Agenda item

Land east of A141 highway and north of Knights End Road, March
Fenland District Council is seeking approval in principle for a Broad Concept Plan for West March. Local Plan Policy LP7 (Urban Extensions) includes provision for Planning Committee to give 'in principle' approval to a Broad Concept Plan which both parties would expect subsequent planning applications to adhere to.

To determine the application


Gavin Taylor presented the report to members.


Members asked officers the following questions:

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that after reading many letters of objection it does need to be made very clear that the Broad Concept Plan (BCP) does form part of the Local Plan and it was also included in the 1993 Development Area Boundaries document.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked Gavin Taylor to clarify that he had stated that in the future Knights End Road and Burrowmoor Road would be closed. Gavin Taylor stated that it is something that is being discussed as background in order to try and focus access to the A141. He added that it is something that needs to be worked on in terms of modelling and transport assessment as to whether that would be appropriate and achievable. Councillor Mrs French added that since 2017, the March Area Transport Strategy (MATS), has been in place and officers have worked with Persimmon Homes for over 2 years and she is concerned that officers have not taken into consideration the strategy. She added that lengthy discussions have taken place with regard to the possibility of installing some type of lighting at the top of Burrowmoor Road, but was advised that only one red light could be installed due to the residency of bats and it was then decided that this would not happen until the long term issues of Burrowmoor Road were resolved. Councillor Mrs French expressed the view that MATS would not support the closure of those roads and whilst she appreciates that it is only an outline application at this stage, she would be concerned that when the application is submitted that the access would be off Knights End and Burrowmoor Road. She stated that there is a proposed new access and, in her opinion, that should be used in the first instance and added that she believes that there is also a proposed new roundabout. Councillor Mrs French referred to the officer’s report at 6.29 where Highways have indicated that they will not be in a position to determine what mitigation is required until an application is submitted. She expressed the opinion that when the bypass was introduced in the 1970’s, it was to reduce the congestion in the town and the committee involved with the MATS will not support the closure of the two roads.

·         Councillor Cornwell asked whether there will be a more detailed consultation exercise carried out on the more detailed elements of the BCP as most of the comments appear to focus on the highway aspects rather than the actual detail of the overall plan. He expressed the opinion that most people will support it, as it avoids the smaller piecemeal developments, and it is something that has everybody working towards the proposals that meets development of the whole of the area. Gavin Taylor stated that it is a concept and with any planning application that comes forward of a substantial impact and size, would need to be supported by a transport assessment. He added that the concept currently denotes that the junctions may be closed off, but it is only a consideration at this stage and future planning applications would need to demonstrate that the transport impact of the development and the mitigation proposals are acceptable. Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that he is concerned that if the County Council decide that they wish to shut a road that is not a planning issue and they have the authority to do so, and he asked whether the Council can now advise that they do not accept that part of the BCP. Gavin Taylor stated that the BCP is before members of the committee to consider and to request amendments if they feel that there are elements of the concept that they are not satisfied with.

·         Councillor Mrs Davis stated that whilst there is provision in the concept for a primary school there does not seem to be an inclusion of a secondary school. Gavin Taylor stated that the County Council’s Education Team have set out what the requirements would be for education and they have not asked for inclusion of a secondary school within the BCP area. He stated that would form part of financial contributions on planning applications to go towards a secondary school.

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that the MATS comprises of the County Council and is funded by the Combined Authority. She expressed the view that she would be exceptionally annoyed if the Highway Department gave consideration to the closure of roads, when they have been involved with the MATS over the last four years. Councillor Mrs French expressed the opinion that, as the March High Street project has been awarded £8.4million pounds of funding to regenerate the High Street, to close roads would be disastrous. She added that she fully supports the development of the concept and added that she agrees with Councillor Cornwell that it must be known now that members do not want the roads closed.

·         David Rowen stated that there are no firm proposals to close any roads imminently and he added that if the roads are to be closed it would form part of a holistic package of road improvement schemes which may include a roundabout onto the A141 to substitute for the closure of Knights End Road and a spine road which would run through the site. Councillor Mrs French expressed the view that she is also concerned about future large developments and the noise and disturbance that will be caused to residents which will be totally unacceptable.

·         Councillor Cornwell stated that the detail in the officer’s report at Page 5 clearly shows the closure of Burrowmoor Road East and Knights End Road East and the introduction of a new primary access point between the two. He expressed the opinion that it clearly gives an indication on what the current plans are and added that, in his opinion, there is a strong implication on what is being looked at. David Rowen stated that within the officer’s report at page 44, it sets out the comprehensive road principles and shows Knights End Road East closed off, and above it, primary access onto the A141, Isle of Ely Way and the potential of a new roundabout or signalised junction onto the A141. He added that the primary access onto Gaul Road is marked by a black dotted line in the middle of the site being the primary road network within the allocation and he reiterated that if the roads are to be closed it would form part of a comprehensive package of road improvements and measures to deal with the road access issues.

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that, over the past four years, the MATS has been looking at ways to improve the traffic situation in March and by allowing the closure of two major roads, the traffic situation will only be made worse and will be detrimental to the town of March.

·         Councillor Skoulding stated that he cannot approve the BCP if roads are going to be closed. He added that he can see no inclusion of the playing fields that were promised or the addition of a doctors and dentist and for those reasons he is not agreeable with the proposal. Gavin Taylor stated that at the south of the site, there is the inclusion of a healthcare facility and liaison with the NHS is currently being undertaken to ascertain what type of provision will be included. He added that the BCP has been amended to include a healthcare facility, which may include a variety of specialisms as well as a community facility.

·         Councillor Mrs French referred to a letter received from a landowner and asked for clarity over the terminology of an equalisation agreement. Gavin Taylor stated that the parcels of land are of different sizes and can accommodate different land uses. He stated that the idea of an equalisation agreement can ensure that each of the landowners proportionally feed into the infrastructure requirements and the idea is to secure equilibrium through either the entire area or through pockets.


Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that she hopes that public rights of way are going to be retained, improved and upgraded and added that she hopes that the users of the public rights of way to ride their horses will still be permitted to do so.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked why a report from the Conservation Officer was not included. Gavin Taylor stated that the Conservation Team have been consulted and have responded on each of the two rounds of consultation. He stated that they have questioned the Knights End Road access point as it runs adjacent to a Grade 2 Listed Building, but they were satisfied with the implications and they are generally supportive of the BCP.

·         Councillor Cornwell stated that he welcomes a BCP and he likes the way that individual development plans will come forward, so that input can be achieved. He expressed the opinion that the area around St Wendreda’s Church must be protected and he added that in true Fen tradition development is taking place on higher ground so that water runs off the high ground and is then collected and he added that there are a number of extremely old water courses in the area. Councillor Cornwell stated that one of the fields is the site of where the Australian Pilot Jim Hocking, lost his life and, therefore, there does need to be an element of recognition at the location. He stated he will support the BCP, with the exception of the closure of the two roads. 

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that she will support the officer’s recommendation with the caveat that members are not pleased to see the possible closure of the 2 roads.

·         Gavin Taylor stated that at 11.1 of the officers report it sets out a slight amendment to the plan at 6.34 in respect of densities and, therefore, it maybe that members are satisfied to set out a recommendation to also include an amendment to remove reference to closures of Burrowmoor and Knights End Roads that can be accommodated.


Proposed by Councillor Mrs French, seconded by Councillor Cornwell and agreed that the application be APPROVED as per the officer’s recommendation, subject to no closure to Burrowmoor Road or Knights End Road.


(Councillors Mrs French, Purser and Skoulding declared, under Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that they are members of March Town Council, but take no part in planning matters)


(Councillor Mrs French declared that she was present at a virtual March Town Council meeting when Persimmon Homes gave a presentation on this proposal, but she took no part in the discussions)

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