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Residents fighting to save a piece of protected land have vowed to fight on despite Peterborough City Council lodging a planning application appeal that could end up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Tenter Hill Meadow, north of Thistle Drive in Stanground, was gifted to the people of Peterborough many decades ago on the understanding that it was to have been ‘protected and maintained’ as an open space by the city council.
But the planning application by developers Medesham Homes for 20 flats to be built directly threatens this.
When it came before the council’s planning committee in early November the application was refused on the basis that the proposal would result in the loss of the only piece of open space that was available within the ward – a ward already critically deficient in open spaces – and therefore contrary to the government’s own National Planning Policy Framework.
At the time of the planning refusal the council indicated that Medesham Homes might appeal the decision through its agents.
The irony is that Medesham Homes is a development company half owned by the council – therefore, the authority would effectively be appealing against itself.
That appeal has now been lodged (at an initial cost of £2,000 of taxpayers’ money), and when it comes to court could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of pounds according to campaigners.
The residents who contested the original application did so on the basis that they believed the council had an obligation, through an ancient agreement, ‘to protect the land in perpetuity, for the people of Peterborough’ and that obligation had now been broken.
The residents’ action group Save Tenter Hill Meadow has begun to fight the appeal by gathering names on a petition which will be presented to the next full council meeting on January 23.
Pat Corcoran lives adjacent to the land and is an organiser of the action group.
She said: “We believe that the Peterborough city councillors who also sit on the board of Medesham Homes should be pressing for them not to appeal this decision at a cost of many thousands of pounds to local taxpayers, and instead direct the company’s efforts elsewhere.
“I’ve spoken to similar action groups in London, and they tell me that appeals of this nature can cost upwards of £250,000 – that could be a quarter of a million pounds of Peterborough taxpayers’ money the council are proposing to spend fighting against themselves in court. It is simply ridiculous.
“The roads and laneways around Tenter Hill Meadow are very narrow, and at times barely wide enough for a bicycle, let alone cars, vans and trucks, and yet these 20 flats would result in a huge number of additional vehicle movements every morning, day and evening that the local lanes simply cannot cope with. In addition, this land, which was gifted to the people of Peterborough more than 60 years ago, is the only piece of open space anywhere around here.”
Mrs Corcoran said the Scouts which have their hut next to the proposed development would “lose all of their outdoor activity area, vital to their enjoyment and learning”.
She added that there is a “huge abundance of endangered wildlife in the area”.
Mrs Corcoran stated: “Are the city council and Medesham Homes really prepared to completely destroy a wildlife wilderness for just 20 flats? I hope not.
“This is the only open space for our children and families to use.
“Aren’t we always being told that our children need outdoor exercise to lose weight?”
The action group, with help from ward councillors Christian Hogg and James Lillis (Liberal Democrat) and John Whitby (UKIP,) have created a website (www.savetenterhill.org.uk) where a petition can be signed and more information viewed.
Cllr Hogg said: “We were approached by the local residents and asked for legal advice and help in respect of the planning application appeal by Peterborough City Council and Medesham Homes, and even though we are city councillors ourselves, we feel that this particular piece of land should be saved from the developers.
“I also find it ironic that Peterborough City Council are prepared to spend enormous amounts of public money to fund both sides of the court challenge because of their half-share interest in Medesham Homes.
“Now that simply cannot be right.”