What’s going on at Wenny Meadow? A pictorial explanation of the East Chatteris BCP site

We want to make sure that everyone has information about:

  • the land ownership at Wenny Meadow,
  • where the proposed 93 houses will/won’t be built,
  • land ownership of the wider East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan site, and
  • how the proposed 93 homes at Wenny Meadow relate to the wider plan to build a total of 350 homes on and around Wenny Meadow.

We thought it’d be useful to share some maps to explain. It is important that everyone has an opportunity to understand the proposals (including the wider East Chatteris BCP scheme) ahead of the parish poll.

You can view the full planning application (including documents, plans, and public comments) on the FDC website.

The development plan overlayed against the aerial view of the site

This is an aerial view of the bit of land we call “Wenny Meadow”, with the developer’s plans for 93 homes overlayed on top (plans correct as of September 2021, now subject to minor amendments).

This is the image that was on all of the leaflets that Save Wenny Road Meadow campaigners delivered across Chatteris in September, since we wanted to make sure that the information provided was accurate and clear. It clearly shows which bits of the meadow will be built upon, and which bits will be left as open space. The developers refer to the bit they aren’t building on as the “archaeological protection zone” because of the medieval ridge and furrow landscape, but the ridge and furrow earthworks continue across the entire site.

This image was created by combining the plans submitted by the developer as part of planning application F/YR21/0981/F with an existing aerial view from Google Maps.

A diagram showing the ownership of land at the East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan site

This diagram shows the entire East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan (BCP) site, denoted by the coloured parcels of land. This entire site – bounded by Wenny Road, the A142, Wenny Recreation Ground, and The Elms – will be filled with 350 homes in total.

When we refer to “Wenny Meadow” we’re talking about the area shaded in blue. This is land that used to be owned by Arthur Rickwood.

The different colours denote different land ownership. The land in the top-right, shaded in a yellow-green colour, is owned by Fenland District Council. The council’s investment board is preparing a planning application for this land, and in the six months from August 2021 to February 2022 spent £87,285 on planning services, advice, and consultancy.

The 93 homes on Wenny Meadow are just the first phase of this scheme.

The land ownership diagram is from page 19 of the East Chatteris BCP report (2017).

A diagram showing the different development names for character areas within the East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan site

This diagram, taken from page 45 of the East Chatteris BCP report (2017), shows the development broken up into “character areas”. Each of these character areas has been named.

The current application for 93 homes on “Wenny Meadow” only covers “Parkside” and “The Spinney”. The other 250+ homes will go elsewhere across the East Chatteris BCP site.

You can also see the archaeological protection zone marked on the left-hand side. This will be left as “open space”, but will be significantly different in character to the tranquil space and rich habitat that Wenny Meadow currently provides.

A diagram showing the road connections across the East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan site

This diagram, taken from page 47 of the East Chatteris BCP report (2017), shows the intended highway connections at the site. These are depicted by red dashed arrows.

The entire site is served by just two access points off Wenny Road. These access points will serve all 350 homes, all the way up to the FDC-owned land in the very North East of the site (near The Elms). The two access points will come straight out onto Wenny Road and are relatively close to the junction with the A142.

Because all of the East Chatteris BCP site is accessed via Wenny Meadow, under the current proposals the other parcels of land cannot be accessed unless the Wenny Meadow application is approved. This includes the FDC-owned land. The council has already spent £87,285 of taxpayers’ money preparing for development, without yet knowing whether or not it will benefit from access via the Wenny Meadow part of the development.

A detailed plan of the Wenny Meadow development site

This diagram (taken from planning application F/YR21/0981/F) shows the Wenny Meadow site in some detail. The 93 homes are all marked on, as well as the archaeological protection zone. You can also see that where there were two road connections to the wider site in the East Chatteris BCP, the developer is currently only proposing one road connection at the top of the site. This means that all traffic for the remaining 250+ homes will have to enter the rest of the site via that single entry point.

An historic map showing the former Chatteris Manor Park

Here is an historic map showing the extent of the former Manor Park. It is shaded in grey on this map, which dates from the turn of the 20th Century.

The upper portion of the Manor Park has already been built on, with a number of homes forming a road named “Parkside” that feature the Grade II Listed icehouse as a focal point in the middle. The eastern end of that part is now a paddock with horses in it.

The lower part represents the part we’ve been referring to a “Wenny Meadow” and is the only part of the wider East Chatteris BCP that we are campaigning to preserve.

The park is recorded in the Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Records with record number 12046, with the location and extent matching that shown in this old map. It is also featured in a book called “The Gardens of Cambridgeshire: A Gazetteer by Cambridgeshire Gardens Trust”.

An aerial view of Chatteris with approved housing developments marked on it

This final map shows the locations and plans of other medium and large developments which have received planning approval in Chatteris. Together they will deliver about 1,350 homes, which is the number specified in the 2014 local plan. This number has been achieved without the approval of any of the homes in the East Chatteris Broad Concept Plan because 356 of the approved homes are on land not allocated for development in the local plan.

They are:

– 1,000 homes at Tithe Barn (F/YR10/0804/O)
– 248 homes at Womb Farm (F/YR19/0834/O)
– 58 homes near West Street (F/YR15/0512/O)
– 50 homes at land south of Fairbairn Way (F/YR19/0152/O)

We Got A Parish Poll, And What Happened At The Town Meeting

The Chatteris Annual Town Meeting took place on Thursday 28th April. The meeting was well attended by Save Wenny Road Meadow supporters and Friends of Wenny Road Meadow members.

We succeeded in securing a Parish Poll on the future of Wenny Meadow. In this update, Kirsty Patterson (Secretary, Friends of Wenny Road Meadow) shares her account of what happened at the meeting.

Thank you to Rob Morris for the photographs of the meeting.


The Annual Town meeting took place yesterday evening.

These notes come with the caveat that this is my own personal summary of the meeting from my perspective. I was, deliberately I think, wound up at times so there will no doubt be other people who may view the meeting differently from their own perspectives.

What happened?

We requested a parish poll on the question “Would you like Wenny Meadow to be designated as a Local Green Space and protected from development?” which received nearly three times the needed 10 members of the electors to support it.

As a formality, the Town Meeting also had to vote on the question before it could be put to a Parish Poll. The vote was passed with 31 yes, three no and three abstentions. The members of the Town Council (four out of seven were eligible to vote) did not take part in this vote.

What happens next?

There will be a public ballot on the question “Would you like Wenny Meadow to be designated as a Local Green Space and protected from development?” This will take place within the next 14-25 working days and will be an in-person ballot open between 4-9pm.

We will need to publicise the poll once we know when and where it will take place so please let us know if you would be happy to help.

I heard there was drama?

We had, perhaps naively, hoped that by moving straight to a Parish Poll there would be no need to debate the issue at the Town Meeting. It is now up to the electorate. However, it didn’t pan out like that.

The ‘Questions for the public’ which should have been agenda item 6 was moved to the end of the meeting. This was sensible, especially since two members of the Council left as they didn’t want to hear the debate, and the debate was lengthy. It meant a very late night though for those of us attending with children.

A few questions had been asked about housing and green space before I put up my hand. The Chair, Mayor Linda Ashley, nodded at me at which point I stood up to ask my prepared question. I was asked if my question was about Wenny Meadow and Cllrs Benney and Murphy left the room.

Before I was allowed to ask my question, Mayor Linda Ashley and Cllr Bill Haggata said they wanted to ‘show [me] something’. Cllrs Ashley and Haggata presented a pre-prepared speech including a large photoboard provided by the developer. They stated that Save Wenny Road Meadow have misled people, building on the meadow will increase the publicly accessible green space and Cllr Haggata read from the Biodiversity Net Gain Assessment. Cllr Haggata twice stated that there would be a biodiversity net gain of 10%. Unfortunately, Cllr Haggata has misunderstood the documents and was rebutted by a member of the public who read from the developers own letter: “As confirmed by our own report it is unavoidable to not have a net loss of habitat on this site”.

After more than 10 minutes I tried to present my question to the room. The Annual Town Meeting is a meeting of the electors, not of the Town Council. However, Mayor Linda Ashley and the Councillors present did not seem to be aware of that and tried to prevent me from asking a question to the Town Meeting. They stated that I needed to address my question to Councillors only. This was incorrect.

I was threatened with being removed from the room on four occasions for raising my voice. The first time was when Mayor Ashley said ‘when they build on this part…’ and I called out ‘The application has not yet been approved!’. I was also told if I wanted to address a question to the whole room I would have to arrange my own meeting.

Eventually, after further delays, I was allowed to ask my question: I would like to propose a Parish Poll on the question: “Would you like Wenny Meadow to be designated as a Local Green Space and protected from development?” I asked for 10 seconders and received a show of hands. I’m not sure of the exact number of people who supported this motion as the Town Clerk said it was not necessary to record the names and number of supporters but it was in the region of 25.

This should have been the end of the debate, since the question is now in the hands of the electorate, save for the formality of voting on the question at the meeting. I tried to move to a vote on numerous occasions, but this nearly didn’t happen at all. Mayor Linda Ashely even tried to close the meeting without holding the vote at one point.

During the course of the debate several accusations were made:

  • Mayor Linda Ashley repeated her assertion that the public has been misled about the size of the development. This is despite the fact our leaflets carried the developer’s own plans for the site.
  • Mayor Linda Ashley and Chatteris TC Finance Officer threatened to put up the Town Council Precept to cover the cost of the Parish Poll. They claimed the poll will cost £13,000. Firstly, this figure is over-inflated. Previous Parish Polls for towns much larger than Chatteris have cost in the region of £3-£5,000. The only expense will be polling staff for 5hrs (most likely two), a venue (the Library is available to the Council for free for this purpose) and the printing of ballot cards. Polling cards are not sent out so there is no postage cost. Secondly, how much are they going to add to the Parish Precept? £1.30 per person at worst. And then they would need to take it out again next year! This is what Town Council contingency should be used for and guidance says that Town Councils should plan for this.
  • A member of the public became aggressive and shouted at two people at the back of the room. He swore at a third member of the public when they asked him to sit down. He then lunged at a fourth member of the public, putting his face right up to their cheek, and snarled into their face. When electors called on the Chair to manage the situation the Mayor and the Town Clerk said they had not seen anything.
  • This same member of the public stated that “When Hilary Bailey was running this campaign she agreed that there would need to be compromise. I was good friends with Hilary Bailey and she would have been happy with this application. Unfortunately, this campaign has been hijacked and Hilary has lost interest and moved away.” This is simply not true and it is totally unfair to bring another member of the public into a debate when they aren’t even present.
  • Cllr Julie Smith questioned why we needed to have a poll. They pointed to the fact that the outcome of Parish Poll is not legally binding. I responded that I would hope that a mandate from the public via a Parish Poll would be taken on board by our representatives and that as a result they would adopt a policy to support the designation of Wenny Meadow as a Local Green Space. Another member of the public pointed out that LGS designation is a material consideration in planning matters. I also responded that if the Town Council was to adopt the mandate from a Parish Poll to support LGS designation then it would be contradictory to maintain their support for the planning application and they should withdraw their support.
  • Members of the Town Council stated that there is nothing that we, as a community, can do to stop the application from being approved. We were repeatedly told that it is going to happen and Cllr Gowler said we just have to accept it.
  • Mayor Linda Ashley stated that the developer would have nothing to do with the open space once the development had been completed and it would be up to ‘us’ what we wanted to do with it (including maintenance).

Cllr Petrou made a very calm statement which, although I did not agree with all of the points he made, was a well-reasoned argument. He then asked that the public be allowed to have their vote.

After several further delays 11-year old Evelyn eventually asked if the vote could be held so she could go home to bed.

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.

Leaflets

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.

Banners

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).

Press

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.

Spending

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.

Children make their voice heard in Wenny Meadow campaign

More than fifty children aged between 4 and 13 have written to Fenland District Council to ask them to save Wenny Road Meadow from development. Plans to build 93 houses on the former Manor Park are due to be considered by Fenland District Council soon.

Last month, Girl Guide Evelyn Patterson urged Chatteris Town Council to object to the proposals but felt as though she had been ignored. Determined to give children a voice, she created letter templates and spoke to Rainbows, Brownies, and Guides about the fate of the much-loved meadow. Meanwhile, Jacob Patterson, Henry Cole, and Ruan Potgeiter spoke to 2nd Chatteris Beavers and Cubs. They also urged their school friends to write to the council.

Fenland District Council has now been sent in excess of fifty letters from local children. 

On Saturday 2nd October, children representing Glebelands Primary Academy, Kingsfield Primary School, Cromwell Community College, 1st Chatteris Guides, 6th Chatteris Brownies, 3rd Chatteris Brownies, 3rd Chatteris Rainbows, Chatteris District Rainbows, 2nd Chatteris Cubs, and 2nd Chatteris Beavers met to talk about their campaign.

The children were joined by Cllr Hilary Cox Condron, vice-chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s “Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion” committee and a board member of Natural Cambridgeshire.

Cllr Condron listened to each of the children talk about their views on the meadow, why they think it’s important, and what it means to them. She spent an hour in Wenny Meadow talking to parents and passing walkers about the plans while the children searched for conkers, climbed trees, and splashed about in heavy rain.

One passing dog walker, speaking with emotion, told Cllr Condron how during lockdown walking on the meadow “saved her”.

Photographs

Please check the attribution details for individual photographs (by clicking on the photograph), as multiple photographers were present.

Cllr Hilary Cox Condron said:

“How wonderful to meet these young campaigners in Chatteris and hear about the letters, council speeches, leafleting and petitioning they have been doing to share how important Wenny Road Meadow is to them as they fight to save it from development. They give me hope, but I left with a heavy heart.”

“As an artist I work with children to explore, connect with and celebrate the nature on our doorsteps. We know how important being in nature is for the development of our children: for wellbeing, for health, for connections to the environment and to start to understand (to really feel) our place in the ecosystem. Being in nature impacts on education, crime reduction and social mobility. Children run and climb trees – they learn to take risks, build resilience, make up fantastical stories and look out for each other. They learn to take care of the nature they love… isn’t that what we are telling them all the time? Isn’t that what they HAVE to do?”

“We talk about the importance of loving where you live, taking care of neighbours, developing a strong sense of ‘place’. Then so easily dismiss local concerns and campaigns as NIMBYism, when taking care of our back yard is exactly what we should be doing. Or as Roy Hopkins wrote – don’t be a NIMBY, be a SWIMBY – and fight for Something Wonderful In My Backyard.”

Quotes from children’s letters:

  • 8-year-old Amber wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because it will make me unhappy if we lost this lovely open space.”
  • 12-year-old Jessica wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I can run and climb, which is something I don’t do at the local park. It’s unsafe to have another estate on a already busy road near the college and new primary school. My peaceful place will be gone and I will stay home more and not get so much fresh air and exercise.”
  • 7-year-old Dolcey wrote: “I want a space to walk that is safe”.
  • 7-year-old Poppy wrote: “It is a green open space with lots of bugs and creatures. I went there on a school trip and I loved it.”

    7-year-old Tyler wrote: “Where will the animals go?”
  • 7-year-old Darius wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I found cool flowers and leaves. I love the trees and the birds.”
  • 9-year-old Hubert wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because there are not many green natural spaces left for nature to thrive.”
  • 9-year-old Flynn: “We need to keep green space… the lungs of the earth will slowly disappear and our children will suffer the pollution, heat and floods.”
  • 9-year-old Eleanor wrote: “I do not want the meadow to be built on because… the bats will have no insects to eat and not even have a home.”
  • 10-year-old Chloe wrote: “I’ve had lovely walks there and climb my favourite tree. I also do my homework there as well.”
  • 8-year-old Jacob wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because it is the best place to discover nature.”
  • 12-year-old Caitlin wrote: “We should preserve the meadow for future generations as it is our only space like it in Chatteris.”
  • 11-year-old Evelyn wrote: “I love Wenny Meadow because I can use my bird app that identifies the birds that are singing.”
  • 11-year-old Amelie wrote: “There are plenty of places to build on other than the meadows.”
  • 12-year-old Oak wrote: “I love climbing trees and picnics and hanging out with friends.”
  • 11-year-old Honey wrote: “I like smelling the flowers and I like seeing the butterflies.”
  • 11-year-old Holly wrote: “During Covid we needed to exercise as we couldn\t go to the gym, so Wenny Road Meadow was a great place to exercise. I have made great memories there. Why would you take that away from someone?”
  • 5-year-old Maicee wrote: “I have a great time making adventures there with my dad.”
  • 6-year-old Beatrice wrote: “It is the best place to listen to birds and crickets.”
  • 13-year-old Samantha wrote: “I like to walk our dogs in the natural environment, and late at night we go wildlife watching. I try to use these meadows for homework and reading as they are quiet.”
  • 10-year-old Antonia wrote: “Wenny Road has a secondary school, a new primary school, a cricket club, and football playing fields all of which are opposite the planned development site. Increased traffic on this road could make access to the school site and sports facilities more dangerous.”

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

We’re very grateful to Steve File of DronesAloft.co.uk 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 DronesAloft.co.uk 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.

Save Wenny Road Meadow group inundated with volunteers as bid to save green space steps up (press release with gallery)

More than fifty Chatteris residents took to the streets this weekend in the hope of saving Chatteris’ former Manor Park, now known as Wenny Meadow, from development.

People of all ages handed out leaflets that sought to bring the plight of the meadow to the attention of others. While some people leafleted alone, many parents were joined by children eager to save a favourite local landmark. Since Girl Guide Evelyn Patterson’s heartfelt intervention at a meeting of Chatteris Town Council on Tuesday 7th September, many of the Guides and Scouts who volunteered have decided to make the campaign part of their “community impact” or “campaigning” badges.

Kirsty Patterson, who coordinated the volunteers, said: “People couldn’t wait to do something proactive to support the campaign. People have felt helpless and let down. One parent told me her seven-year-old son had been in tears after finding out during a school visit to the meadow that it might be developed. Children have been begging their parents to help.”

Kirsty added: “I’ve been totally overwhelmed. We only planned to target the roads nearest the meadow, but we had so many people come forward that I couldn’t find something for them all to do. We ordered twice as many leaflets as we thought were needed and they’ve all gone. I had people deliver to one road and then come back for more. Everyone was asking if we were expanding to other parts of the town, so we’ve now got a list of people waiting for another batch of leaflets to arrive. The strength of Chatteris lies in its community, and that has been proven yet again by their efforts this weekend.”

Volunteer Sarah Woods said: “My 10 year old daughter, Milly, feels very connected to the meadow – she picnics, walks our dog, and practices her photography there. She sobbed when she heard about the plans and insisted on being part of trying to save it.”

Sarah and Milly leafleted two streets and have offered to do three more.

Sarah explained why she thought the meadow was important, saying: “Only one in four children play outside in the UK, but the children of Chatteris have the wildlife-rich green space of Wenny Meadow to tempt them away from their consoles and screens”.

The Fenland District Council planning website already records well over 100 objections after just one weekend, and the group says that it is still early days for their campaign. Some of those volunteering with the group are making time to write a more comprehensive objection to the plans, so they expect the number of objections to increase further still.

A spokesperson for The Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign said: “Something we’ve noticed in the last few days is the extent to which those who are coming forward to try and save the meadow represent a diverse cross-section of Chatteris. They include the young, the old, those who’ve recently moved to Chatteris, and people who were born and bred here. It just goes to demonstrate the broad appeal of this amazing place.”

 

“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.”