Gareth Wilson

Liberal Democrat Campaigner for Haddenham & Aldreth Learn more

The Ely Masterplan

The Ely Masterplan is a plan for Ely’s future. Unfortunately the Conservative administration have turned it into a plan for massive housing growth; potentially as many as 10,000 new houses over the next 20 years. They should have listened to the people, who want future developments to conserve and enhance Ely’s unique character.

Infrastructural development has not been able to keep up with the rapid expansion of the city in recent years, and it is my view that we need to consolidate the environment in the centre of the city, instead of building thousands of new houses.


The First Masterplan – Scrapped

Following Cllr Ian Allen’s investigation of the background to the original Ely Masterplan, it was found to be illegal and was scrapped.

So the Master Plan was set up wrongly, wasting a lot of time and Council taxpayers’ money. The Conservative group Leader, Brian Ashton, ignored the constitution, refused to consult properly, refused to take advice, and this has now cost the council dearly.

Fortunately careful investigation under the freedom of information act, led Cllr Ian Allen to discover this. All work on the original Masterplan was immediately stopped and all reference to it was deleted from the “Local Development Framework” the East Cambs planning document that has taken three years of careful work and has now been agreed by the full Council Meeting to go to the final consultation phase.

The old plan relied on the appearance of the Ely Southern bypass, already twice dismissed by Central Government, and unlikely to be with us for many years. Holding back all commercial development until we had a bypass was never going to be a sensible answer.

When their consultation paper finally appeared, there were glaring omissions: no mention of the cathedral, or the improvements to Steeple Row, and only brief mention of leisure. The consultation was aimed at industry and “stakeholders”, with no thought for the people who live, work and shop in Ely. It ignored the likely cultural expectations of the managers who will lead the industrial expansion we need within East Cambridgeshire. We must attract such people to settle in or near Ely. These are people who will come to the cinema, visit an Art Gallery, attend concerts, go bird watching and enjoy events in Jubilee Gardens. No doubt many will also swim or play bowls but the limited concept of leisure within the now discarded Master Plan was a glaring omission.


The Ely Masterplan, Take Two

A new Ely Masterplan Working Party has been set up, and includes one Liberal Democrat member and four Conservatives, none of whom were involved in the original Masterplan.

Although it has been tasked with reviewing the plans for Ely but this time involving everybody from the beginning, the Conservative members of the working party are still convinced that Ely should expand by 5,000 to 10,000 more houses, virtually doubling in size and including all the farmland to Chetisham.

What do you think? The Regional Plan already has 1,700 more homes. Is this sufficient? What about the extra facilities that all these thousands of new people will need?


What Next?

The Conservatives recently decided to go ahead with their plan for 5,000 extra houses. I “called in” this decision, insisting that it 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.

This flies in the face of public opinion. After months of consultation, only one organisation has backed the excessive number of extra houses being proposed – URBED, the consultants who were paid to prepare 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? 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 improvements to our roads and play facilities, with the properly linked cycle tracks and walkways, before looking to expand Ely as far as Chettisham.

The Tories are bulldozing ahead, ignoring public opinion and political opposition alike. How many people do they need to tell them thousands of new homes don’t guarantee instant commercial success for Ely?