News and Updates
Despite the established fact that Bourn Airfield is designated as being 86% agricultural land and therefore a greenfield site, developers and planners continue to portray it as brownfield and therefore suitable for development. This morning's (9/3/18) Dotty McLeod Breakfast Show* on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire included discussions with our District Councillor Des O'Brien and a spokesman for the developer, Countryside Properties.
Misrepresentation #1 - It's a brownfield site
Andrew Taylor, Countryside Properties' Director and Head of Planning, said "Bourn Airfield is a large brownfield site... it is more appropriate to use those sort of sites for the housing we desperately need rather than build on true green fields, agricultural fields that are around the area". So good to know that Countryside Properties don't consider that building on such sites is appropriate - we just need them to recognise that this exactly what Bourn Airfield is. (The government, according to its own criteria, recognises that Bourn Airfield is not a brownfield site - see here). In fairness to Countryside Properties they didn't choose the site but they certainly are capitalising on its inclusion in the Local Plan to further their commercial interests.
Misrepresentation #2 - It's only 6 miles to Cambridge centre
This kind of disingenuous communication was heard with reference to the transport and traffic problems that are a major concern. Mr Taylor brushed these aside by saying that people would get to work via the proposed new busway, despite the fact that fewer than 10% of local residents currently take the bus to work. He also stated that "it's only 6 miles from Cambridge centre" to illustrate the breeze it will be to cycle or walk to work (even assuming your job is in the centre of Cambridge). Bourn Airfield to Cambridge centre is just over 10 miles using the established road network and travelling to the Addenbrooke's site (where most of the new jobs will be) is just over 13 miles.
Misrepresentation #3 - The need for housing means it HAS to be built on Bourn Airfield
Finally Mr Taylor repeated the usual illogical argument that because we need more housing it must follow that it can only be built on Bourn Airfield. Bourn Airfield is simply the wrong place for a further 3,500 homes. The local area and supporting infrastructure cannot support them and for those shouting 'NIMBY' at opponents it should be remembered that nearly 40% of all new housing built in South Cambridgeshire since 2002 has been built in Bourn ward and has been accepted and welcomed by residents.
Enough is enough. The site of Bourn Airfield is simply a convenience for South Cambs District Council who have spectacularly failed to act strategically to identify an appropriate site or sites, and has been supported by all other (non-Bourn and Caldecote) district councillors because it relieves them of the hassle in their own areas. There is no principle in operation here at all.
As for the developers, they are in it to make a profit and they have every right to do that. However they do not have the right to cast themselves as social heroes building these badly needed houses as if they were some kind of local crusaders. Mr Taylor said this morning that it is "important to help people get on the housing ladder" - I think we all agree with that. But that housing should be near the jobs and the transport infrastructure and not on Bourn Airfield.
Out of interest I wonder how many of the proposed homes Countryside Properties are planning will be anything like affordable?
Des O'Brien was unfortunately not given the right of reply to Andrew Taylor's comments. To hear both interviews click here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05yhkwy (from 19:06)
We have been made aware of a recent letter from Conservative MP Grant Shapps to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid.
In the letter written on 6th December 2017, he draws attention to the apparent contradiction between the government's stated intention to preserve airfields and their support for housing development on the same sites. Writing as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation, Mr Shapps says,
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on General Aviation has dismissed claims from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that “the current [planning] approach remains appropriate” when considering airfield sites for development.
He goes on to list 15 airfields, including Bourn Airfield, which are threatened with closure for development out of just 96 now remaining in the UK.
To see the full correspondence, click here.
What are your views? We'd love to hear what you think.
IMPORTANT - Government reply to Keep Airfields Greenfields confirms that you shouldn't develop on those areas of a site that are open land
In replying to the online petition KEEP AIRFIELDS GREENFIELDS the Government clarified the position regarding sites such as hospitals and airfields.
The definition of a Brownfield site in Planning Policy Guidance 3 included a footnote which defined curtilage and stated that “where the footprint of a building only occupies a proportion of a site of which the remainder is open land (such as at an airfield or a hospital) the whole site should not normally be developed to the boundary of the curtilage."
This is very significant and clearly demonstrates that in the Government's opinion all of Bourn Airfield should not be developed. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106779