The consultation process has been even more laughable than before, with the one and only public consulation session in the village so poorly publicised that almost nobody attended.
Now, following pressure from local residents and Burwell Parish Council, ECDC have organised a new public consultation event, at The Gardiner Memorial Hall, on Saturday 23rd March 2013, from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm.
Closing date for responses to the consultation is 25th March 2013, leaving villagers almost no time to have their say.
Anyone who wishes to comment on this latest Local Plan can have their say by visiting the ECDC website at:Draft Local Plan
It is not just the idea of a Masterplan that people don't like.
The way it is being presented suggests the District Council are only listening to what they want to hear and ignoring suggestions that don't fit in with their plans, as though the Masterplan is merely paying lip-service to the notion of public consultation.
Owing to the onesided nature of the consultation process, a number of local residents have joined together to form a Burwell Action Group, 'BAG', to scrutinise the activities of the council regarding development in the village. BAG contact email is: burwellag'AT'live.co.ukVision but not visionaries blog
ECDC have signed off the Burwell Masterplan as a 20 year plan to build 350 homes off Newmarket Road and Ness Road. There is precious little else to it, other than a small amount of land for industrial and business use and the possibility of a couple of sports pitches. Most of the views of the villagers have been ignored, the promise that the Masterplan was a grand plan for the future of the village seems to have been broken. The Masterplan is little more than a pocket lining exercise for the Council and property developers. Building 350 houses over 20 years was promised, an average of about 17 per year. However the latest documentation from ECDC reveals that they intend to build houses at a rate of 40 per year for the next 9 years. See page 26 of this document for proof:Housing allocations in the draft local plan
Yes, unbelievably, the Council have set out on a mission to override the Masterplan before the ink is hardly dry with yet another grand plan for the district. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking the main purpose of the Council is to provide administrative jobs for otherwise surplus office workers and to line the pockets of developers.
A representative of Burwell Parish Council has indicated the PC's view is that if the housing development is to be brought forward, then the accompanying infrastructure, such as cycle paths, sports fields, play areas and open green spaces, needs to be implemented on the same timescale.
Furthermore, concerns are being raised about the allocation of land for industrial and employment use, off Reach Road. Much of the allocation has stood derelict for many years. There seems to be no guarantee that the owners will allow it to be developed on any particular timescale. Another smaller plot is also to be made available, but it hardly seems enough to provide jobs for those who will move into the newly built homes, let alone fulfill existing demands for a sustainable approach to providing employment close to the population.
Burwell is becoming more like a town in size. It is in danger of losing its village character and becoming just another retirement home and commuter suburb for Cambridge.
Following a presentation of the Masterplan at the recent Burwell at Large exhibition, the latest meeting was better attended, at least by the older generation. There remains a lack of input from the younger people who are the future of the village.
The District Council representatives admitted that they had not had time to read and fully digest the government's new planning law, which Council leader Peter Moakes had earlier claimed was a key reason for having a Masterplan. As such, it was decided to keep a broad range of options open, with proposals for 100 or 350 houses, plus infill, over the next 20 years as likely models.
The lack of available employment opportunities was highlighted, particularly workshops, offices and shops suitable for small businesses. The Council seem to be stuck with the idea that house building must come first and other infrastructure must follow.
The need for smaller homes, affordable to local people was highlighted. Burwell has an old person's Day Centre and is generally a popular retirement venue, which means many of the smaller properties are snapped up by older people downsizing. This often forces the indigenous population out of the village, as they cannot afford to live here.
The situation is compounded by the lack of social housing- East Cambs District Council have washed their hands of Council housing many years ago. These days the remains of the housing stock is managed very badly by one of Britain's worst housing associations and the Council is powerless, or indifferent, to prevent the ongoing neglect of local residents that has resulted from this dubious decision.
The situation is further compounded by a recent Council refusal to support an application for about 50 social housing units, following a campaign by a bunch of 'Nimbys' who didn't want it being built near them. These same refuseniks were vocal at the latest meeting, opposing even so much as a sports field, on land behind their corner of little England.
It was pointed out that people would rather own, than rent homes, in any case, but neither option is much in evidence at present. Public transport is poor and subject to continuous cuts, there are no footpaths or cyclepaths connecting Burwell to some surrounding villages, traffic is highlighted as a problem by many, although it is not considered bad enough to warrant a bypass.
A Parish Councillor suggested a relief road between Ness Road and Newmarket Road, with potential development off this, rather than the piecemeal plots, behind existing schemes, which are all the Council pen-pushers have been able to suggest so far. These are, of course, opposed by residents whose homes would be overshadowed by them.
In a positive turn, the Masterplan committee agreed to consult with the Parish Council over the Masterplan, including this suggestion.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday June 27th 2012, 6.30 pm, at Mandeville Hall.
The latest meeting was well attended by people concerned about the future of Burwell. There is a feeling that the Masterplan may be little more than a developer's charter.
Although some alterations have been made to the proposals, such as more options for sports pitches and green space, it was felt that more needed to be done to promote employment within the village.
Provision for workshop and office space is in demand. A potential site for small business development has sat derelict off Reach Road for many years. Any plan would need to address work within the village.
The plans centre on the amount of development on the land off Newmarket Road, with some proposals for up to 350 houses here. The comittee agreed, in principal, to seperate the idea of building a new school, from the proposal. This was seen as madness, knocking down the school and rebuilding it away from the heart of the village. A few more classrooms were called for, with room to build them on the school site.
Another option proposal is for 100 or 200 houses just off Newmarket Road. A proposal to consider having a village green area, with sports piches here, was taken up and will hopefully be offered at the next stage of consultation.
There was a presentation on Wicken Fen vision project, by Property Operations Manager for Wicken Fen, Chris Soans. He assured the meeting that safe paths between villages would be maintained, fenced off from grazing animals as necessary.
The next stage of the Masterplan is a public consultation at 'Burwell at Large', at the Village College, first weekend in March.
The idea of a Masterplan for Burwell was first introduced publicly at a meeting held in the Burwell Day Centre on 28th July 2011. Publicity for the meeting was poor, although about 70 people turned up to find out more.
East Cambridgeshire District Council say on their website: "The meeting, at the Burwell & District Day Centre in Ash Grove on Thursday 28 July, was attended by over 70 people who had come to hear how the Masterplan would work.
Many wanted to be reassured that growth and housing would not be forced on them and they would be able to have their voices heard. All members of the Working Party stressed the Masterplan would only work if it listened to and fully engaged with those who live and work in the village."
A second meeting was subsequently held at the same location on the 8th September, where the Masterplan commitee, which comprises a selection of Councillors, assisted by Council Officials, sought to assure local residents that their views would be taken into account.
Having produced Masterplans for Ely, Soham and Littleport, East Cambridgeshire District Council have decided to impose one on the village of Burwell. Some local people think that Burwell needs a Masterplan like a horse needs a bicycle!
Questionaires were then sent out to every household in the village and a drop in exhibition was held at the Gardiner Memorial Hall.
Less than 10% of the population completed a questionaire and there is no suggestion that those who completed them were all supporters of the Masterplan. The questionaire was written by the Council and was designed to elucidate the kind of things the Council wanted to hear. There was no question asking if people wanted a Masterplan, for example.
The next public meeting of the Masterplan commitee, on the 3rd November, was the first ever meeting held in the newly opened Mandeville Hall, the large meeting room providing an excellent venue.
The commitee presented some of the ideas put forward in the questionaire, glossing over the suggestions that No Masterplan was a common suggestion.
Much of the meeting was taken up by public suggestions and questions. One idea proposed was to use the farmland off Newmarket Road as a village green area, which would be also be ideally suited for a football pitch, being central, level and well-drained. It has been noted that the village doesn't really have a village green and the recreation ground is low lying and prone to flooding.
Various concerns were raised about traffic, particularly the amount of heavy lorries using North Street and the lack of a footpath, cyclepath or bridlepath between Burwell and Exning.
The following meeting, on 7th December was held in a small backroom at Mandeville Hall. The main hall was unavailable as the Parish Council have effectively given it over to the Scouts, whose hut has fallen down.
No public questions were permitted, except one written one that had been submitted. The commitee signed off the minutes of the last meeting, in spite of protests that they were not an accurate account of that meeting.
A presentation was given by consultants representing Anglian Water, who stated that the waste water treatment plant at Burwell had plenty of spare capacity.
This is in remarkable contrast to a recent refusal, by Burwell Parish Council, to support an application for about 47 new homes by Hastoe Housing Association, on the grounds that there was not enough sewage capacity in the village.
A presentation was then given by consultants from Hunts District Council Urban Design, with various development options. These were variations on the theme of building on the County Council owned farmland off Newmarket Road, adjacent to the doctor's surgery.
Other proposals included demolishing the village school and relocating it to create further property development potential in the centre of the village.
The next public meeting is 2nd February 2012, at 6.30 pm, Mandeville Hall