South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) has proposed the development of 3,500 new homes at Bourn Airfield in the Local Plan. This means that Bourn Airfield, along with West Cambourne, Waterbeach and Northstowe, has now been designated as a Strategic Development Site.
What issues does this present?
What issues does this present?
Massive Local Development
Make no mistake, the 3,500 house Bourn Airfield development would in itself be of a comparable scale to the original Cambourne development. It would however be crammed into the smaller available footprint of the land existing between Cambourne and Caldecote – by means of a much higher housing density. In addition the proposed Cambourne West extension will further extend the total Cambourne area. The total number of houses will more than double the current size of Cambourne and will effectively turn the area into a major dormitory town of Cambridge.
Ribbon Style Development
The proposed developments would create a ribbon of housing stretching west to east from Caxton village, the proposed West Cambourne extension, through existing Cambourne, the new Bourn Airfield site, to Caldecote.
Loss of Identity and Rural Character
The coalescing of Caxton and Caldecote into Cambourne due to these plans will lead to a complete erosion of their current rural character and separate identities.
Unfair and Unbalanced
It is completely unfair to heap yet more development into such a small area. From SCDC’s own figures, 37% of all housing in the last ten years (2002-2012) in the region has been accommodated in the Ward of Bourn and in Caldecote parish. There are 30 other wards in the SCDC area. The proposed local plan would effectively duplicate this unbalanced approach. We accept that there is a need for housing, but it should be planned and allocated in a fair and balanced way across the region. We are again being asked to grow at a completely disproportionate rate compared to any other existing local community – accommodating not just one, but two of the four strategic sites in the proposed plan.
The Wrong Location
If you look at the wider context of development across the SCDC region as a whole, you will find that nearly all new housing development is focused in the north. There are no strategic sites whatsoever in the entire southern region, in either the previous local plans, or the current one. The major new Cambridge bio-tech cluster developments are however virtually all based in the south – The Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the Genome campus, Chesterford Research Park, Babraham Research Campus, and many more. AstraZeneca’s recently announced new HQ and labs will bring 2000 jobs to the south and Ryanair’s Stansted airport expansion is expected to create 7000 new jobs. The transport infrastructure in the south is also far superior with access to trains, comparatively underutilized roads, easy M11 access and Stansted airport nearby.
Lack of Sustainability
This ribbon development will stretch the surrounding areas already stressed infrastructure still further. You know the high expectations that were generated by the original Cambourne development plans – do you think they have delivered on that promise to the local population? Would you trust them to do it right this time?
- EDUCATION: Ensuring adequate school provision has been woefully mismanaged in Cambourne. This has stretched the local schools to the limit. The building program is always behind the curve – too little and too late. Would you trust them to get it right with this expansion?
- HEALTHCARE: It typically takes around 3-4 weeks to get a non-emergency appointment at surgeries in the local area. Health provision has not managed to track the area's growth and has impacted all the surrounding communities.
- LOCAL EMPLOYMENT: The developers of the existing commercial area of Cambourne recently tried to get planning permission to convert part of the development into housing – as there is no demand for additional commercial units. The original sustainability plans for Cambourne spoke of creating major local employment. This has obviously failed and it is difficult to see how this would change. In addition the only other major employment site in the local area is relocating. Papworth Hospital, with a current staff of around 1,600, is moving to to the Addenbrooke’s Biomedical Campus. No meaningful levels of local employment compared to the size of the local population leads to additional burden on the transport network.
- TRANSPORT: No mass transit local train service or guided bus route connection is possible or planned for the proposed development. The existing bus service is expensive and not well provisioned or used. Surveys indicate that the vast majority of Cambourne residents commute by car to work outside of Cambourne – any new settlements developed will be no different. Realistically the road network, and in particular cars, would continue be the transportation option of choice. The roads are however already stretched beyond capacity, with significant congestion common on the routes into Cambridge and St Neots, and in particular on the critical M11 south connection off Madingley Rise. The relocation of Papworth Hospital to the Biomedical Campus will also increase traffic flows from staff living around Papworth commuting to the new location in the south. SCDC’s own figures from the SHLAA estimates the Bourn Airfield development will generate around 29,750 additional car journeys per day. The recently published Transport Strategy does nothing to alleviate these issues – if anything it makes things worse as the Dry Drayton junction will be closed and the alternate non-toll route will be the A428. Imagine the effect of all this extra traffic on the A428 and A14 at prime commute times. A more immediate transport issue will be the fact that the Bourn Airfield development will not immediately feed on to the new A428, but initially on to the old St Neots road. Bear in mind that this development is equivalent in size to the original Cambourne development and remember the traffic jams on the A428 that occurred before the A428 was dualled. The traffic flow also suffer due to the bottlenecks of the Caldecote roundabout and Hardwick dual roundabouts. The council made promises in the local plan that there would be no vehicular access on the Broadway side of the site, but the results of a freedom of information request indicate that they will break this promise. The congested access to the M11 South (J13) on Madingley Rise will inevitably result in traffic using the local roads through local villages as “rat runs” to access the Toft/Comberton (B1046) road and lower M11 J12.
The Bourn Airfield “brownfield site” is in reality still used largely as farmland. It is a vital part our own local green belt that helps separate and afford the local communities their own identity. It is part of the local history and character that is still to this day a working airfield. It’s home to the Rural Flying Corps – a unique local amenity and business that will be lost if these plans were to go ahead. It also serves as the only large showground and occasional market in the immediate vicinity.
There is a growing feeling that the Local Plan consultation process was implemented simply because it was a planning requirement to do so. The consultation forms are over-complicated and increadibly difficult to fill in. Nonetheless, in earlier consultation phases it seems the highest ratio of objections to a site compared with support for, was Bourn Airfield. The site was classified as a site with “Limited Development Potential” in earlier presentations, but is now presented as the only viable solution in the Proposed Submission Local Plan (initially published in July 2013). A consultation process that simply ignores the input of the local population and then presents a fait accompli in its final phase is deeply flawed.
Previous statements made on the limits on Cambourne’s growth by SCDC officials: In 2004 after developers failed to win the case for a major expansion of Cambourne, Daphne Spink, SCDC leader of the Council, said “3300 houses is all we will tolerate”. On TVs “Look East” in September 2007, after the SCDC approved an additional 950 houses to be added to Cambourne, Councillor David Bard said “after this 950 there is no extra land for development here”. The reporter queried “So after that Cambourne is as big as it can get?”, “Yes” replied David. Cambourne West would add 1,200 houses and the Bourn Airfield Development a further 3,500. This would more than double Cambourne’s present size.
Surely a local government plan of this importance is supposed to be based on a coherent strategic vision? Identifying where the local infrastructure has capacity. Ensuring suitable mass transport links exist. Identifying where the employment growth in the region will take place. Giving weight to fairness and balance in the spread of development across the region. Following basic planning principles such as the separation of settlements – ensuring the unique character and identity of our villages are maintained. Instead we appear to have been delivered a sub-par developer led vision that fails on all of these counts.