Concern over development as fields lose protected status

St Neots

St Neots - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised that green fields on the edge of Eaton Socon could be at risk of development after the land lost its community asset status.

The grazing land, which lies to the east of Wheatsheaf Road, is known as Ouse Meadow and an application by St Neots Town Council to continue to list the site as an Asset of Community Value has been refused by Huntingdonshire District Council.

The district council did, however, approve a nomination for land off Peppercorns Lane and the Cricket Club at Eaton Socon, to have community asset status, but refused applications for the town’s Priory Centre and the First World War One pillbox.

A district council panel said that while it recognised the pill box was of “historic and cultural interest” the site is currently enclosed by fencing and there is no public access.

In relation to the Ouse Meadow land, which has been the subject of five planning applications since 1984, all of which have been refused, the recreational use of the land was thought to be of secondary consideration to its main use (cattle grazing).

The panel said it had considered whether “current or recent use had furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community” and it accepted that although a path running along the edge of the field was used, the field itself did not serve the community.

Chairman of St Neots Town Council, Barry Chapman has confirmed that the Bedfordia development company attended a Local Plan meeting to argue that the land should be included under “development land assessment” and has held pre-planning talks with HDC to propose building 151 homes on the meadow.

Most Read

St Neots councillor, Derek Giles, was involved in a campaign called Defend Our Ouse Meadows (DOOM) in 1989 when developers first announced they wanted to build on the open space.

He and other councillors believe developers are currently mounting speculative planning applications and they are concerned they will no longer be able to protect the land without the community status.

“The land provides a natural divide between the Eatons and the river and is enjoyed by local people for walking and relaxation,” said Cllr Giles.

“This area of the town, with the skate park and the miniature railway, provides for recreational use and that has to remain.

“With all the large scale development taking place in St Neots, we really do not need any more homes. We have been fighting for 30 years to keep this land as open space for the community so, if necessary, we will continue the fight.”