Gareth Wilson

Liberal Democrat Campaigner for Haddenham & Aldreth Learn more

Size Doesn’t Matter for Ely’s Success

by Gareth Wilson on 11 February, 2009

Furious Lib Dems have argued that size doesn’t matter when it comes to attracting shops and leisure facilities to Ely.

They claim up to 5,000 new homes are not needed to encourage big commercial names to move in.

Ely West Councillor Sheila Friend-Smith visited Witney in Oxfordshire and Cirencester in Gloucestershire, with the council’s working party, to see first hand how they had created vibrant centres with around the same population as Ely.

“We don’t need to swell the population of Ely by creating a giant new housing estate to get better facilities,” she said. “These two wonderful places have attracted busy shopping centres and community facilities but Cirencester is only slightly bigger than Ely.”

Cllr Gareth Wilson and Ely South Cllr Jeremy Friend-Smith attempted to stop the Masterplan in its tracks on Thursday. They called in East Cambridgeshire District Council’s decision to push ahead with the plan, asking for it to be put on hold until a transport study was completed in a few weeks time. But the Tories voted to push ahead with their plan without waiting.

Lib Dems have complained that, after months of consultation, only one organisation has backed the excessive number of extra houses – URBED the consultants who prepared the original Masterplan.

“Although central Government will force some growth upon Ely why on earth do we want to offer up any more than the bare minimum?” said Cllr Wilson. “In fact we should be using the current credit crunch to allow the massive growth of Ely in the last few years to bed down. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to commercial success.

“The council should be making sure we get the necessary infrastructure before the new residents are in their new houses – the promised made up roads and play facilities, with the properly linked cycle tracks and walkways, before looking to expand Ely as far as Chettisham.

Haddenham Cllr Ian Allen reported that the East of England Regional Assembly had revealed there was no government money for the Ely Southern Bypass – a vital element of the Masterplan.

“The Tories are bulldozing ahead believing this plan is the answer to Ely’s prayers and ignoring the stacks of evidence to the contrary,” he said. “How many people do they need to tell them thousands of new homes don’t guarantee instant commercial success for Ely?”

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