Waite condemns new town plan

ExclusiveBy Benedict O'ConnorTERRY WAITE is going head to head with Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave over a controversial £1billion new town planned for Suffolk.

EXCLUSIVE

By Benedict O'Connor

TERRY Waite is going head-to-head with Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave over a controversial £1billion new town planned for Suffolk.

The former Beirut hostage has pledged his opposition to the Watermark project, a futuristic leisure-based community housing 15,000 people near Newmarket, which he labelled a “harebrained” idea.


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The scheme, backed by Sir Steve, the five-time Olympic gold medallist, will include a rowing lake, a major venue and up to 5,000 houses.

But it has already sparked opposition and led to the formation of protest group the Five Villages Preservation Trust.

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Mr Waite, who lives in Hartest near Bury St Edmunds, said: “They want to build some sort of boating lake, just 15 miles from another rowing lake.

“It seems to me that to do that in an area where it's one of the driest parts of England and where we are faced with future water shortages is a bit of a harebrained scheme.”

Mr Waite, who has been a vocal opponent of plans for a new runway at Stansted Airport, turned out at Newmarket Carnival to lend his support to the trust in opposing the Watermark scheme.

He said: “We only have one countryside and when that's gone, it's gone forever.

“I turned up to show my support as people forget that country dwellers often don't get their voices heard on these sorts of developments purely because the nature of living in the countryside is that there aren't many people living there.

“They find it difficult to raise money when they are going up against big corporations, and there are villages here which have been there since Domesday and which we should fight to preserve.

“The infrastructure is not there to support this sort of development and there is a danger of disturbing the existing infrastructure to an unacceptable extent.

“I am not against progress and I am not against new housing, but this is simply not the right place for it and certainly not at the expense of the character of our countryside.”

Mr Waite said he was aware of Sir Steve's involvement in the scheme, but had not spoken to him about the matter.

Sir Steve was unavailable for comment yesterday, but has said, in support of Watermark, that it was “exactly what the country needs.”

Andrew Holman, chairman of the Five Villages Preservation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have Terry Waite backing our campaign to prevent the devastation the Watermark proposal would bring to this are.

“It is especially significant, given the pressures on his time and the commitment he has to so many other worthwhile causes, that he has given us his time, joined the trust and supports us in our efforts to bring common sense back into planning proposals.”

It is estimated the scheme will create about 3,000 new jobs and, with a 5,000-seater sports and leisure arena, become a national tourist attraction.

But no planning application has yet been submitted by developers Orion Land and Leisure, who have described the project as “first class”.

A spokesman said: “It is very early in the process for these proposals and an awful lot of discussion and consultation is timed to go through before even a planning application is lodged.

“These proposals are absolutely first class in terms of what they deliver and the team which has been involved in putting them together. They are not ill thought out, are extremely well considered and have called on world leaders in their respective fields in terms of input.”

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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