Cambridge Local Plan 2014
Preparation of the Cambridge Local Plan 2014 is now nearing completion and the lobbying of the City Council is becoming more intense. As you may know, the Proposed Submission Plan calls for the excision of yet more Green Belt for housing development, despite the fact that, in our opinion, there are sufficient alternative sites, both brownfield within the existing urban area and greenfield outside the Green Belt, to more than compensate. Our challenge to the Cambridge City Council has thrown up a number of issues where we are seeking clarification, especially from Local Plans that have already been approved by the Planning Inspectorate, and in this regard I am writing to ask if you can advise us on a couple of matters.
Cambridge City Council is understandably in a hurry to submit its draft plan to the Planning Inspectorate both before the May local authority elections so as to minimise the inter-regnum between the old and new plans. As a consequence, the Council appears reluctant to listen to the representations arising from the public consultation on the Proposed Submission Plan because, we are lead to understand, if at this late stage it was to incorporate substantial changes, the plan would need to go out for a further round of public consultation. We are being advised that the Council is likely to submit the same version of the draft, as was published for the public consultation, largely unaltered other than through a Schedule of Proposed Changes which will be confined to correcting factual errors and matters of clarification, because if it was to include other more substantive changes,
then the Inspector would reject the plan as the public had not been consulted on these changes. Are you aware if this indeed would be the case? Would the plan be rejected if substantive changes were included?
If this is the case, then would a civic society like CambridgePPF have grounds for a legal challenge, under the Localism Act, that its local authority was not paying due regard to the opinions of the public it serves? Obviously the representations received from the public have been placed before the Council’s scrutiny committees, but it is our belief that the primary reason for discarding the overwhelming response of the public has less to do with the merits of the argument as to do with the pressures of the timetable and the desire to include only minor changes, thereby avoiding the delay arising from a further round of consultation. If the Council intends to disregard the feedback it received and to submit the version of the plan that was published for the consultation virtually unaltered, then it would seem to us that the whole consultation process is a sham. Whilst we do not necessarily intend to pursue a legal challenge, we would like to know if there are other local authorities that you are aware of where the same situation applies.
Are you aware of any statement or policy from DCLG regarding the development of brownfield sites in preference to Green Belt? We are concerned that if the current version of the plan is approved then there will be a rush by Cambridge Past, Present & Future – page 2 of 2 developers for the attractive greenfield sites in the Green Belt whilst the more difficult brownfield sites within the existing urban area remain ignored. We have written to DCLG asking what authority a Council has to include some
form of development schedule within its plan to ensure that the brownfield sites are developed before the greenfield – a copy of this letter is attached. Do you know of a local authority whose plan has already been approved that includes some means of prioritising the order in which its proposed sites are developed? We would like to use such a precedent to strengthen our argument with Cambridge City Council.
I apologise for hitting you with these questions but we do need to cast our net as wide as possible to uncover precedents with other local authorities that will reinforce our argument. So if Civic Voice is unable to help, I would be most grateful if you could direct me to some other body or website that might be able to assist. The situation is certainly hotting up in Cambridge and we do not intend to lose yet more Green Belt without putting up a fight – any help you can give would be much appreciated.
With best wishes – and keep up the excellent job Civic Voice is doing.