Preparation of the Cambridge Local Plan
Cambridge City Council
The Cambridge City Local Plan 2014-31 is in the final stages of its preparation by Cambridge City Council. In our discussions with the Council, a couple of issues relating to national planning policy have arisen about which I am writing to you for clarification.
Firstly, what is the policy of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) regarding the development of brownfield sites within an existing urban area in preference to the release of Green Belt for housing? One of the Core Planning Principles in the NPPF (Paragraph 17) is to ‘encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has been previously developed (brownfield land)…’. I have also read your judgement in the case of the planning application in June 2013 for homes in the Green Belt at Thundersley, Essex, when the recommendation of the Planning Inspector was overturned by your decision. In this case you stated that ‘despite the unacceptably low supply of housing land facing the local authority… this development did not outweigh the presumption against inappropriate development in the Green Belt when alternative sites outside the Green Belt had not been adequately explored’. Can we therefore assume that the same principle should apply to other situations such as Cambridge, where proposed new developments in the Green Belt should not be approved when alternative sites within the urban area, and indeed outside the Green Belt, appear to be available?
Secondly, what is the policy of the DCLG regarding the soundness of a Proposed Submission Plan if it includes some form of development schedule that sets out the order or timetable for the commencement of development sites? If a Council’s Local Plan includes both brownfield and greenfield sites but its development sequence is to give preference to the brownfield, what authority does that Council have to ensure that the brownfield sites are indeed developed first? In the case of Cambridge, we are concerned that approval of the Proposed Submission Plan will lead to a rush for the development of the attractive greenfield sites, including those in the Green Belt, whilst the more difficult brownfield sites within the existing urban remain neglected – despite the fact that this is the reverse of the development sequence preferred by the City Council, and appear counter to the spirit of the NPPF.
As these issues are of considerable significance for the preparation of the Cambridge Local Plan 2014, I would be most grateful if you could let us have clarification on these two points as quickly as possible.
Robin Pellew OBE
Cambridge Past, Present and Future