Plans for a 500-home development in Kennett have caused a rift between residents.
Opponents claim scaremongering was used to encourage villagers to form a community land trust (CLT) which would give them some control over the development.
“Two East Cambridgeshire councillors came to a meeting in the village and told us that the development was a done deal and the only way we could have any say over it was to become a part of it by setting up the CLT,” said consultant surgeon Fahmy Fayez Fahmy, a member of the Kennett Action Group set up to oppose the plans.
“They described the plan as a ‘runaway train’ and said that if it was opposed the landowner could sell the site to an independent developer and then we might have thousands of new homes instead of hundreds.
“We want an independent and impartial review of both the setting up of the CLT and a subsequent vote of members which was suddenly suspended because we firmly believe that due process has not been properly followed.”
But Robin Swanson, chairman of the trustees of the CLT and parish council chairman, described the action group’s belief that it was possible to stop the development as ‘naive and disingenuous’.
“This landowner said he wanted to sell some land but wanted to work with a CLT to come up with a sustainable plan which would provide various benefits to the village. We were told if we wanted to take advantage of this we should set up the CLT. It was a unanimous vote,” said Mr Swanson, adding that the CLT had been able to negotiate important changes to the original plan including a new primary school and a decrease in the size of the site.
In September, the CLT was asked to support the trustees in a ballot of members.
“The day before the result was due to be concluded, we began to suspect that there had been some irregularities and the vote, and the meeting at which the result was due to be announced, were both suspended,” said Mr Swanson.
“We will be holding a meeting on November 9 at which we will explain this to our members and let them know how we propose to proceed from here,” he added.