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.
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.
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.
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.
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.