CambridgePPF signs Statement of Common Ground with local councils
5th Nov 2014
Cambridge Past, Present & Future (CambridgePPF) – the charity working to keep Cambridge special – has announced that ahead of the Examination in Public of the Local Plans it signed a Statement of Common Ground with Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC).
While CambridgePPF still objects to a number of recommendations put forward by both Councils in their respective local plans – particularly the need to build in the Green Belt – the charity has decided to endorse the authorities’ respective housing and employment predictions in a bid to avoid a planning free for all, which it believes would prove disastrous for the city and sub-region.
Tuesday 4 November saw the Government’s Planning Inspectorate begin scrutinising local development plans at a series of public hearings that will continue for several months. The plans define how Cambridge and its sub-region will develop over the next two decades, setting out policies on key issues such as housing; land for employment; traffic congestion; and the Green Belt.
The Statement of Common Ground has been drawn up because CambridgePPF recognises that the Cambridge area must have a valid plan in place in order to prevent uncontrolled, speculative development. If the Planning Inspector were to reject either of the plans submitted by the City or SCDC, new plans would have to be prepared. During this hiatus, Cambridge would be left without a valid plan and thus vulnerable to opportunist development in inappropriate places – something seen in other cities in the UK.
Rejection of either plan could result in a rush of speculative proposals by developers frustrated by the delay whilst new plans are prepared, particularly around the city fringe. Councils are likely to refuse such proposals where they conflict with their own draft proposals. The developers will then appeal against this refusal to the Planning Inspectorate. The Government’s direction to the Inspectorate under new planning guidelines is to adopt a presumption in favour of development, and as a consequence the great majority of appeals have been upheld and granted planning permission. Not only is this contradictory to the whole essence of localism and community decision-making, it also means that the local Councils could quickly lose control over the planning process.
Robin Pellew, Chairman of CambridgePPF, said: “We are alarmed by the sheer number of developers who will be bringing pressure to bear at the Examination to have the plans rejected. They realise that by having the growth targets increased there is a better chance of their individual schemes coming forward to meet the shortfall – and there are dozens of such schemes, mainly around the city fringe in the Green Belt. If the Planning Inspector finds that the plans are ‘not sound’, the Councils will have to go back to the drawing board and it will be at least a year before a modified plan can be re-examined – leaving a planning vacuum.”
“Given the current options and being pragmatic, our approach therefore is to seek to have the plans submitted by both Councils approved. While the growth targets may seem high to many people, if we were to argue this point, we would inadvertently be allying ourselves with the developers who want to see them increased further. We are showing solidarity with the Councils as we believe their growth projections have been objectively assessed and provide an adequate basis for forward planning. Obviously we need growth, especially housing that is genuinely affordable so young people on modest incomes can get a foot on the property ladder, but we don’t need growth on a scale that threatens all we hold dear about Cambridge and the surrounding district. We are privileged to live in a beautiful city surrounded by attractive countryside and villages, and we do not want to see this put at risk through a scramble for growth.”
In the Statement of Common Ground, CambridgePPF sets out that it supports:
- the need for the Cambridge area to have a valid plan to prevent uncontrolled development
- the overall balance between the contrasting needs for further growth to maintain our economic and social prosperity, and for keeping Cambridge a compact city where residents can enjoy a high quality of life
iii. the overall spatial strategy of both Councils, particularly the City’s commitment to keep Cambridge as ‘a compact, dynamic city, located within the high quality landscape setting of the Cambridge Green Belt’, as well as South Cambs’ strategic objective to ‘protect the character of South Cambridgeshire, including its built and natural heritage, as well as protecting the Cambridge Green Belt’
- the establishment of new settlements beyond the Green Belt in South Cambs with the proviso that the necessary facilities and services are incorporated to create relatively self-contained communities, and secondly that high quality public transport links are provided
- the housing target of 14,000 new homes for Cambridge and 19,000 new homes for South Cambs over the next 20 years
- the provision of 22,100 new jobs in Cambridge and 22,000 new jobs in South Cambs over the next 20 years.
CambridgePPF continues to object to policies concerning how the housing and employment targets are to be delivered. For the Cambridge City plan, the charity will argue that:
- there should be an explicit ‘brownfield first’ policy
- sites within the urban area should be developed before the city fringe
- there are additional sites within the city boundary that are not included in the Cambridge plan, and that developing these would preclude the need to release more land at the city fringe
- until the impact of the current city fringe sites like North-West Cambridge, Trumpington Meadows and Clay Farm on the quality of life for residents has been assessed, especially the traffic impact, then no further fringe sites should be taken
- Green Belt should be released only as the option of last resort when all urban and brownfield sites have been exhausted
- the review of the Green Belt undertaken by the Councils as the basis for further release of land around the city fringe is flawed
- the Green Belt sites at Wort’s Causeway should be dropped, and if an allocation in the city fringe is needed to show how the City’s housing target is going to be met, then it should be a ‘floating’ allocation with the specific site to be decided following an independent assessment of the Green Belt.
In South Cambs, the charity argues that:
- the strategy of creating large new settlements outside the Green Belt is preferable to the alternatives of sprawling out from the urban edge or scattering development around all the villages in the district
- these new settlements will be viable only if they are imaginatively planned to provide all the necessary services and facilities to be relatively self-contained, and to provide a high quality public transport system as an attractive alternative to the car. This is particularly the case with the proposed expansion of Cambourne and the new settlement at Bourn Airfield, which, in our opinion, will work only if a new Guided Busway link to the city is provided
- the scattering of small new developments outside the village boundary for villages in the Green Belt in South Cambs should be dropped unless they are needed as affordable housing for the local community.
CambridgePPF has been selected to speak at the Examination in Public of the Local plans throughout November.