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.