Recent planning applications

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ECDC-building-small-300x182.jpg

The following planning applications in the Sutton division have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

20/00552/ARN
Coveney
Lane Farm 7 School Lane Coveney
Change of use of agricultural building to three dwellings.

17/00733/C19EH
Little Downham
Works adjacent to 7 Cannon Street Little Downham
To temporarily allow extended construction working hours in excess of those permitted under Condition 10 of decision notice 17/00733/FUM dated 13.04.2018 until 30 September 2020 at the latest.

20/00933/FUL
Little Downham
Head Fen Country Retreat Seventh Drove Little Downham
Change of use of land from grassland to use for camping and caravanning (together with the stationing of temporary WC and washing facilities).

20/00640/FUL
Sutton
88 Bellairs Sutton CB6 2RW
Single storey rear extension.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages. If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Mepal Outdoor Centre—the inside track

The Outdoor Centre at Mepal, which Conservative councillors now want to turn into a crematorium, has lain disused and neglected for several years now. What happened to lead to this, and why?

Background

Mepal Outdoor Centre, a site owned by East Cambridgeshire District Council, operated under a trust structure from the 1980s to 2016, catering for community users and school groups. In December 2016, an arson attack at the site led the trustees to the conclusion they could no longer manage the facility, and they handed back the keys to the Council.

The Council said that the Centre was ‘very tired, but it is believed that a viable business can be developed with appropriate investment and a robust business model’.

Under offer

So in summer 2017, a working party of three councillors—including me—was set up to consider applications to take on the site for community and leisure use. We took a very broad approach, inviting proposals which involved leasing the site from the council as well as outright purchase options. When the first round of advertising didn’t result in a sufficient variety of applications, we made the decision to advertise again.

We shortlisted the applications down to three, all very different. We interviewed the shortlisted applicants in 2018, and settled (unanimously) on one of them. The Full Council agreed to go ahead with this applicant subject to a satisfactory conclusion of negotiations.

Time went on, the deal wasn’t sealed, and it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t going to be. We were not (and still are not) allowed to reveal the name of the successful bidder. And since the failure of those negotiations with the applicant we chose in 2018, nothing happened. Or so we thought.

Secret plans

Liberal Democrat councillors continued to ask for updates from the Council, to find out what the ruling Conservative Group’s plan was. Most recently, we asked the question at the Council’s Finance & Assets Committee meeting on 23 June, and were told that ‘it hadn’t been a priority’.

What we didn’t know when we were given that answer was that it simply wasn’t true. For at least six months work had been going on secretly to bring plans together to put a crematorium on the site.

On 14 July, we received a notice that there would be a special meeting of the Council on 31 July, behind closed doors. On 15 July, we wrote to the Chief Executive of the Council asking for as much information as possible to be discussed in public, holding back only the material that was strictly necessary to be confidential. Our request was refused.

Papers arrive

On Saturday 25 July the papers arrived for the confidential meeting, with all the preparatory work laid out to turn the site into a crematorium. We were still not allowed to talk about any of it, and on Tuesday 28 July Cllr Mark Inskip and I, as councillors for the area in which the Mepal Outdoor Centre is located, issued a public statement.

We said how angry and frustrated we were that we were unable to be open and transparent with our residents about what was being done, as we believed we should, because of the Council’s unreasonable demand for silence.

That evening the local press published the news that Mepal Outdoor Centre would become a crematorium.

The decision is made

The Council met as planned on Friday 31 July, and Cllr Mark Inskip has given an account of our battle to get the Council to act openly and be honest with the public about what was happening. We were defeated by sheer weight of numbers, with Conservative councillors forcing the plan through.

There will now be a planning application, which will be heard in public. But it will be decided by those councillors who so enthusiastically gave their support for the crematorium proposal. There will be a meeting of the Council’s Finance & Assets Committee—but only after a lot more money has been spent on developing the scheme further, and again we don’t know whether the Committee will meet in public or not.

Questions remain

So why was no attempt made to reopen bidding after the successful offer in 2018 collapsed? Why did the Council not think more radically—perhaps rather than selling or leasing the site to a single outfit, turn it into more of an outdoor leisure village, with voluntary and commercial organisations all doing their thing on parts of the site?

And why a crematorium? The Council’s current Local Plan doesn’t say there is a need for one. The replacement Local Plan that should have been adopted before Conservative councillors withdrew it in February 2019 doesn’t mention it either. Nor does the Council’s Corporate Plan 2020-2023 which councillors approved only two weeks ago. Nor does the previous version agreed last year.

There is no evidence given in any of the Council’s strategic documents that East Cambridgeshire actually needs a new crematorium. Still less is there any evidence that the Mepal site, just thirteen minutes from a rival crematorium, is the best place for it even if the need were proven.

And the financial and other information behind this decision is still secret.

If, like us, you think this decision is wrong, please sign the petition at https://www.ecld.org.uk/moc – thank you!

Mepal Outdoor Centre petition

Lorna Dupré and Mark Inskip, district councillors for Mepal, at Mepal Outdoor Centre

On Friday 31 July, the ruling Conservative Group on East Cambridgeshire District Council forced through plans to build a crematorium on the site at Mepal Outdoor Centre. Although the centre is currently unused, many people have eagerly been anticipating it reopening.

The centre provided highly valued outdoor and residential activities for young people. The Council have failed to adequately explain the case for building a crematorium on this site, as opposed to elsewhere in the district, and has not justified the need for more such facilities, with several crematoria in the surrounding area.

Please sign the petition

The petition at https://www.ecld.org.uk/moc says:

“We the undersigned call upon East Cambridgeshire District Council to reverse the decision to use the Mepal Outdoor Centre site for a crematorium; to evidence the need for an additional crematorium and if proven to investigate alternative more suitable locations; and to engage with residents of the district and others interested in helping to build a successful future for Mepal Outdoor Centre as a leisure and learning centre.”

If you agree, please sign and share!

Mepal Outdoor Centre to become a crematorium

We tried. We tried everything we could think of to persuade the Council to come clean on what it was going to be deciding tonight.

We proposed that the meeting be adjourned to another day so that the information that really needed to be confidential could be kept confidential, and the rest made public. When that failed, we proposed to adjourn the meeting for an hour for the same reason.

We voted against excluding the press and public. After the press and public were excluded, we proposed that the whole matter be referred to the Council’s Finance & Assets Committee. We proposed amendments to refer parts of the paper to the Committee.

But at every turn we were defeated and secrecy prevailed until the decision was taken.

The Council has now confirmed what has been rumoured for weeks – that the Outdoor Centre at Mepal will become a crematorium, just thirteen minutes’ drive away from its nearest competitor at March.

No convincing argument has been made for the need for this facility. It’s not mentioned in the Council’s Local Plan. It’s not mentioned in the replacement Local Plan that the Council’s ruling group decided to abandon in February last year. It’s not even mentioned in the Council’s Corporate Plan that it agreed two weeks ago, just as it wasn’t mentioned in the Council’s Corporate Plan last year either.

And no real effort has been made to restore it to leisure use in the last two years, which is what I believe the majority of local residents would like to see.

It’s not over yet.

But a decision has been taken in secret tonight to move this proposal forward, with myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues voting against it. And the further it moves forward without being stopped, the more time and money is spent on it.

The Hive reopening, Saturday 25 July

The Hive leisure centre on the A10 near Ely is planned to reopen tomorrow. Saturday 25 July. For obvious reasons a number of systems have changed.

  • The activities on offer at this stage will be limited to swimming, exercise classes, and fitness suite. 
  • Fitness equipment will have been moved or relocated, and classes moved for maximum space.
  • Pool capacity will be set to four double lanes only, and the spectator area closed.
  • All visits will need to be pre-booked and pre-paid; there will be no reception, coffee point, or cash payments. Staff will be available to guide visitors, assist with enquiries, and exceptionally take contactless payment.
  • Visits will be limited to one hour including arrival and departure, with swimming and gym slots spaced at ten-minute intervals, and classes scheduled to avoid groups arriving and leaving at the same time.
  • A one-way system will be in place throughout the centre. Visitors will be able to use different activities successively (eg gym and exercise class) if they wish, but will need to pre-book in each case and leave and re-enter the building separately for each activity.
  • No changing facilities will be available, except for pool users post-swim; and lockers will not be in use.
  • A standardised national pricing structure is being adopted for this period, because payments are online and company-wide across the country.

Child malnutrition

I’ve removed an earlier post on child malnutrition in Cambridgeshire, which had been prompted by a report in the national media quoting an alarming number of children with malnutrition admitted to hospital at the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH).

It’s now apparent that those figures were overwhelmingly incorrect, and CUH has published a clear statement on the correct figures:

“Figures reported in some national and local media on the number of children admitted to hospital with malnutrition at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are inaccurate.

“The correct number of young patients admitted between January 2015 and January 2020 is 33, and not 915 as has been reported. This has understandably caused considerable concern to many.

“We fully recognise that malnutrition in children is an important public health issue that should be subject to public scrutiny and open debate, but it is equally important that this takes place on the basis of the correct facts.”

East Cambridgeshire Conservatives refuse to say ‘Black lives matter’

This evening (Thursday 23 July) Liberal Democrat councillors on East Cambridgeshire District Council proposed a series of measures to address racial inequality and fight racism in East Cambridgeshire. Conservatives amended this motion to remove the declaration that “Black lives matter”.

Cllr Matt Downey, who proposed the motion, said: “I’m appalled that the Tories cannot bring themselves to declare that Black lives matter. We tried our best to come to a compromise, but they were determined to avoid saying that Black lives matter. The people of East Cambridgeshire deserve better.”

Cllr Charlotte Cane, who seconded the motion, said: “Racism is a real and serious problem for people in East Cambridgeshire. We are glad we managed to pass some measures to improve things tonight, but we are all stunned that the Conservatives couldn’t even say that Black lives matter.”

This follows similar motions being proposed at Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cambridge City Council by Liberal Democrat councillors, all of which passed with cross party support, declaring that Black lives matter, and taking practical action to stand up to racism. A further Black lives matter motion is being proposed at the City of Ely Council on Monday 27 July.

Recent planning applications

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ECDC-building-small-300x182.jpg

The following planning application in the Sutton division has been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

20/00866/FUL
Coveney
Wolvey House Wentworth Road Coveney
Residential annex and garage.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages. If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.