Keep off the green belt says local charity

20th Jul 2012Green BeltPlanning

As the deadline for the City Council’s consultation about the future shape of Cambridge approaches and the debate heats up about whether the city could sustain up 25,000 new properties around its fringe, local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future (CambridgePPF) has come out firmly against further release of the green belt.

In the light of current development pressures, CambridgePPF has reviewed its green belt policy. The charity that campaigns to keep Cambridge special calls for a ‘presumption against development’ in the green belt to be made explicit in both the City and South Cambs (SCDC) local plans – a move that would bring the plans into line with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that was recently released by the Government.

CambridgePPF argues that development in the green belt should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances, and that such circumstances will not prevail when adequate land for housing is available in South Cambs, in places where good transport links can be provided. Furthermore, if any land is to be released around the city, priority should be given for meeting the needs of business and employment.

The charity is also calling on the City Council and SCDC to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the quality and value of the green belt as the basis for a new joint policy on its future – an exercise CambridgePPF would be keen to participate in.

The news comes one week ahead of CambridgePPF submitting its formal response to the City Council about its Issues & Options report. The report contains a number of suggested housing options – the largest of which would need ten substantial sites around the city fringe in the green belt.

Robin Pellew, Chairman of CambridgePPF, said: “The green belt plays a vital role in preventing urban sprawl and protecting the setting of our historic city. We do not accept that there is any justification to release more land from the green belt when reasonable alternative sites are available in the region. We have in the past approved the limited release for expansion of the city, but if the local authorities persist in raiding the green belt every time the local plan is reviewed, its status becomes worthless.”

“We strongly believe that for the foreseeable future, any new housing – above and beyond what has already been approved – could be located in parts of South Cambs with good transport links, while the City gives priority to providing employment. We are a forward looking organisation and realise that the green belt cannot be treated as sacrosanct for all time, but it does play a key role in keeping Cambridge such an attractive place to live and maintaining the historic fabric of the city.”

CambridgePPF’s green belt policy states that:

–        The green belt continues to play a vital role in maintaining Cambridge as a compact city and there is absolutely no need to change its current boundaries

–        In line with the NPPF, there should be a ‘presumption against development’ in the green belt

–        Development in the green belt should only be approved under very special circumstances

–        ‘Very special circumstances’ will only prevail when it can be demonstrated that the benefit from a development, accruing not just to the local community but also to the wider population of Cambridge, clearly outweighs the benefit of the land remaining as part of the green belt

–        These circumstances do not apply at the moment – particularly when reasonable alternatives for development exist in South Cambs

–        A case can be made for the modest expansion of villages in the green belt to help safeguard essential services, like the village shop, pub or bus route

–        The wider public benefits of the green belt should be actively assessed and promoted by local authorities, landowners and stakeholders.

(ends)

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