At the full council meeting held on Thursday 13th March 2014, councillors at South Cambridgeshire District Council voted by a small majority to accept the proposed draft local development plan and send it off to the Planning Inspector for examination. 27 councillors voted for, 21 against and 5 abstained. In short, 26 of the 53 councillors present were not happy with all or some aspects of the proposed plan.
In line with the local views that have been expressed to me, I spoke out against the inclusion of the proposed Bourn Airfield Development, and provided Councillors with a 2 page summary of the main reasons why the proposal was seriously flawed. You can read or download the comments here. I sent this by email to all councillors the night before the meeting.
It was interesting that during the debate, Cllr Wright complained that I had sent the documents so late, at 11pm the night before the meeting. He said if I wanted them to consider my points, I should have given them more time …. Err hellooooo!!!!!!, if he cared to remember, at each of the previous 3 full council meetings, I asked a question about the Bourn Airfield Development, and each time the answers were unsatisfactory. In fact on one occasion it took three cabinet members to answer my question, with one denying what he had said on radio!! On the last occasion, I challenged the need for 5,000 more houses along the A428 corridor because I had heard with my own ears at a public meeting the assertion that “south cambs was taking the housing needs of Cambridge city”. The Council leader was then surprised and unhappy that I took him up on his offer to get me written evidence from City Council that this was not the case.
But more to the point, the Cabinet had decided to allocate each councillor only three minutes to speak. Three minutes for such an important and life changing decision – so much for democracy. So, I did what I thought was the right thing, put my thoughts in writing and emailed it to each Councillor before I turned in for the day. I also printed 57 copies and in the morning put one in the mail box of each Councillor at the Members Room in South Cambs Hall, so those attending could have it to hand at the meeting. But, that was still not enough for some ….. we can but try. If indeed everyone was coming to the meeting afresh to participate in and listen to the debate with open mind and had not already decided how they would vote, then it shouldn’t have mattered that he got the paper the night before. As I reminded him, the document contained information that he and other members had heard before, so it was nothing new. It was merely a summary, bearing in mind it would have taken 10 minutes to talk through all of them, far in excess of the allocated 3 minutes.
The fact that in the end, 26 councillors could not vote for it should send alarm bells ringing at the planning inspectorate, as it shows that there isn’t overwhelming support for the proposed draft local development plan.
This vote means that the battle for Bourn Airfield is moving to the next stage – public examination. It is increasingly difficult to see how the Council can justify proposing to build 3,500 houses, plus schools, shops, employment centre, leisure facilities in the space allocated. The map below show just how unsustainable the idea really is.
With reference to the map above, the original Cambourne development outlined in purple comprises of circa 3,500 houses in three smaller villages. To the left is Lower Cambourne which has 800 houses, in the middle is Great Cambourne with 1800 houses and to the right is Upper Cambourne which has 900 houses. In 2011, SCDC gave planning permission for a further 950 houses for which construction has recently started as part of Upper Cambourne (dark red outlines).
To the left of the map is Highfields Caldecote outlined in bright red, which has circa 600 houses. The dashed purple outlines are the relatively newer developments of Strympole Way, Blythe Way and Clare Drive which contain circa 304 houses, built at a density of 25-27 dwellings per hectare.
So, looking at the map, and using the existing villages as comparison, it is obvious to anyone willing to look objectively, that the proposal for 3,500 houses plus supporting infrastructure for the Bourn Airfield Development proposal is a non-starter and just not possible.
The proposal aims to fit the size of the existing Cambourne into Bourn Airfield??!! Is that realistic? The only way that many number of houses will fit on the Bourn airfield site is if the houses are built at a very high density, greater than 60 houses per hectare. That is twice the density of current developments!!
So the question that needs to be asked and answered is “why is SCDC continuing with this idea of building a new village of 3500 houses at Bourn Airfield?” I have asked the question more times that I care to count, but have yet had no satisfactory answer. It seems to me that it was more for saving face more than anything else. And this is the same site that the Council had previously defended at appeal in 2007 as being unsuitable for 3000 houses proposed by Countryside Properties. So what has changed to make it now suitable for 3,500 houses??
Something is not right.