Victory for residents after 20 homes plan is rejected for common land at Stanground
PUBLISHED: 10:44 07 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:55 07 November 2018
Victory came for hundreds of Peterborough residents who campaigned against a planning application for 20 houses on what was once common ground at Stanground.
In a rare turnabout, Peterborough City Councillors voted to reject planning officers’ recommendations to allow the application to go ahead at Thistle Drive.
Moved by impassioned pleas from a packed Town Hall Chamber, members had the difficult task of deciding whether to agree with those who had elected them, or follow the advice of their own officers.
Lee Collins, Development Management Officer for Peterborough City Council said: “This open land off Thistle Drive is an ‘allocated site’ for development of affordable housing, and Medesham Homes, the developer, have every right to expect outline planning approval.”
But objectors gathered at the Planning and Environment Protection Committee meeting on Tuesday (November 6), with a petition signed by over 2,000 worried residents, and 131 individual letters of complaint.
Cllr Christian Hogg and Cllr John Whitby, ward councillors, lead the objections at the meeting.
“This is a much loved piece of recreational land used every day by locals, and in an area already 5.7Ha deficient of open ground. That alone is enough to defeat this application,” said Cllr Hogg.
He added: “The land to the north is flood plain, and the bridleway accessing the site to the south is narrow and cannot be widened for traffic.”
Cllr Whitby added: “There is already an issue for locals with parking, and the addition of 20 more houses will only add to the problem.”
“I’m not against affordable housing”, he said. “I know we need more housing of this kind in Peterborough; but only four of these 20 houses are affordable housing, the rest would simply be sold for profit, and I cannot support that.”
The committee heard from several members of the public, all objecting, including Pete Lumley, leader of the local Scout Group for the past 35 years.
Mr Lumley said: “Our hut has 100 scouts aged 6-18. Outside activities are the essence of scouting. The loss of this open space would be disastrous.”
Tina Rotham-Hayward, whose family have lived at the Lock House on the nearby bridleway since 1921, said: “Images shown by council officers apparently showing no cars are very misleading. I have my own pictures here showing lots of cars, which is the real situation.”
Another resident, Roz Wright pointed out the open space had been common land, gifted to the people, since the 1700s, and was only taken over by Peterborough City Council in 1995.
“We hoped the Council would protect the ground, not develop it for pure greed and profit,” she said.
Medesham Homes is a joint venture between Cross Keys Homes and Peterborough City Council which aims to develop more social housing in Peterborough.
Cllr Peter Hiller, who is also a board member of Medesham, was in favour of the application. He said: “We are not ‘Bob the Builder’. These houses are not for profit as has been said. There will be a minimum of six affordable houses, if not the entire site.”
Mr Collins told the objectors: “This is a site allocated for development, so all other issues, objections and considerations are trumped by this – you simply cannot undo the decision that has been made in local planning.”
However, after lengthy debate, members of the committee voted six to four in favour of rejecting the application. Chairman Cllr Chris Harper said the decision was made on the grounds that ‘it goes against the Natural Planning Policy Framework of protecting open spaces’.
Loud applause and lengthy cheering rang out from the public gallery, with some members of the public in tears, as others hugged each other at what had seemed an unlikely victory.
Cllr Whitby said after the meeting: “It was a victory, yes, and we’ve won this battle; but we’ve yet to win the war – Medesham Homes may well appeal.”
Cllr Hogg added: “We’re going to write to every councillor and ask them to support us in this. If Medesham Homes decide to appeal then the cost to the tax-payers of Peterborough could run to £100k in legal fees, and nobody wants that.”
As he left the chamber, a disappointed Cllr Hiller said: “Yes it’s a blow, and now the board of Medesham Homes will have to decide if we take the matter to the Appeal Court.”