Have your say on major expansion plans throughout East Cambs

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How do you feel about 11,400 new homes being built across East Cambridgeshire in the next 19 years?

That’s one of the proposals set forward by East Cambridgeshire District Council, which yesterday launched its second public consultation to hear public views on its draft Local Plan.

The plan also says Soham’s town centre is “under performing” and should be regenerated, and that there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes across the district.

This latest version of the long term plan was prepared following a review of the existing 2015 Local plan, and identifies a need for 11,400 new dwellings and 6900 new jobs across the district.

Councillor Coralie Green, service delivery champion for strategic planning at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We have listened to the feedback and thoughts of our residents and now want to seek their views on the newest version of the plan.

“This is an important document which will determine what East Cambridgeshire will look like in the future and how it will become an even better place to live, work and visit. “

Building homes a key priority

Construction is a major priority within the draft plan.

According to the document, only 163 homes were built across the entire district in 2014/15 and only 181 in 2015/2016.

In his introduction to the draft plan, Leader of the Council James Palmer says: “That simply is not sufficient. Every week, on average, around 10 new ‘households’ are created in East Cambridgeshire, whether that be children growing up wanting their own homes; young people in shared accommodation getting married and wanting to start a family; people moving to the area to take a job; or partners deciding to go their separate ways.”

Yet for the past two years only three homes were built on average each week across the district, leaving seven “newly created” households with no home to move into, Cllr Palmer adds.

“We can’t let this continue. And we aren’t building enough ‘affordable homes’ either. Just 19 in 2014/15 and 54 in 2015/16.”

Mr Palmer said his council was “committed to building a better East Cambridgeshire”, adding that while it was important to protect “the very reasons why the district has such a high quality of life,” there was a need for growth, including building more houses and creating job opportunities.

In its Vision for East Cambridgeshire, ECDC wants to create 11,400 new homes and 6900 new jobs by 2036 while maintaining the district’s “high quality of life” and its identity as a predominantly rural area of villages and market towns.

As well as hoping to boost employment opportunities at Lancaster Way Business Park near Witchford – the district’s only Enterprise Zone – ECDC are looking at other areas for economic expansion over the next two decades.

These include 2.8 hectares of land in North Ely, 11.2 hectares at Ely Distribution Centre, 10.8 hectares east of the A142 bypass in Soham, 83.2 hectares south of Fordham and 35 hectares at Elean Business Park, north of Sutton.

A map showing development plans for Ely.

Ely

According to the draft plan, Ely is England’s second smallest city, with a population of around 20,000.

Major infrastructure planned for the city include the construction of the A142 southern by-pass, from Stuntney Causeway to Angel Drove, “widespread improvements” to the cycle network, an upgrade to sewage treatment facilities and “enhanced health facilities” including at the Princess of Wales Hospital.

There are plans to build 3000 homes on 215.8 hectares of land in North Ely and up to 50 dwellings or retail spaces at The Grange, Nutholt Lane.

The council also wants to build between 50 and 65 dwellings, predominantly residential, at the Paradise area off Nutholt Lane, saying there would be “no loss of, or impact on the usability of, the Paradise Playing Fields”.

Other opportunities listed include building a hotel and pub at the Octagon Business Park, Angel Drove, and around “100-200 homes (though more welcomed, in principle, if an appropriate design solution can be achieved” near Ely Station.

Littleport

Priorities for Littleport listed in the draft plan include: developing a network of green spaces within the town and to the River Great Ouse and the wider countryside; improved cycle and pedestrian access to Little Downham and Ely; and new routes to connect the north, south and east of Littleport.

Councillors also want to improve access to Littleport Station through additional car and cycle parking and enhanced walking and cycling routes.

It wants town centre “streetscape improvements” in Main Street, Granby Street, Hitches Street, Globe Lane and Crown Lane and improved bus service provision.

Nine sites are identified for new housing, employment and “mixed-use” development, including 1200 dwellings on land south of Grange Lane. There are also plans to build 50 dwellings at Old Station Goods Yard, Station Road, 287 at Highfield Farm, Ely Road, 63 on a field west of 1B Upton Lane, 250 west of Woodfen Road, 600 on land west of Highfields.

Soham

The draft plan describes Soham as “an historic and attractive market town of about 11,000 people, located midway between Ely and Newmarket”, which has grown rapidly over the past decade.

The council’s draft plan prioritises: the provision of a railway station; secondary and other school provision; improvements to the Fountain Lane recreation ground and the Commons; a new cricket ground; and better pedestrian and cycle routes and facilities, including cycle routes linking Soham with Wicken and Ely via Stuntney.

It also wants to improve Soham Library and provide “pedestrian streetscape enhancements” in the town centre.

Numerous sites have been earmarked for development, including 300 dwellings on land off Brook Street, 87 on land at the back of 23-49 Fordham Road, a further 90 on land off Fordham Road, 160 on land south of Blackberry Lane, 100 on land north of Blackberry Lane, 126 on land west of the Cherry Tree Public House, Cherry Tree Lane, a further 200 on land south of Cherry Tree Lane, west of Orchard Row, 100 on land off Kingfisher Drive, 200 at land off Northfield Road, 600 on Eastern Gateway and 90 on land off Station Road.

As well as major housing development, the council has plans to regenerate Soham town centre with the help of Soham Town Council.

The draft plan states: “The town centre appears to be under performing, given the population of Soham and its catchment area.

“Whilst it provides a good range of community facilities, there is a limited choice of shops, restaurants and pubs, and the retail offer could be greater.

“Footfall in the town centre is relatively low for a town of its size, and the turnover of retail units is high.”

Development plans for Soham.

Planners want to increase the “quality and range” of the retail on offer and to make the centre a “more vibrant hub” for Soham. They also recommend improvements to the “appearance and character of the town centre to make it more attractive and pedestrian friendly”, as well as re-introducing a regular market.

Villages

The draft plan also lists development and infrastructure opportunities for housing and local amenities in local villages.

Coveney

In Coveney, councillors want to improve the village hall, broadband access and roads, particularly West Fen Road.

Fordham

In Fordham, improvements should be made to pedestrian and cycling routes, the draft plan says, “in particular the exploration of separating cycle paths and footpaths along Mildenhall Road”.

Councillors also want to look at providing a cycle path to Isleham, Burwell and Newmarket, as well as a new sports pavilion or centre and new play area equipment. Extra seating around the village, street lighting on Isleham Road and traffic calming measures on Mildenhall Road were also listed as priorities.

In addition, five sites have been set out for development in Fordham, including up to 150 dwellings near Scotsdales Garden Centre on Market Road.

Haddenham

Priorities listed for Haddenham include highway improvements and traffic calming measures between Wilburton and at Witcham Toll junction, improvements to pedestrian and cycle routes, including a new pedestrian crossing near Haddenham’s crossroads, and provision of a new route, linking Northstowe, Haddenham, Stretham and Ely.

ECDC also wants better public transport links, improvements to community facilities including Arkenstall Centre, Recreation Centre and Sports and Social Centre.

Another priority is expanding the primary school to accommodate “likely increase” in demand for spaces.

Four sites for development are identified, including 40 housing units on land east of Chewells Lane.

Isleham

In Isleham the plan calls for improvements to play areas and open spaces as well as to the village hall. It wants better traffic flow to Soham, a potential upgrade to waste water treatment works and foot and cycleway improvements, especially to Fordham and the marina/wash area.

Five sites have been earmarked for development, including 150 dwellings on land off Fordham Road.

Little Downham

According to the draft plan, priorities for Little Downham include: ensuring there are enough primary school places to meet demand; improvements to pedestrian/cycle routes, particularly from Little Downham to Ely, and to the sports ground and open space, including the refurbishment and extension of the existing pavilion; finding land for a new cemetery; and maintaining public transport services.

The council wants to build 25 dwellings on land west of Ely Road.

Little Thetford

The council wants to investigate possible safety improvements and traffic calming measures at the junction of the village with the A10 and at the entry to village, and “implement it where practical and appropriate to do so”.

Other priorities include improving pedestrian and cycle routes, including foot/cycle path extensions in the Wyches from the cemetery to A10, and from Little Thetford to Stretham and Ely.

The council wants to build 15 dwellings on land north of The Wyches.

Mepal

Priorities include: improving and extending the village hall; traffic calming on Sutton Road and School Lane and along Witcham Road at the sports ground entrance; better pedestrian and cycle routes, including along the Old Bedford River and to link the village with Sutton, Witcham, Witchford and Ely, and to the Mepal Outdoor Centre; improvements to sports ground/open space including the creation of a cricket pitch and parking adjacent to the pavilion; and provision of additional primary school places.

Fifty new dwellings are planned on land at Brick Lane.

Prickwillow

Priorities include: better broadband; improvements to pedestrian/cycle routes by “working with partners to explore the provision” of an off-road cycle route into Ely; a new sports ground/open space through the development of playing pitches, possibly at the sports and social club; improvements to play areas, with specific schemes to be identified.

Pymoor

Priorities listed in the draft plan: iimprovements to pedestrian/cycle routes; improvements to sports ground/open space; improvements to roads in and around the village/ maintenance of roadside verges.

Eleven dwellings are planned on land located northeast of 9 Straight Furlong.

Queen Adelaide

Priorities include: improvements to existing/new village hall; improvements to pedestrian/cycle routes, in particular to river area and along Ely Road; provision of a new children’s play area; open space improvements, including within the river area; improvements to road/transport infrastructure, including reducing the speed of traffic along the B1382 and an improved junction at the river bridge.

Stretham

ECDC wants to improve pedestrian and cycle routes to Ely and other key locations, upgrade the community hall and improve play or sports facilities for older children and teenagers in the village.

Another key priority is to improve public transport services and facilities.

The council hopes to build 100 dwellings on 6.5 hectares of land at Manor Farm. A large part of the site is currently under construction by a Community Land Trust, with planning permission for 75 units.

The remaining allocated part of the site will deliver approximately 25 additional units at land located north of Plantation Gate.

Stuntney

Priorities include improving pedestrian and cycle routes including a “possible cross-country route to Ely”; improvements to community facilities such as the existing social club and a the opening of a new village shop; renovating the existing playing field surface and creating an informal nature reserve or orchard.

Sutton

This large village six miles west of Ely has been recommended for a large number of infrastructure upgrades, including: traffic management at The Brook, High Street and The America; improvements to pedestrian/cycle infrastructure, such as additional footpaths at Bury Lane and The America.

The draft plan also recommends a new pedestrian crossing at The Brook, creating additional primary school places, new play equipment at Stirling Way play area and additional play area provision as well as an extra football pitch, expanded GP medical services and a new burial ground north of The Brook.

Two sites for housing development and one for employment have been identified: the council wants to build 250 dwellings on 18.3 hectares of land north of The Brook and west of Mepal Road, and 25 dwellings on land  east of Garden Close, as well as expand Elean Business Park.

Upware

Priorities in this small, very rural village on the east bank of the River Cam include: improvements to broadband service; better pedestrian and cycle routes including to Wicken and Waterbeach; providing allotment land; and a children’s play area.

Wardy Hill

Priorities include: improvements to broadband and providing a slide and other equipment at the children’s play area.

Wentworth

The draft plan’s key priorities for this small village five miles west of Ely are more equipment for all ages in the new play area; improving the village hall, specifically a new heating system; and providing adequate school places in Witchford for Wentworth children.

Wicken

Priorties include: improving broadband; the cycle route between Wicken and Soham view Downfields and Drury Lane; upgrading play areas, including equipment for older children; better public transport; and improving sports pitches and the village hall.

The council hopes to build 24 dwellings on land off Lower Road and 11 on land south of Chapel Lane.

Wilburton

Priorities include: upgrading the sports ground/open space, including a new pavilion with better changing facilities and off road parking; better pedestrian and cycle routes to provide links with Stretham, Ely and other key locations; updating play areas; better parking provision by the village hall; road safety improvements in several locations; better pedestrian facilities at Twenty Pence Road and High Street; additional school places.

There are plans to build 35 homes on land off Station Road.

Witcham

Priorities include: improving the village hall, including its sport changing facilities; better pedestrian and cycle routes, including the completion of the A142 cycleway between Witcham Toll and Wentworth; upgrading play areas and supplying a new one; improvements to public and community transport following the removal of a bus subsidy; better open spaces.

ECDC wants to build 10 homes at Kings of Witcham, The Slade.

Witchford

A large village one mile west of Ely, Witchford has “a good range of services”, including a shop with post office, churches, a village hall and primary and secondary schools.

Nearby is Lancaster Way Business Park, the district’s only Enterprise Zone.

The draft plan identifies a need to improve pedestrian and cycle routes, including a bridge across the A10 from the BP garage into Ely, a pedestrian path on Grunty Fen Road from Main Street and wider footpaths at various locations.

It also calls for improvements to sports and open space including new netball courts at Bedwell Hey Lane recreation ground, improvements to Victoria Green park and to Common Road play area.

It also identified a need for more school places in the village.

The council has plans for development around Witchford, including the construction of 128 homes on 5.2 hectares of land north of Field End, 50 dwellings on land east of Marroway Lane, and 170 homes on 6.1 hectares of land off Meadow Close.

How to have your say

The online consultation portal will remain on the council’s website for the next six weeks, with the consultation period closing at 11.59pm on February 22.

People can feed back their thoughts on the plan online, by letter or email.

The draft plan can be viewed on the council’s website, at reception in the council’s offices in Ely and at local libraries in the district.

The draft policies maps can be viewed here.

All comments will be uploaded to ECDC’s online consultation portal and will not be confidential.

The third and final consultation will take place in Summer 2017.