as possible. There are, however, some small changes that could be made to improve the accessibility of the site, and to create places that groups (such as Scouts/Guides, forest schools, etc) could better connect with the outdoors. There are also some improved habitat management aspects that could be enacted.

If anyone knows of an architect who could draw up some plans and/or an artist who could help create some concept art, please get in touch.

Incredible new aerial photographs and video show off Wenny Road Meadow!

We’re very grateful to Steve File of for capturing a beautiful set of photographs of Wenny Meadow from above! The images were taken on 16th September 2021 and capture the meadow as it begins to shift into autumnal colours.

Steve has very kindly given us permission to share the photographs here, and for them to appear in print and online free of charge, but photographs must be attributed to when they are used.

In addition to the new photographs, Steve also captured drone footage of the meadow which can be seen on the Save Wenny Road Meadow facebook group.

“How can we have the kind of childhood you had when you grew up?”, Girl Guide asks town council as they express support for controversial meadow homes (press release with video)

Two Girl Guides called upon Chatteris Town Councillors to reject controversial plans to build on an historic meadow in Chatteris at the full meeting of the council on Tuesday 7th September. Developer Cannon Kirk is asking Fenland District Council for permission to build 93 homes on Chatteris’ former Manor Park, known locally as “Wenny Road Meadow”.

Evelyn and Scarlett, who are working on her campaigning badge, told councillors they had shared the news of the meadow with their fellow Girl Guides. Evelyn said her unit was “devastated to hear it will be built on”.

\During a passionate speech that she had written herself, 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.

She revealed that her brothers’ 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 asked 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 Linda Ashley said her speech was “well written” and Cllr Julie Smith said it took a lot of courage.

Later in the meeting Cllr 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.

Campaigners are redoubling their efforts to persuade Fenland District 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.

After the meeting, 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.”

After the meeting, Scarlett said: 

“‘I’m really sad that the Town Council supported the application because I love Wenny Meadow. It’s somewhere that I enjoy taking my dog for walks and playing with my cousins.”

A spokesperson for the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign said: 

“It is frustrating that the Town Council didn’t discuss such an important planning application in detail at a meeting that was open to the public, instead making a decision at a planning meeting behind closed doors.”

“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.”

“We’re concerned that the Town Council is pinning its hopes upon receiving Section 106 contributions from the developer, despite the proposed payment representing only £300 per dwelling and despite a history of developers later succeeding in asking Fenland District Council to further reduce or remove the Section 106 contribution requirement altogether. As well as failing to fight for the future of this special place in Chatteris, councillors are settling for a bad deal for residents in the process. The Section 106 payment of £28,000 should amount to over £700,000 according to the standards set out in the Fenland Local Plan for a development of this scale. How is a pitiful £300 contribution on a £400,000 house sufficient to support the planned growth of Chatteris, the size of which is already expected to increase by 27.5% with the Tithe Barn and Womb Farm developments alone?”

Chatteris residents demand new consultation on controversial Wenny Meadow homes (press release)

A planning application for 93 homes on the historic former Chatteris Manor Park, now known as Wenny Road Meadow, has been submitted to Fenland District Council by Cannon Kirk homes.

This is the first stage of a wider plan that will see 350 new homes built in the East of Chatteris, but the application only covers the 93 homes on the historic, tree-rich Wenny Road Meadow, with no guarantee that the 250 additional homes on adjacent land will ever materialise. The new plans also appear to increase the number of homes being built on the meadow from the indicative plans included in the Broad Concept Plan previously approved in 2017.

This new application follows recent decisions to grant planning permission for approximately 1,000 new homes at the Tithe Barn to the south of the town and 250 new homes at Womb Farm to the West, near “Jack’s” supermarket. These two developments alone will increase the number of houses in Chatteris by 27.5% in comparison to the number of households in the 2011 census.

In the planning statement accompanying their application, Cannon Kirk have referenced the public consultation carried out in July 2016. Local residents, who have formed the “Save Wenny Road Meadow” campaign group, are calling on Fenland District Council to uphold a decision made by the council’s planning committee, who had previously said a new public consultation must be held when a planning application for Wenny Road Meadow is brought forward. They point to the report approved by the planning committee in June 2017, which says “Further public consultation will be undertaken when a planning application is submitted.”

A spokesperson for the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign group said:

“It is vital that Fenland District Council uphold the promise of a further public consultation – a commitment that was made in the report approved by Fenland District Council.”

“The public consultation relied upon by Cannon Kirk in this application is now more than five years old, and the context of this development has changed a great deal since 2016. Since then, more than 1,250 new homes have been given the green light by Fenland’s planners in just two of the largest developments, not to mention various infill developments and other developments on the edge of town.”

“Residents responding to the 2016 consultation were making their comments on the basis of 350 new homes being added to Chatteris, not 1,600. It seems appropriate that residents should be canvassed for their opinion on the plans with full knowledge of the scale of growth now planned for Chatteris, and we are sure that members of the planning committee would like up-to-date information about residents’ views when being asked to make a decision of this magnitude.”

“Wenny Road Meadow, which has been used by walkers for decades with the apparent implicit permission of the landowner, is one of the only remaining natural green spaces in Chatteris and by far the largest. It received the most nominations (33 out of 46 nominations in total) to become a designated “Local Green Space” during consultation for the emerging Fenland Local Plan. Countless residents discovered Wenny Road Meadow during lockdown, and events of the last 18 months provide an even more compelling reason to once again ask residents whether they believe that 93 new homes are the most appropriate use for this very special place.”

Prominent TV archaeologist backs Chatteris Wenny Meadow campaigners (press release)

The campaign to Save Wenny Road Meadow received a boost this week when it attracted support from prominent archaeologist Francis Pryor, famed for discovering Bronze Age Flag Fen and making more than fifty appearances as lead archaeologist on Channel 4’s “Time Team”.

Pryor, who has authored books including “The Making of the British Landscape” and “The Fens: Discovering England’s Ancient Depths” took to twitter to express his views, describing plans to build about 80 homes on the historic former Manor Park as “a disgrace”. He added that the inclusion of the tranquil landscape park in the planned development was “nothing short of landscape vandalism” and that it “must not happen”.

Wenny Meadow was originally created by the Dunn-Gardner family, who owned the Manor House in Chatteris, as the “Manor Park”. News reports show that it was regularly used for county shows, sports days and local galas throughout the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s, but its hidden history extends far earlier than that.

LIDAR imagery shows medieval “ridge and furrow” earthworks spreading across the meadow and adjoining land; an ancient ploughing technique dating from before the 16th Century. Dr Sarah Spooner, Senior Lecturer in Landscape History at the University of East Anglia, previously described the meadow as “special”. Dr Spooner said that it is “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.”

Meanwhile, the Save Wenny Road Meadow has been working to have the site designated as a local green space in Fenland District Council’s new Local Plan. This week, Fenland District Council revealed that 33 of the 46 public nominations for local green spaces to be added to the plan were nominations in favour of Wenny Meadow. 

On Tuesday evening (4th February), campaigners informed Chatteris Town Council that a paper-based petition supporting the retention of the meadow had gathered over 1,050 signatures from local residents, approximately 10% of the town’s estimated population.

Supporters gather to protest Wenny Road Meadow development

More than 40 people braved water-logged conditions to gather at Wenny Road Meadow on Saturday 18th January to protest development of the site which is ear-marked for 800 houses. Dog walkers, photographers, children and local councillors were among those who visited the meadow to show their support for the “Save Wenny Road Meadow” campaign. The demonstration comes as the petition of local residents tops over 1,000 signatories.

Councillor Daniel Divine (independent) and Councillor Robert White (Green Party) attended the group photo to show their support for the campaign and reiterated their opposition to development of the green space. Cllr Divine said “the issue of whether or not to build on Wenny Road Meadow transcends politics. History, ecology and local amenity makes this green space unique and must be taken into account. There is nothing else which would act as a substitute for Wenny Road Meadow within our lifetime. It is irreplaceable.” Meanwhile Cllr White, who also supports the Save Wenny Road Meadow group, is driving a campaign for tree planting in Fenland which will help to mitigate climate change.

Chatteris based photographer, Rob Morris, who photographed the proceedings, took to social media after the photoshoot saying “I was able to get some pictures to highlight what a wonderful natural resource it is for the town. This is something we cannot afford to lose.”

President of Chatteris in Bloom, and former Chatteris Mayor, Susan Unwin took time out from a busy morning of weeding in the town’s flower beds to attend the photo shoot with three generations of her family. Mrs Unwin said “My sons used to play and make dens as children as did many of the children living close by. It’s a lovely habitat for wildlife and a nice place to walk your dog.” She urged fellow town’s folk to “become a tree hugger for the New Year and save the meadow. We are turning into a concrete town – notice how many trees and open spaces we have lost over the years.”

The gathering was organised by the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign group to highlight the diverse use of the Meadow and the amenity that it provides to residents. Many of those who attended the protest were dog-walkers who spend hours in the meadow in all weathers and all seasons. Campaigner and mother of three, Kirsty Patterson, said: “the children are never bored in the meadow and what I love is that there is not a screen in sight. In the summer we had picnics and played on the rope swing, this morning it is all about splashing in puddles and climbing trees.” Ms Patterson went on to suggest “This would be the perfect place for a Chatteris-based Forest School so all our children could benefit from building confidence and learning social skills in the great outdoors.”


How to respond to the Local Plan (deadline 21st November)

We’re calling on all Chatteris residents who care about Wenny Meadow to tell Fenland District Council that this space should be taken off the list of development sites. This can be done in the following ways:

  • Email the council directly, before 21st November 2019 using the following email address:
  • Nominate the meadow to be designated as Local Green Space using Form_C (below) in the revised Fenland Local Plan.  Please download and complete the form, then email it to the above address before the 21st November 2019.  (We have adapted Fenland District Council’s version of the forms to include a map of the meadow.)
  • Visit Hatters Café in Chatteris from 10:30 to 4:30 on Wednesday 13th November when members of the campaign will be holding a drop-in session. They will hand out paper copies of Form C and guide people through completing it.

All the background information on the “Fenland Local Plan, Issues and Policies” can be found here.  (Form A on the Fenland Local Plan website can also be used for feedback, but it is very long and complicated. The campaign recommends that people using this form focus on questions 25 and 27 which are most relevant to the meadow.)

This consultation period is a crucial phase in the Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign. Please contact the council if you possibly can!

PS We understand that both the pdf and word versions of the council’s forms are very difficult to use if you have an Apple set-up, especially if you’ve upgraded to “Catalina”. Best solution is to print and complete manually, unless you can install an app to allow editing in Word. Good luck!


Use Form C to nominate the meadow as Local Green Space (deadline 21st November)

You can use Form C (below) to nominate the meadow as designated Local Green Space in the revised Fenland Local Plan.  Please download and complete the form, and send to  before the 21st November 2019.

Form C with map (pdf)

Form C with map (word)

(We have adapted Fenland District Council’s version of the forms to include a map of the meadow.)


Interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about the Local Plan Review

Hil Bailey explained the importance of the Local Plan Review to DJ Ronnie Barbour in the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drivetime show. She stressed that this is a crucial time for the campaign, and urged members of the public to respond to the consultation process either by email to  or by using the forms available on the Local plan website.

Click here to listen to the full interview.