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: localplan@fenland.gov.uk
  • 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!

 

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 localplan@fenland.gov.uk  or by using the forms available on the Local plan website.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Consultation process on Fenland Local Plan review is underway

The process of reviewing the Fenland local plan is underway, and the initial period of consultation (“Issues and Options”) is running until November 21st. This is your opportunity to make your views known.

Full details are available here: you can read and comment on the Issues and Options plan, view all supporting documents and download the comments forms.

You can either reply using the (lengthy) online survey, or use the downloadable forms. Question 25 (open green space) is crucial, and you can use Question 27 (any other comments) if you don’t want to plough through every section.  Also crucial is Form C: nomination of Local Green Space. We’ll be offering further suggestions of how to use this process to save the meadow in coming days.

There is also a consultation exhibition taking place at Chatteris Library on Monday 4th November, 10:00 – 16:00.

Upcoming revision to the Fenland Local Plan

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.

ITV Anglia feature

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.

The Save Wenny Road Meadow campaign was featured on the local ITV News show this evening. Here's the piece!Find out how you can help at: savewennyroadmeadow.orgFacebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/336493206775031/

Posted by Lawrence Weetman on Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Landscape History of Wenny Road Meadow – public lecture by Dr S Spooner (UEA)

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.