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Councillors throw out plans for Soham Lodge expansion

Councillors have thrown out a plan to build a new retirement village in Soham next to one of the town's historic commons.

The proposal before East Cambridgeshire District Council planners was to extend the Soham Lodge nursing home, which is on the bypass next to Qua Fen Common, and to build 90 new retirement flats, 54 staff bedsits and 37 houses.

But members of the authority’s planning committee meeting last week unanimously rejected the plan, agreeing with council officers that the scheme would be out of character with the area, would harm biodiversity and did not include adequate affordable housing.

Soham Lodge artist impression(34133568)
Soham Lodge artist impression(34133568)

Asking councillors to reject the scheme, Carol Duff, from the Qua Fen Common Residents’ Group, questioned the need for expansion when the home is currently only operating at 68 per cent capacity.

“We question if this is an extension to a nursing home or a housing development,” she said.

Mrs Duff added the scheme had ‘no respect for the commons that live alongside it’ and that the development would harm the habitat. “This is not a barren wasteland but a species-rich Soham gem,” she said.

Cllr Josh Schumann said the town’s commons were ‘extremely special’ and Cllr Bill Hunt said he knew of no other town with open land like it.

Councillors also highlighted the lack of provision of safe paths and cycleways to and from the estate as well as other highway concerns.

“It’s an extremely dangerous road and asking a lot of little old ladies to walk along the side of the road to get in to Soham strikes me as extremely stupid,” said Cllr Gareth Wilson.

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