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Weekly to stage picnic celebration after campaign success

A weekly newspaper is to stage a celebratory readers’ picnic on a playing field it helped save from the bulldozers.

Cambridgeshire County Council confirmed it has abandoned plans to develop half of the 20-acre site in the town of March after the Cambs Times rallied readers to save the field.

Last summer, council leader Steve Count had unveiled proposals to sell off half the town’s Estover playing field for housing and use part of the proceeds for sporting facilities on the remainder of the land.

The Times ran a ‘Hands Off Estover’ campaign through late summer and into the autumn in response – even holding its own public meeting in December, chaired by editor John Elworthy, to highlight the opposition.

Estover 1

However Cllr Count has this week backed down, promising instead to hand over the site to March Town Council and help find cash to fund sports facilities there.

A protest planned for the county council’s headquarters in Cambridge later this month has now been called off, with the picnic being held next month instead.

Discussing his change of heart, Cllr Count said the authority had an obligation “sometimes to not just look at finances”.

He added: “I know our budgets are difficult at the moment but if we develop this land it will be gone forever.

“That is the argument the people of March have made to me and I will be trying to convince the people in the council chamber.

“I am not confident of success but I am hoping for success. There are no more arrows in my bow.”

Time editor John Elworthy said: “It is a remarkable U-turn by the council and we’re delighted of course by the outcome.

“There is still some fine tuning to be done but overall it looks to be the end of a very successful campaign.”

On the subject of the upcoming picnic, he added: “The mayor and his deputy are so delighted both are coming – and helping with a barbecue.”