Mettle Hill – News

Latest Mettle Hill News & Parish Council Statements:

August 2015

Working Group Minutes (MHWG):….

Read or Download the latest from the Working Group:

MHWG_2nd_half_summary- Aug 15

‘Have your Say’ Rpt: Jun15

Minutes  MHWG 16 Mar 15

Minutes MHWG 16 Feb 15

Minutes MHWG 12 Jan 15

Minutes MHWG1 Nov 14

18 Dec 12

Meldreth Council bid accepted…..

Meldreth Parish Council have this afternoon been told by Cambridgeshire County Council that our offer for the former traveller’s site on Mettle Hill has been accepted, subject to contract, and that they have today instructed their solicitors to deal with the transfer. We understand that the County Council have not received an offer for the land from South Cambridgeshire District Council by the deadline of 17th December, which is in line with the decision of the leader of SCDC that they would not bid against the Parish Council, which was published on 7th December. We hope to complete the deal as soon as possible.

15 Dec 12

METTLE HILL UPDATE

This update is published by the Meldreth Parish Council Mettle Hill Working Party

Purchase of Mettle Hill by Meldreth Parish Council

South Cambs District Council has officially withdrawn its interest in purchasing Mettle Hill, citing the inappropriateness of entering a bidding war with Meldreth Parish Council.

Meldreth Parish Council is now in the process of purchasing the Mettle Hill site from Cambridgeshire County Council. To do so, it has secured access to a loan from the Public Works Loan Board. This will be over 25 years, repaying the capital on a competitive fixed rate of interest. This will be equivalent to about £10 per year increase in Council Tax for an average property [e.g. Band D]. We anticipate that finalizing contracts will be completed sometime in spring 2013.

Consultation

Early in the New Year, Meldreth Parish Council will consider how to consult effectively on the future use of Mettle Hill, and turn it into an asset for the benefit of the whole community. Assistance has been offered by Cambridgeshire County Council, and accepted with thanks.

Fighting Fund

Thank you to all who have contributed to the Mettle Hill Fighting Fund, which has raised £6700. This will be used to meet current bills and any further costs. At this stage we are not seeking further donations.

Communication

The Mettlehill.com website will continue to be used to post snippets of news. As and when needed, this newsletter format may be used for updates through letterboxes. For general queries, please continue to write to mettlehill@rivermel.com.

Information

The Working Party will be tidying up all the information assembled into a sensible archive.

Thank you

Grateful thanks from the Meldreth Parish Council Mettle Hill Working Party are extended to everyone, including our surrounding village neighbours and their councillor representatives who have been so supportive during the weeks since October 31st. Thanks also to the Melbourn Business Association for their invitation to Meldreth’s travelling community to join the association, and to the many people and local groups who have expressed a keen interest in learning more about the lives and history of our travelling community.

Sincerely yours,

Susan van de Ven, Working Party Coordinator
Paul Ray, Working Party Chairman
Steve Hawkins, Meldreth Parish Council Chairman
Rob Searles, Meldreth Parish Council Vice Chairman

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8 Dec 12

METTLE HILL LATE NEWS!

A press release from South Cambridgeshire District Council has been issued late this afternoon stating that they are no longer interested in Mettle Hill.  Thank you to everyone for their contributions and help on a fantastic and successful campaign.  Further updates to follow….

The full text of their press release is on our campaign website: www.mettlehill.com

Meldreth Parish Council’s own press release to be issued this evening, is as follows:

“Parish Council to buy the Mettle Hill former Travellers’ Site

Meldreth Parish Council at their monthly meeting last night agreed to buy the closed travellers’ site at Mettle Hill, Meldreth. The site is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council although it was last operated by South Cambridgeshire District until it was closed in 1996 after damage and criminal activity by the residents.

A hard fought campaign by Meldreth residents and those of neighbouring villages against SCDC’s proposal to re-open the site has resulted in SCDC abandoning their plans to re-open the site.

Meldreth Parish Council chairman Steve Hawkins said: “We welcome the news that SCDC have acknowledged the strength of our arguments against the re-opening of the site. We value the travelling community of showmen and Romany Gypsies that we have on Mettle Hill and we were anxious not to spoil that. We will now consult fully with the village to find a good use for the site that is acceptable to all who live here. The County Council will help us with that exercise and discussion start next week.

Meldreth’s Parish Plan in 2005 found that the threat of the site re-opening was the most unpopular thing about Meldreth and the Parish Council have been seeking alternative uses over the last 8 years.”

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8 Dec 12

METTLE HILL UPDATE

8 December 2012

This is a weekly update published by the Meldreth Parish Council Mettle Hill Working Party

Mettle Hill Working Party recommendation to Meldreth Parish Council, 6 December:

“Meldreth Parish Council should buy the Mettle Hill site from Cambridgeshire County Council and set up a consultation process with villagers as to the use to which the site should be put.”

Meldreth Parish Council approves loan to buy Mettle Hill

Meldreth Parish Council and County Councillor Susan van de Ven have continued to work together on the Parish Council’s right to buy Mettle Hill. On 3 December Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) wrote to Meldreth Parish Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) outlining its terms and conditions for the sale of the land.

Although there has been amazing support received from the community in terms of financial pledges, Meldreth Parish Council have been able to secure a loan from the Public Works Loan Board and is now in a position to make a formal bid to CCC for the purchase of Mettle Hill. This was confirmed by a unanimous vote at the Parish Council’s 6 December meeting.

Cllr van de Ven is arguing that the Parish Council should be the preferred bidder, on the basis that this deeply local issue should be the remit of Meldreth’s most local representative body.

Never before has a piece of County-owned land received bids from both District and Parish Councils simultaneously. The County Council has asked both parties to respond by 17 December and it remains to be confirmed if SCDC will withdraw its own bid.

Legal and Planning

These Working Party work streams have produced some very pertinent results in the past week and work will continue until uncertainty over the future of Mettle Hill is resolved.

Mettle Hill Fighting Fund

Thank you very much to residents who have kindly contributed to the Mettle Hill Fighting Fund, which is needed to help pay for professional advice. The target is £8,000. Donations large or small will be a great help.

Contributions can be either by way of cheque or cash taken to our collection point at The British Queen. Alternatively cheques can be sent to the Treasurer at 25 North End, Meldreth, SG8 6NR. Cheques should be payable to Mettle Hill Fighting Fund.

Lobbying

Thank you very much for all the communication residents have forwarded on to the Working Party, including the responses received from emails, letters and phone calls to various groups and individuals. Please continue to do this via lobby@mettle.org.uk and chase those who have not replied.

The petition continues to collect signatures at www.mettlehill.com/petition

For general queries, write to mettlehill@rivermel.com. Updates at www.mettlehill.com

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30 Nov 12

METTLE HILL UPDATE

1 December 2012

This is a weekly update published by the Meldreth Parish Council Mettle Hill Working Party

Parish Council right to buy Mettle Hill

As has been clear from the start, Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC), which owns Mettle Hill, has never agreed to sell Mettle Hill to South Cambs District Council (SCDC), in spite of SCDC’s public announcement of their intention to buy it. Rather, if it wishes to sell the land, then CCC has an obligation to offer first refusal to the District and Parish Councils.

Meldreth Parish Council has made a formal indication of its interest in buying the land for community benefit and is working closely with Meldreth’s County Councillor toward land purchase. At the request of the Mettle Hill Working Party, Meldreth Parish Council is actively exploring funding options to purchase Mettle Hill.

At the same time SCDC continues to assert that it intends to purchase the land and to hold a full council decision-making meeting on the matter, on January 10. SCDC has three times changed the deadline for public questions, has yet to give an indication of what the agenda will contain, and has not yet decided on a venue.

Mettle Hill Fighting Fund

Thank you very much to residents who have kindly contributed to the Mettle Hill Fighting Fund, which is needed to help pay for professional advice. The target is £8,000. The total received thus far is £3,250. Donations large or small will be a great help.

Contributions can be either by way of cheque or cash taken to our collection point at The British Queen. Alternatively cheques can be sent to the Treasurer at 25 North End, Meldreth, SG8 6NR. Cheques should be payable to Mettle Hill Fighting Fund.

Planning and Legal

Formal written legal opinion has been received which strengthens the view that SCDC confidence in an easy reopening of Mettle Hill is misplaced, on planning grounds.

It has been established that even if the current planning consent for Mettle Hill were valid, it would need to be amended.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

First responses have been received on Freedom of Information requests and are being analyzed. We can provide guidance if you want to lodge one of your own: foi@mettle.org.uk.

Lobbying

Thank you very much for all the communication residents have forwarded on to the Working Party, including the responses received from emails, letters and phone calls to various groups. Please continue to do this via lobby@mettle.org.uk.

The petition continues to collect signatures at www.mettlehill.com/petition

For general queries, write to mettlehill@rivermel.com. Updates at www.mettlehill.com

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27 Nov 12

Police Support for Mettle Hill

Cambridgeshire Police have been providing extra patrols around Mettle Hill and the Meldreth area for some time, and this is being reinforced to make a visible presence. 

Concerns yesterday about an alert from Countryside Watch, regarding indications of the possibility of theft of earth-moving equipment in order to move earth bunds, have been followed up at the highest level with Police, County and District Councils. 

Direct lines of contact with Police are firmly established with regular support visits to the Showmen’s sites.

Extra earth to support protective bund, disused Traveller site

An offer has been made by a private contractor to dump extra earth on the protective bund at the disused Traveller site in Mettle Hill, for the purpose of reinforcing it. This has been approved by the County Council and will take place later today.

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23 Nov 12

METTLE HILL UPDATE

23 November 2012

This is a weekly update published by the
Meldreth Parish Council Mettle Hill Working Party

Legal and Planning

The Working Party is taking legal and planning advice on matters that may well undermine SCDC’s confidence in their assertion that Mettle Hill is an easy win.

Land Acquisition

Meldreth Parish Council has issued a formal indication to the County Council that it wishes to purchase the land. Any initiative by the Parish Council to seek a change in planning permission in conjunction with land purchase would necessarily involve a village-wide consultation. Various ideas have been submitted by members of the public and these are being considered.

Mettle Hill Fighting Fund

We are engaging professional advice and have established a fighting fund to pay for this and other expenses. Without funds our work will grind to a halt.

Contributions can be either by way of cheque or cash taken to our collection point at The British Queen. Alternatively cheques can be sent to the Treasurer at 25 North End, Meldreth, SG8 6NR. Cheques should be payable to Mettle Hill Fighting Fund.

A target of £8K has been set for initial costs.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

A number of Freedom of Information requests have been lodged at both South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to support our case.

We can provide guidance if you want to lodge one of your own. Contact us at FOI@mettle.org.uk

Lobbying

If you have received useful replies to letters you have written about Mettle Hill and would be happy to let us have a copy, please forward the correspondence to lobby@mettle.org.uk. Equally, you can get help in writing letters through the same email address.

Petition as it stands so far

3041 verified signatures were delivered to SCDC’s Leader on 22 November. Two full coach loads of residents travelled to Cambourne and supported the event. See our video at www.mettlehill.com

The petition continues to collect signatures in shops, local businesses and at www.mettlehill.com. People who would like to help take the petition door-to-door can collect a copy from the British Queen or download a copy from mettlehill.com. Coordination of the door-to-door petitioning – please contact mettlehill@rivermel.com.

Contact and information

If you do not use a computer and would like learn more, Meldreth Parish Council office has a folder of the documents appearing on the website and can point you in the right direction to learn more.

For queries, write to mettlehill@rivermel.com

Live updates & contact details www.mettlehill.com

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21 Nov 12

Meldreth Parish Council – Press release – 21 Nov 12

METTLE HILL PETITION: OVER 3000 SIGNATURES TO BE DELIVERED TO COUNCIL LEADER

The petition ‘Stop the re-opening of Mettle Hill Traveller Site by South Cambridgeshire District Council’ will be delivered to SCDC’s Leader at council offices on Thursday 22 November, 1:15PM. Coaches will carry residents from Meldreth, Melbourn, Shepreth, Kneesworth, and Whaddon to Cambourne.

Lead Petitioner Susan van de Ven said, ‘Over 3000 people have signed the petition – more than twice the adult population of Meldreth.  This is a phenomenal number in less than three weeks and reflects the very deep concern about SCDC’s ill thought-out plans.’ ‘Meldreth’s successfully integrated community of travelling people, including one small Romany site and two large Showmen’s sites, is a valued part of the village.  This should be nurtured, not undermined.’

‘South Cambs has always held the view that Mettle Hill is completely unsuitable as a Traveller site. This bizarre U-turn was made in secret with no consultation whatsoever. Public trust in South Cambs has been devastated.’

Steve Hawkins, Chairman of Meldreth Parish Council, said:  “We welcome the postponement of a full council decision on the future of Mettle Hill, and hope this will provide each and every District Councillor the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the views of the travelling and settled people of Meldreth, and to realize the shortcomings of the initial plan.

“We don’t think reopening the closed site is the right move in the current situation and have the full support of our district and county councillors as well as our MP.”

The petition will continue to collect signatures: http://www.mettlehill.com/petition.

Anyone wishing to reserve a place on the coach should contact mettlehill@rivermel.com.

NOTE TO EDITORS Meldreth’s Parish Plan of 2005 had a 72% response to its questionnaire. The top concern raised by villagers was an increase in concentration of sites and specifically the prospect of the Mettle Hill site being reopened.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s own stated policy against a concentration of traveller sites is in line with government policy. Government guidelines require that the scale of sites should not dominate the nearest settled community.

A three-year search and consultation by SCDC found 20 sites worthy of consideration but rejected Mettle Hill because it was not well served by facilities and transport. SCDC are not following up on these 20 preferred sites that did well against their selection.

CONTACT Susan van de Ven: 01763 261833, 07905325574

Steve Hawkins: 01763 261451, 07721734852

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16 Nov 12

Email from the Parliamentary Office of Mr Andrew LANSLEY, MP:

Sent: 16 November 2012 09:49 Subject: RE: Mettle Hill

Dear All,

I hope you will forgive the impersonal nature of this group update, but I just wanted to let each of you who have written in on the issue of Mettle Hill have an update on the actions we have taken in the past week.

Firstly, I want to reassure you that Mr Lansley remains wholly opposed to the Council’s plans to pursue Mettle Hill as a traveller’s site. As your MP at the time when Mettle Hill was originally used as a traveller’s site, Mr Lansley recalls only too well the public disorder and anti-social behaviour which took place there. Just as importantly, he recalls the assurances made to him by the County Council that the site would never again be re-opened as a traveller’s site (an assurance which was reiterated to the Showpeople).

In light of this position, this is an issue we are actively pursuing on a daily basis. In the last week, Mr Lansley has read every letter and email that has been sent to him on this issue (I understand there are letters from more than 100 constituents), and will respond to each.

Although Mr Lansley was unable to attend the Council Cabinet meeting last Thursday himself due to Parliamentary commitments, I and another member of staff attended in his place and reported back on how the proceedings went. We are aware of Cllr Manning’s implication that he is only taking this action because he is compelled to fulfil certain government obligations, and are currently seeking views from the Department for Communities and Local Government as to exactly what the Government requirements are on councils regarding the provision of travellers sites, if any (the preliminary indication is that there is no such requirement from the government).

Mr Lansley has also formally written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to convey his serious concerns at the proposals, and ask what, if anything, can be done given the overwhelming local opposition to the Council’s plans.

Additionally, we are also in frequent contact with Rob Searles and the Meldreth Parish Council to discuss the ongoing issues, and are in discussions with County Cllr Linda Oliver to support the Parish Council in a bid to purchase the site from the County Council.

Finally, Mr Lansley is meeting with Cllr Manning (Leader) and Cllr Simon Edwards (Deputy Leader) at the SCDC this Friday to discuss this issue and convey the extent of opposition to the plans amongst his constituents in Meldreth (highlighting each of the specific points that have been raised via your emails and letters in the past fortnight).

I do hope this is reassuring.

Kindest regards, Mr Lansley’s Parliamentary Office

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14 Nov 12:

Press Release effective 10.00am today: issued by South Cambridgeshire District Council:

Extra time given to listen to concerns on former Travellers’ site …..

A meeting to debate the purchase and reopening of a former Travellers’ site near Meldreth has been postponed by South Cambridgeshire District Council until January so there is more time to listen to residents’ concerns.

Government funding for the purchase and refurbishment of the 8-10 pitch site has already been secured by Council housing chiefs, but a meeting of Full Council will be held to debate the purchase before any decision is made.

The Council’s intention to purchase the site was published at the end of October and Cabinet members recommended that proposals should be presented to a meeting of Full Council to see if councillors believe it is the best option to meet the future needs of growing Traveller families currently living in South Cambridgeshire.

An independent report accepted by the Council in June established the need for 20 extra pitches in the district up until 2031 to meet the Council’s legal obligation to provide sufficient housing for Travellers.

The proposal for purchasing the former Mettle Hill site near Meldreth was due to be presented to a Full Council meeting later this month, but in light of the number of concerns and questions being raised by residents the Chairman of the Council has decided to hold an extra Full Council meeting about the plans on Thursday 10 January at 6.30pm so there is more time for them to be considered.

Cllr Tony Orgee, Chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “The intention to purchase the site has raised a significant volume of questions and concerns from local residents and it is only right we give more time to consider all the views before any decisions are made by councillors. All items relating to this decision have been removed from the agenda for the Full Council meeting on 22 November and the separate meeting focussing solely on this matter will give the proper time needed to consider all the points.”

If the proposals to purchase the site were agreed by councillors in January, Cabinet Members have already committed to holding a further consultation so the local community can have a say on the layout, design and future management of the site. This is to make sure it works well for future residents living there as well as their neighbours.

All public questions received by the Council for the meeting scheduled for next week will be deferred to January.

The Council also plans to purchase two existing Traveller sites in the district at Whaddon and Blackwell – a site off the A14 near Milton. Both sites are currently managed by South Cambridgeshire District Council. Financial approval for the purchase of these sites will also be deferred to the meeting in January.

Cllr Mark Howell, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Plans for any new development frequently cause local concern, and as we have had so many people getting in touch with the Council about this proposal I fully support the Chairman’s decision to give extra time so we can consider all the points of view before any decision is made. We have a legal obligation to look for new pitches to provide sufficient accommodation for growing Traveller families currently living in the district, but we have already made it clear we want to work with the local community to deliver a site that is well managed and of the highest quality.”

Questions and answers that have frequently been asked since the intention to purchase the land was published will be posted on the Council’s website later this week. Anyone wanting to comment on proposals can do so by emailing mettlehill@scambs.gov.uk. All comments will form part of the report being submitted to councillors in January.

ENDS

Note to editors:
For more information contact Gareth Bell in the communications team on 01954 713289, or email gareth.bell@scambs.gov.uk.

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12 Nov 12:

PUBLIC MEETING: Meldreth Village Hall at 8pm on Wednesday 14th November

This is a special Public Meeting to discuss the Way Forward on Mettle Hill Travellers’ site:
(This meeting is not officially a Parish Council Meeting as the time scale is too short.)

1. To update the Meldreth community on discussions between Meldreth Parish Council and the leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council on postponing decision on SCDC’s proposal to buy and reopen the Mettle Hill site until a Special Full Council meeting on this one topic in January.

2. The Way Forward to achieve our goals.

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09 Nov 12:

At Thursday’s meeting of the SCDC Cabinet (8 Nov 12)  it was agreed by them that Full Council should make the final decision to buy and reopen Mettle Hill at its meeting on 22 November.

After two days of discussions between Steve Hawkins, Rob Searles and SCDC Leader Ray Manning it is proposed to delay discussion and a decision on this until January to allow Meldreth to regroup and present our case.

Key points are:

1) Ray Manning will ask the chairman if he will call an Extraordinary Council Meeting in January regarding Mettle Hill. It would be the only item on the Agenda.

2) December was considered but it was felt that many people would already be committed to ” festive festivities ” and unable to attend.

3) The Medium Term Financial Strategy going to the next Counil Meeting on 22 November would merely recommend that the Council agrees to buy a traveller site without specifying where. That would still allow the Mettle Hill one to proceed if Council agreed in January.

4) Ray Manning has talked to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Meldreth Parish Council about the practicalities of dealing with this item at an Ordinary Meeting following the over crowding at Cabinet. He did allow well over an hour for that one item but a special meeting would give more chance to speak.

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