History of the Mereham Proposal
The Mereham proposal, or at least a new development on the land between Stretham and Wilburton, is not a new idea. In fact it has appeared under several names - including Westmere, Wilburton, and Mereham. All recent attempts to get the area accepted have been thrown out - and regional planning assessments have thrown the location out very early in their studies, due to it's unsuitability.
But that has not always been the case - way back in 1989/90 the then East Cambs Council backed a proposal for a development of 1500 houses (plus affordable housing) at the site. This was when the local Strategic Plan included the requirement for a new development along the A10(T). Times change, plans change, the A10 was downgraded, and the idea of a new settlement along the A10 which doesn't include integration with the railway network just isn't sustainable.
So we thought we'd have a nostalgic look into how well the proposals have done previously...
(this section is still under development, if you know of the historical events over the past 25 or so years for the site then please let us know!)
Inspector's Conclusions - May 1990
It should be pointed out that back in 1989/1990 when Westmere was proposed, the A10 was in fact a trunk road, and the Structure Plan included the idea of building a new settlement of up to 1500 houses along the A10(T). Previously thought the be an advantage to Ely, it can now clearly be seem as a disadvantage by all those concerned (well, all those not stuck in the 1980's such as the developers - as shown by their inclusion of this report in 2005 as though it "helps" their proposal!) as Ely has been one of the fastest growing cities in the UK.
Some snippets from the Inspector's Conclusions:
"The volume of traffic would be small when compared to the total generated by Westmere but, nevertheless, the local highway authority are, rightly in my view, concerned at the environmental impact of such additional traffic on existing settlements. It seems to me that in this case the additional traffic would cause harm to the roadside environment of Wilburton and other settlements"
Strangely enough, in a change to the structure plan - good access to the existing railway network was removed - but that was before the discovery of the word "sustainable".
The conclusion also discusses contention over two settlements, pointing out that one settlement may dilute the economic growth of and hence undermine the other. Surely this is now true for Northstowe, and further economic development at Cambourne (which is desperately trying to attract new businesses)?
The plan also wanted to limit the size to 1500 houses - not the 5000-7500 for the current Mereham proposal. The local infrastructure has not changed enough to even consider the additional 3500-5000 houses, infact plans to dual the A10(T) never happened, and the A10 has subsequently been downgraded.
"Westmere lies furthest from the centre of Cambridge at 10.5 miles" - at least they knew how far it is then...Ed.
(20.5.12) - "it is clear that Waterfenton and Denny have an advantage in the provision of social housing. Not only are the located close to the main source of the need, that is the City..."
(20.5.22) - "Policy 14/3 presumes against development which would adversely affect the character of the area. Despite CDLs submissions to the contrary, I find it hard to accept that the Westmere proposals would be so well assimilated into the existing landform by carefully contrived and sophisticated landscaping measures that the settlement would not detract from the present character of the area. The concept of creating a typical fenland edge with woodlands sweeping down the slope is laudable, but it is unlikely that it would be achieved for very many years, if then."..."Clearly, Westmere is at a disadvantage in terms of this part of the criterion (Fen Edge Island Area of Best Landscape)".
(20.5.26) - "All three sites comprise land which is liable to flood. At Westmere the settlement would be enclose on three sides by a bund; the crest of the bund meeting the natural ground level on the northern side. The construction of the bund would be technically feasible and would minimise flood risk to an acceptable degree."
(20.5.27) - "Initially the NRA stipulated that the crest height of the bund should be 6m"...(this was based on a 1 in 500 year flood event reaching 5.1m - but considering what has happened over the past 25 years, inparticular this year (2007) - can this still be valid? Ed.)
(20.5.29) - "At Westmere the open link to higher ground could be perceived by residents to be a safeguard, allowing access to Wilburton in the event of evacuation due to flooding." - well, if people are stupid enough to buy a house on such a development they can stay there! Free boat with every home perhaps? Ed.
(20.5.31) - "The dualling of the A10(T) between Cambridge and Ely is unlikely to take place until the late 1990s and whether or not this is to be on the present alignment has yet to be determined." - hey, did I miss something? Ed.
(20.8.2) - "At Westmere, existing and proposed landscape features, local topography and the proposed 5m strip of dedicated land should prevent any physical or visual coalascence of the proposed settlement with Wilburton or Stretham...However, Westmere would introduce a significant new population to with a mile or so of the centres of the two villages. This would be bound to bring pressure to bear upon local facilities and institutions, some effects of which would not be welcomed by villagers."
The recommendation was to allow permission for 1500 dwellings at Westmere, but this was based on dualling of the A10(T), provision for the Fen Link Road, and the backing of East Cambs County Council. It's kind of null and void now - as the size has trebled, the A10 is no longer a trunk road, never mind a dual carriageway, and the structure plan has changed.
Cambridge Sub-Region Study - September 2001
Regional Planning Guidance for East Anglia (RPG6) was adopted in November 2000 and
sets the framework for development in this region up to the year 2016.
The RPG puts forward a strategy for the Cambridge Sub Region that seeks to change the
focus for growth away from the strategy of Dispersal set out in current guidance, towards
a more Cambridge centred approach adopting the following sequence:
1. Within the built up are of Cambridge
2. On the edge of Cambridge subject to a review of the Cambridge Green Belt
3. In a new settlement close to Cambridge
4. Within the built up area of Market Towns and larger villages
5. By extensions to Market Towns
(Note - not in a field 10.5 miles from Cambridge - Ed.)
The Conclusions were:
The Study considers that from the many new settlement locations reviewed there
is a shortlist of 4 for further detailed consideration as part of the Structure Plan
review process and these are : Longstanton-Oakington/Waterbeach/Great
Abington and Childerley Gate. The report has recommended that Wilburton
(Westmere) be eliminated from consideration as a site for a new settlement and
that Six Mile Bottom should be accorded only low priority.