Council extends local plan consultation by two weeks

 

The current South Cambridgeshire Local Plan consultation is being extended by two weeks. This final consultation was originally due to close on Monday 30 September but this is being extended to 5pm on Monday 14 October 2013.

 

The news release from the council earlier this afternoon says that “Council bosses took the decision to extend the consultation as a background assessment included with the recently published draft Local Plan for consultation had not been updated with the latest information used to compile it.”

 

This must be the understatement of the month. What has brought this about?

 

Reason given for two week extension

The news release also says that Planning officials have confirmed that all the latest information – such as how many homes could be built on the proposed sites – was used when compiling the draft Plan, but as the data contained in one document from earlier assessments had not been updated, South Cambridgeshire District Council has taken the decision to extend the consultation so everyone has at least six weeks to view it and have their say.

 

Cllr Pippa Corney, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for planning policy and localism, said:

“It is important to note that we have used all the latest information to compile the draft Local Plan for public consultation and therefore these updates do not have any effect on which sites are being proposed for development. However, we want to make sure everyone has easy access to the latest information in the assessments used to compile the Plan and that is why we have extended the consultation by an additional two weeks so the public has extra time to consider it.”

 

The updated information will be available on the Council’s website by Monday 2 September.

 

In this final stage anyone responding to the consultation will be given the choice of saying whether they support or object to the draft Plan in a format set by government. This will make sure views can be passed on to an independent inspector who will consider whether the plan needs to be changed before it is finalised.

 

The news release also states that all views will be considered at a meeting of all councillors next spring to review comments before the plan is submitted to government for independent examination.

 

That’s the official line.

 

 

The real reason for the local plan extension

Bourn Airfield Development (BAD), simples! An eagle eyed resident noted that based on the available data from the SHLAA documents of summer 2012 that indicated a site area of 141 Hectares, the BAD development would have to be built at an average density of 50 dwellings per hectare, and require up to 5 schools (4 primary and 1 secondary).  The figures in  Cambourne, which is the closest new village for comparison, has an estimated building density of about 29 dwellings per hectare. It soon became clear that something was not right.

 

The observation was sent to SCDC and a reply from the Portfolio Holder stated that “Density on the Bourn Airfield site would be in the range of 30-40 dwellings per hectare. Dwelling capacity would be explored and refined in more detail during the preparation of the proposed Area Action Plan (AAP)“.

 

The eagle eye wrote back to point out that to achieve housing at 40 dwellings per hectare would require 87.5 Hectares for the proposed 3500 homes. This would not leave enough space for the 5 schools, shops, offices and sports and play space from the 141 Hectares.  The area indicated as available to build on within the Bourn Airfield Development seemed to be only 56.68 hectares. So, what was going on??

 

From my perspective, there would also not be enough space for the green separation that the council was planning on keeping around the development to try and counter the “ribbon development” effect and to protect Caldecote’s identity.

 

The response from SCDC to the eagle eye finally arrived today, and it was this.

“SCDC was prompted to look again at the published evidence base for the draft Local Plan. The updated SHLAA which was published in July 2013 did not include all the latest information on sites that was relied upon when the Local Plan was at its final stages of drafting. This explains why your estimate of density of development needed at Bourn Airfield does not accord with ours.

We have therefore decided to publish a slightly revised SHLAA which will be available by the end of August. Please note, the Local Plan which is currently out for consultation was compiled using this latest information and therefore these updates have no effect on the number of homes proposed or where they should be located. It is important that people wanting to comment on the Local Plan have easy access to this information so we have also decided to extend the consultation period to 14th October.”

 

This is a most unsatisfactory situation. The plan that the public are being asked to comment on in this “final stage” has been prepared using “new or updated” figures which were not available to the public to comment on during the previous formal consultation process.

 

I wonder what the StopBAD campaign will be making of this latest development and if indeed it puts South Cambridgeshire District Council on the back foot regarding the soundness of its local plan process with specific regard to Bourn Airfield Development. The jury is out on that one.

 

Further issues requiring clarification

Unaware of the ongoing discussion between the eagle eye and SCDC, I also sent in a list of questions on this and other points and was rather surprised and still confused at the response I received.

 

On the question of the proposed building density, I received the exact same answer as the eagle eye.  I must admit I didn’t understand what the AAP was supposed to be.

 

On the question of what the size of the area to be built on is, I was informed that  “Major Development Site (MDS): 141 ha. Area Action Plan Area: 281 hectares. As before, the Local Plan says the AAP will establish the built area of the settlement within the MDS”. The 281 hectares was a new figure that I had not seen before and did not make sense to me.

 

I also asked why the proposed submission document, now shows that 1700 houses are expected to be built by 2031, and not the previously quoted 1500. The answer to that was “Subsequent to the Portfolio Holder meeting of 11th June, the capacity at Cambourne West was reduced and compensated for by bringing development at Bourn Airfield forward a year, development having been held back in the housing trajectory by two years to provide flexibility and ensure a 5 year supply of housing land”.

Not sure I quite understood that, but it reinforces the tail wagging the dog view I expressed in a previous article.

 

Having made a lot of noise to the administration that Caldecote was never to be put in the place where it became a suburb of the new development if it went ahead, I was keen to know just how much green separation had been planned to keep Caldecote from being subsumed by the proposed new Bourn Airfield Development. The AAP was again mentioned and that the distance between the Major Development Site (MDS) and the village framework of Highfields Caldecote is around 300-350 metres where they are closest.

 

The other point I raised was on the “any measures” proposed to solve the traffic issues that will be generated by the Bourn Airfield Development (see page 79 of the SCDC consultation document). I mentioned that I was aware that the County council does not intend to put a third lane on Madingley Rise as I’ve explained in my previous article, so asked what measures are being proposed. The response indicated that SCDC did not seem to be aware of the county council decision as I was referred to figure 5.14 on page 5-22 of the draft Transport Strategy. So much for partnership working between the authorities!!

 

New date for close of consultation

The extended consultation will close at 5pm on Monday 14 October – a two-week extension to the original date. To have your say you can visit www.scambs.gov.uk/localplan. You could also attend one of the remaining public exhibitions in September, from 2.30 – 7.30pm except where otherwise stated  at the following locations:

 

2nd- Sawston, Spicers Pavilion, Cambridge Road

 

3rd – Caldecote Village Hall, Furlong Way

 

4th – Gamlingay Eco Hub, Stocks Lane

 

5th – Histon & Impington Recreation Ground, New Road, Impington

 

5th – Unstaffed display at Caxton Village Hall, Gransden Road (10am to 7.45pm – council staff available from 5 – 7.45pm)

 

6th – Unstaffed display at Caxton Village Hall, Gransden Road (10am to 4pm)

 

6th – Bourn, Church of St Helena & St Mary, Church Lane

 

9th – Melbourn, All Saints Community Hall, Station Road

 

10th – Swavesey Village College, Gibraltar Lane

 

Further information and a simplified response form are also being included in South Cambridgeshire District Council’s residents’ magazine which is delivered to all homes in the district. Deliveries begin this Friday.

 

Anyone who has already commented during this consultation will be contacted to be given the option to update their views. Anyone who responded to previous consultations is also being contacted to inform them of the extension.

 

The organisers of the StopBAD campaign are also offering assistance to help complete the forms to residents in the villages that are affected by the Bourn Airfield Development, including Bourn, Caldecote, Cambourne, Caxton, Toft, Kingston, Hardwick. Residents should watch out for more information about this.

 

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