News and Updates
Laura Graham and Alan Wood, the inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State to examine the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan have determined that the Plan is an appropriate basis for planning, provided a number of main modifications are made. In effect, the Local Plan is considered sound. This is a disappointing result given the very real shortcomings of the Plan and, most worryingly, it opens the way for 3,500 houses to be built on Bourn Airfield. After more than 4 years of examination and deliberation the report is shockingly brief and surprisingly acquiescent. The Local Plan report pretty much believes everything the council said in its submissions and one has to wonder what pressures were brought to bear on the process for us to end up with such a banal assessment of what has been an enormously contentious Local Plan.
In light of the Report's brevity there remain a number of serious question marks over the thoroughness of the examination process - in spite of the time it took to complete. Most contentious for StopBAD supporters was the closure, by the inspector, of debate and discussion on the modifications to the Local Plan that related to Bourn Airfield at the April 2017 site specific hearings. The modifications included the addition of land parcels adjacent to Highfields Caldecote and a second access from B.A.D. on to Bourn Broadway. Both these modifications have ended up in the Plan. StopBAD are seeking legal advice as to whether this represents a failure of due process and are considering asking for a Judicial Review of the Local Plan Examination.
In addition, the Report's complete disregard for recent events that call into question the deliverability and desirability of a Cambourne to Cambridge busway is surely unacceptable. Paragraph 84 of the Inspectors’ Report states,
At the time this matter was considered at the examination, a certain amount of work had been undertaken investigating options for what is known as the Cambourne to Cambridge Better Bus Journeys project, but no clear route alignment had been confirmed. It is fair to say that the scheme is still at an early phase of development, but the City Deal Executive Board allocated £59 million towards the eastern section of the scheme in January 2015, and we consider that there is a reasonable prospect that the scheme will be completed during the Plan period.
This clearly demonstrates that the Local Plan Report is wholly out of touch with recent developments. The City Deal no longer exists and has been replaced by the Greater Cambridge Partnership which, at the insistence of James Palmer (the new Cambridge and Peterborough mayor), has had to suspend all work on the options for a Cambourne to Cambridge busway 'in order to allow time for the Combined Authority to work through the technical issues, to ensure that when taken, the decision will be evidence based and meet wider alignment and other criteria such as cost, deliverability and timing.’
Many will know that the mayor is very much against a guided bus along the A428 and favours a metro system. Due to the continuing, and reasonable, uncertainty surrounding the final public transport solution for the A428 corridor, there is now considerably less likelihood of a A428 public transport scheme being completed during the Plan period. This make the Inspectors' conclusions enormously suspect. One must ask questions about the validity of the evidence the inspectors assessed given that it was clear that it was out of date well before the inspectors released their Report. If the inspectors found the Local Plan sound on the basis of a reasonable prospect for the delivery within the plan period of a high quality public transport route to serve Bourn Airfield, then they should look again at their decision.
Look out for more updates on these issues.
Now that the dust has begun to settle following the surprising Local Election results, it's worth reflecting on what the results might mean for the StopBAD campaign.
Due to the boundary changes that saw Bourn, Longstowe and Little Gransden incorporated into a new Caldecote Ward we had two StopBAD supporting District Councillors - Des O'Brien and Tumi Hawkins - competing for one seat on the council. That meant that, irrespective of the result, the campaign to stop 3,500 houses being built on Bourn Airfield would have a spokesperson on the council. In the event, Tumi Hawkins won the Caldecote seat by a comfortable margin and we have a very able councillor at the heart of a now Liberal Democrat-controlled District Council.
The Liberal Democrats - who voted against the Local Plan in 2014 - now have 30 seats while the Conservatives have been reduced to 11. The ousting of so many Conservative councillors - many of whom voted to keep Bourn Airfield in the Local Plan - could be very good news for the campaign.
The architects of our misguided, and much delayed, emerging Local Plan have now left the field: the councillors and officers who concocted the Local Plan have either retired, resigned, or been voted out of office. One would naturally think that the Plan would therefore need to be re-drafted. Unfortunately, that is unlikely and the Local Plan inspection process will continue to its conclusion (latest estimates for the Inspectors' Report is late summer).
The Liberal Democrats find themselves in a tricky position with respect to the Local Plan. While on the face of it a change of Council leadership would suggest a change of policy - such a policy change may not materialise. The Liberal Democrats will be reluctant to derail the Local Plan as it's the only game in town. However, if they defend the Plan as it stands, they are likely to face a significant backlash from their supporters and others who are worried about the glaringly obvious transport infrastructure weaknesses that undermine the Local Plan.
It will be important over the coming weeks and months for StopBAD to speak to the Liberal Democrat leadership and the new Liberal Democrat councillors, to re-iterate our case against BAD. Many of the new councillors are first time councillors and may not yet be fully briefed on the Local Plan. Some will not be aware of the StopBAD campaign and our arguments against the inclusion of Bourn Airfield in the Local Plan.
What the election results made clear was that local people were unhappy with the direction their local representatives were taking the District. This new council must be better at listening to local residents' concerns about the nature and scale of housing development and they must develop and communicate a vision for South Cambridgeshire's future in partnership with the people who live here.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the government's planning policy for England, and includes new housing development.
New alterations are being proposed for a revised NPPF which aims to protect airfields and add them to the list excluded from the definition of previously developed land. These changes may come too late to protect Bourn Airfield from unwanted development but could help save other airfields similarly under threat throughout England.
The changes are proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA). StopBAD supports these alterations and we encourage you to do the same. As they say, it can't hurt and could be helpful.
You don't need to be a pilot to take part in this consultation which is open to all. You can add your support by clicking on the link www.generalaviationappg.uk/nppf/
The APPG-GA is supported by by our local MP, Heidi Allen, who is a member of the group.
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)
Modification SC-MM078 - Increasing site size
The additional land added to the site proposed in Modification SCMM078 will further exacerbate the problem of ribbon development along the A428 and mean that villages will lose their character and identity.
For example, the proposal will mean that the new development will end up within 50m of Highfields Caldecote, removing its identity as a separate settlement. In addition, recently the completion of a further 950 homes in Upper Cambourne has brought houses right up to Bourn Broadway. With the recent approval of 2350 houses in West Cambourne it means there will be a contiguous ribbon of
development from Hardwick in the east right up to the Caxton Gibbet roundabout and the A1198 in the west, a distance of 8km. The villages of Highfields Caldecote, Caxton and Bourn will all be subsumed within a Greater Cambourne strip development.
Developers have repeatedly claimed that the individuality and physical separation of existing and new villages will be maintained. This has been shown to be a false. There is no physical separation between Greater, Lower and Upper Cambourne and there will, in future, be no separation between the new proposed settlement, Upper Cambourne and Hardwick. Any assurances that this is not the case are worthless.
The purpose of the Green Belt is to: prevent unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; to safeguard the countryside from encroachment and to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns (villages). These protections should also be applied to those communities south of the A428.
It is also repeating the argument made in 1992, when Bourn Airfield was being considered as the site for Cambourne, that it was unsuitable for a settlement of such size. The Planning Inspector in 1992 submitted a report that stated the “generally small and cramped nature of the site”. He went on to say that, “the Bourn Airfield proposal does lack sufficient room within its boundaries to give adequate separation (from Highfields Caldecote)”. He thought the proposal for only 3,000 dwellings (the current proposal is for 3,500) “would produce a tight development, which when considered in the context of the existing rural character of the area and its proximity to Highfields would appear cramped and too urban in it form and character for this rural area”. These comments were made when Highfields Caldecote was less than half its present size and before the A428 was widened, reducing the size of the Bourn Airfield site by 10 hectares.
Modification SC-MM084 - Vehicle Access to The Broadway
Modification SCMM084 seeks to allow all vehicles to access the Broadway. Traffic is, as reported by a recent survey of Bourn residents, the top concern. This modification is nothing less than a betrayal to Bourn village and contradicts earlier assurances over many years that this would never happen.
Since the 1992 decision to site Cambourne at Monkfield Farm there has been an understanding that traffic on to The Broadway from any new settlement would seriously and adversely affect Bourn village. The Secretary of State for the Environment in his decision letter of the 5th March 1992 was concerned that the Great Common Farm new settlement proposal did not deal satisfactorily with the
environmental implications of the increase in traffic via the Broadway and Bourn Village.
In 1996, the SCDC Planning Committee accepted this continuing risk to Bourn Village and voted against the provision of a bus access route from Cambourne to the Broadway.
Recently Bourn and Cambourne Parish Councils agreed to allow bus and emergency vehicle ONLY access to the Broadway on the strict understanding that this would NEVER change to full vehicle access. It now transpires that while SCDC were helping to facilitate this deal between Bourn and Cambourne Parish Councils - and were making assurances about no private motor vehicle access to the Broadway - they were, at the same time, negotiating on full vehicle access for northbound traffic on to the Broadway with the Bourn Airfield developers.
The ban on cars on to the Broadway must be enforced. It is the only way to protect the rural nature of The Broadway and to maintain, at least to some extent, the quality of life of the villages of Bourn and Knapwell in the face of these potentially enormous local changes.
Traffic numbers for the Broadway and the village of Bourn have increased. At peak travel times it is already seen as expeditious for vehicles from Cambourne to route through Bourn village to avoid slow traffic on routes into Cambridge or to the M11/A14 Highways.
The modification specifies limiting access to the proposed Bourn Airfield Development to northbound traffic only. It is not possible to enforce this restriction. Cars given access to the Broadway will simply turn round and take the route that is the fastest and most convenient for the driver. Current experience suggests that many will choose to drive through Bourn to access the southbound M11 at Junction 12 to travel to the Biomedical Campus, and the other science parks and businesses south of Cambridge.
Finally, what should Bourn residents make of any assurances from SCDC or developers that northern access to the Broadway will be enforceable or will not change in future? Any such promises will simply be treated as further cynical attempts to get these plans approved.
Modification SC-MM091 - Bring forward the start date
There is no justification to a modification that seeks to bring forward the development of Bourn Airfield to earlier in the Plan period. West Cambourne and other sites have received approval and much uncertainty is present regarding the provision of sustainable transport options.
South Cambridgeshire District Council have granted planning permission for over 4,300 dwellings since the Waterbeach Appeal in 2014. 3,100 of these planning consents are on '5 year housing land supply sites' that are NOT in the Submission Draft South Cambridgeshire Local Plan. Why does the Bourn Airfield Development need to come forward early in the Plan period when SCDC have had a
windfall of 3,100 unplanned dwellings?
Plans for the Cambourne to Cambridge busway have stalled in the face of significant local opposition. In addition, the Combined Authority's review of transport options has yet to report. No conclusions have been reached on the form of the public transport that will eventually be delivered in the A428 corridor.
No solution has been proposed for the Girton Interchange to provide access to the M11 southbound for A428 traffic. Currently plans for the A14 upgrade include a new junction layout that will reduce eastbound traffic on the A428 to one lane at Girton.
No consensus has been reached regarding the most appropriate site for a park and ride on, or near, the A428.
As The National Infrastructure Commission's Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford Future Planning Options Project concedes, 'One key lesson to learn from Cambourne... is the need for high quality public transport options to be available from the very beginning.' (NIC Final Report, page 79).
In short, there are too many unknowns regarding transport provision in the area. No houses should be built on Bourn Airfield until a public transport system for Cambourne to Cambridge and environs has been delivered and the Girton interchange is an all-ways junction.
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