Residents form human shield against bulldozer

St Johns Avenue ANL-151103-165359001
St Johns Avenue ANL-151103-165359001

Residents fighting a controversial Newmarket homes plan stood in the path of a bulldozer as it attempted to clear the site.

They are opposed to a plan by housing association Flagship to build 21 homes on a former allotments site in St John’s Avenue.

On Wednesday, members of East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee threw out the application because of traffic safety concerns but late on Thursday, residents’ representative Garsham Robertson, who is now considering making a formal complaint, received an email from Flagship which said work to clear the site was due to start in the morning.

By the time the bulldozer arrived, residents were at the site ready to block its path and after a two-hour stand off, the digger finally left. The police were contacted as residents were concerned nesting birds would be disturbed by any work on the site.

Resident and former district council chairman Peter Cresswell who spoke against the planning application at last week’s meeting, said residents had been left fuming by the actions of the association.

“They arrived ready to clear the site and put up hoardings,” said Mr Cresswell, “despite the fact that the council had refused planning permission for the development.”

The Flagship scheme has always been controversial and all previous applications to build on the site have been thrown out, the last one in 2009 because allotment land would have been lost and not replaced. Residents have claimed consultation events linked to the most recent plan were not widely publicised and they have highlighted traffic issues as the main reason the homes should not be built.

The site is close to Ditton Lodge Primary School which has expanded and there are already significant traffic problems with cars parked outside the school.

Mr Robertson told the Journal: “This appears to be yet another example of Flagship attempting to ride roughshod over the local community. My opinion is that there would appear to have been an assumption that permission would have been granted on Wednesday and that works were planned for immediate start.”

Lee Webster, Flagship’s development project manager, said:“To enable us to conduct further site investigations we had planned to clear sections of the site, and were planning to erect temporary fencing to protect the site from potential trespassers. As landowners, we would like to reassure residents that we had not planned any unauthorised work.”