Opportunity to comment on ECDC Improvement Plan

11 March 2008 East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) has initiated a consultation process on an ‘Improvement Plan’ which aims to provide improvements in a number of policies and services. This is an important opportunity to respond to the priorities outlined by the East Cambridgeshire District Council including issues relating to sustainable development and the environment in Ely. All responses must be received by 31st March 2008.
Comments can be emailed to performance@eastcambs.gov.uk or posted to Performance, ECDC, Babylon Bridge, Waterside, Ely, CB7 4AU. They can also be submitted online through http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/html/publicconsult.asp
We have highlighted a few points that might be of use when considering your response. Please click here for further information.
ECDC’s Policy and Resources Committee will be held on Wed 23 April at 4.30 in the Council Chambers in the Grange. Further information about the Improvement Plan will be considered at this meeting

Members’ meeting

We’re holding a members’ meeting to report back on developments at Roswell and crucially to get LCPRE members’ views on the vision for Ely Wildspace, from 7.30-9.30pm on Mon 10 March, in Needhams Hall at the City of Ely Community College.The evening will include a short talk about the importance of wild spaces by Robert MacFarlane (author of The Wild Places, recently featured on BBC Radio 4), and an overview by Helen Smith (of the Little Ouse Headwaters Project) showing how one East Anglian community is already managing to conserve its wild areas. All members are very welcome – it’s vitally important that we hear your views.

Continued damage to Roswell Pit

In stark contrast to the sensitive approach being adopted at Queen Adelaide, work at Roswell has, over the past few months, continued to be needlessly destructive. Over the summer a kingfisher nest was reportedly destroyed, and a spectacular water lily bed removed. Since then a new track has been built in the woods – with no permission from Natural England; other work has continued even though previous permission has lapsed; several rusting boats have been left on the Pit; the flower-rich meadow of Ely Common, which had been carefully managed for over a century, has been severely damaged by being mown far too often; and most recently, the owner has been served a warrant by the Environment Agency for dumping household waste (including wire, carpet and plastic) around the edge of his bank-side concrete plinths

Queen Adelaide Settling Ponds/Ely Beet Pits

As many local birdwatchers know, these former settling ponds have developed into exceptionally important wildlife habitat, supporting significant populations of bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded tits, otters and water voles. However, the Potter Group, which acquired the site along with the rest of the former beet factory, faces a serious dilemma: the water is held above ground level but the bank retaining it is inadequately engineered to meet the requirements of the Reservoirs Act 1975.
Rebuilding the bank would be prohibitively expensive. Instead the owners’ consultants have spent over a year liaising with the Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the Environment Agency and RSPB to develop a plan to dewater the main, northern lagoon (so it is no longer classed as a reservoir) while providing new, below-ground reedbeds and open water in the south of the site. They submitted these plans and a full Environmental Impact Assessment to ECDC in December 2007; importantly these documents recognise the inter-dependence of the remaining habit fragments in this area, and hence the importance of securing a long-term future for all of them.
LCPRE and the statutory consultees believe these plans are now close to representing the best possible outcome for the site. Although there will be unavoidable losses to wildlife habitat over the short term, we understand that there will be net gains in 5 to10 years’ time, by which stage the site may be handed over to a local organisation to be managed as a nature reserve. If it progresses as planned, this project will represent a great demonstration of effective environmental mitigation.

Village Green application

LCPRE has applied to Cambridgeshire County Council to have the whole of Ely Common recognised as a Village Green. In many ways this would give it the same status as an official common (which many Ely residents assumed it already had).The application was posted around the site on 10 January 2008. Objections must be received by 21 February. We hope to hear the outcome of the application shortly after that.

Developing the Ely Wildspace vision

Since October 2007 we have been meeting with representatives of both the Wildlife Trust and ECDC to develop and explore the Ely Wildspace vision. LCPRE and the Wildlife Trust have identified key areas, stretching from the A142 along the Great Ouse as far as Queen Adelaide, whose protection we believe is vital if the area’s wildlife and people enjoyment of it are to have a long-term future.

Certificate of Lawfulness part 2

On 17 August ECDC determined that Mr Tyrrell’s Certificate of Lawfulness application was “indeterminable”, because the forms were completed incorrectly. Nevertheless, they offered their informal opinion that the proposal to use the pit for recreational cruising of boats, and for temporary mooring, would not require planning permission. The officer signing this advice left ECDC shortly afterwards.
ECDC’s opinion was directly contradictory to LCPRE’s legal advice, which we submitted to ECDC eight days previously. In our barrister’s opinion, all the individual elements of the Certificate of Lawfulness application added up to a marina, which under European law cannot be developed without planning permission and a full Environmental Impact Assessment. The Environment Agency, the Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Natural England all submitted similarly robust comments to ECDC that were in agreement with our barrister’s advice. To date LCPRE has still not received a reply to our comments.

Application for a Certificate of Lawfulness

On 6 July 2007 Mr Tyrrell, the new owner of the largest pit, applied to East Cambridgeshire District Council for a Certificate of Lawfulness which, if granted, will allow him to carry out extensive work and moor unspecified numbers of motor boats without planning permission.
A Certificate of Lawfulness is a strange device and unlike a Planning Application is not subject to public objections or comments. The decision is made by East Cambridgeshire District Council planners and lawyers, who will judge the application (within eight weeks of receipt) solely on its legal merits and not on the impact of the proposed development.
The application covers a dozen proposals that fall into two groups. The first set is about recreational use of motorized boats on the pit, and providing them with moorings along the bankside and on pontoons; the proposals are unclear about how many boats are involved. The second group of proposals concerns managing the land and water, and installing services, a tea hut, hard standing for a crane, car parking, fencing up to 2m high around the site, and putting an area of hardcore on the Site of Special Scientific Interest for the storage of plant and machinery.
We believe that these activities together entail a significant change of use for the site and that as such they should be subject to planning permission. We believe this change of use and the work itself will have permanent detrimental effects on the wildlife and amenity values of this special area. We also note that much of the work – trench-digging, laying of services, mooring of pontoons – has already been started. In our view a full planning application enabling everyone to see and comment on the full extent of Mr Tyrrell’s plans would have been a far better option. If you share any of our concerns please let your local councillors know.

Tree Preservation Order

On 29 May 2007, ECDC approved LCPRE’s application to have the remaining woodland around the main Roswell Pit protected by a Tree Preservation Order. This means that permission is needed before any more tree work can be undertaken, and work done without permission could lead to prosecution.