Bourn Airfield Development Debate

dev_map07:22 Friday 6th September 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Campaigners opposing plans to build over 3,000 homes on Bourn Airfield say they’ll protest tonight outside a Council exhibition in the village. The proposals are part of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Local Plan, which is currently being consulted on. Des O’Brien is the Chairman of the group Stop Bourn Airfield Development, and is joined by Cllr Tumi Hawkins, the LibDem councillor who represents the area of Caldecote. Morning. Morning to both of you. So what’s the problem then Des with this development?

PAUL STAINTON: We don’t have them at the moment. We will get them very very shortly, just as soon as we can. But we can speak to Simon Edwards anyway. He’s the Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Simon, morning.
SIMON EDWARDS: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Thankfully you’re there. Appreciate that. There’s a real strength of aggrievement really I think in Bourn, the fact that they’re going to protest at this meeting. Have you got it right here?
SIMON EDWARDS: Well you know the outcome of the consultation will show us if we have it right or not. There are as you say a large number of people in Bourn who are opposed to any development over there. But there are thousands of people across the district who are desperate for housing. We’ve got a housing waiting list now of over 40,000 I think it is, and it’s growing year on year. Because of the economic downturn we haven’t delivered as much housing as we’ve wanted to in the past. Northstowe for example, which is in my backyard, we’ve meant to start in 2006 and deliver 9,500 homes, and not a brick has been laid. And in all that time the housing list has got bigger and bigger and bigger. I don’t know if you saw in the national press recently the two most expensive places in this country to buy housing are London and Cambridge. We have a desperate shortage of housing, and it has to go somewhere. I personally would favour not building on the Green Belt, and sites like Bourn Airfield for example which are brownfield sites, for me are a very attractive proposition.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve got Des and Tumi now. Morning Des. Morning Tumi.
BOTH: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Sorry about that. Why the opposition to building then on Bourn Airfield Des? It’s a brownfield site. Isn’t it better than building on the Green Belt?
DES O’BRIEN: Well I’d like to correct people by saying that it’s not really a brownfield site. Airfields, old rural airfields are not necessarily brownfield sites. In fact the Area Action Plan includes 281 hectares, and 88% of that is rural land. It’s arable land. So to call it a brownfield site is incorrect.
PAUL STAINTON: Simon, you’re wrong then. It’s not a brownfield site.
SIMON EDWARDS: I’m not actually wrong. It is a .. and I sympathise very much, because I made exactly the same argument when Northstowe was coming to Oakington Airfield. I made exactly the same argument, but unfortunately the Government definition is that disused airfields are classified as brownfield sites. I hate it as much as Des does.
PAUL STAINTON: Des. Des you’re wrong. It is a brownfield site.
DES O’BRIEN: (LAUGHS) Ok. Well let’s not get into an argument over designations. We believe that it’s not a brownfield site. The Government may believe it is. Irrespective of that, it’s also in the wrong place. It’s in a place where there are no jobs. Papworth alone, 1,600 jobs are moving from Papworth Hospital to the Addenbrookes BioMedical centre. There are no real jobs in this area, and yet they’re putting all the houses there. The houses and the jobs need to be closer together, and the jobs are in the South of the area and they’re in the North of the area. People will just have to get into their cars and drive to their jobs. It just doesn’t make any sense.
SIMON EDWARDS: No. I disagree entirely. The plan as we’re putting forward doesn’t just concentrate on homes. In total we’re looking at 19,000 new homes for the district, but as well as that, hand in hand with that, we want to create 22,000 new jobs. And the jobs will go where the homes are. That’s the whole point of the integrated plan that we’re putting forward, to create jobs for the district. Our focus is on building the economy in the district, and you can’t build the economy unless you have the housing to support it.
PAUL STAINTON: As I mentioned, Tumi Hawkins is a councillor, a LibDem councillor representing the area of Caldecote. There you go Tumi. Lots of jobs coming. You must be happy surely.
TUMI HAWKINS: We might be happy that jobs are coming, but we don’t believe that 22,000 jobs will actually be created in the area. And to be honest, the jobs are not the sort of jobs that some people in the area need. This will be high tech jobs, bio-tech jobs, which are all going to be going towards either in Cambridge, on the Science Park, or to the parks South of Cambridge. Nothing is being proposed as business parks along the A428 corridor. So really I do not agree with Simon at all on that.
PAUL STAINTON: They’re not the right sort of jobs Simon.
SIMON EDWARDS: Well I think we’re looking at a range of jobs to be honest. We like to be .. we want to support the rural industry as well as we want to support the bio-tech and high tech industries. I think that we need to be ambitious. The economy is starting to pick up. I think that we are well placed to take advantage of that. Cambridge is a real hotspot for the economy, and I think if we don’t take advantage of that we’ll be very very foolish.
PAUL STAINTON: Des, people need homes. Where shall we build them, if we’re not going to build them at Bourn Airfield?
DES O’BRIEN: I think we just need to be sensible about where they’re built. I don’t doubt that we are going to grow. Cambridge is growing.
PAUL STAINTON: Where? We’re not building at Bourn, where are going to build 3,000 homes?
DES O’BRIEN: They need to be built where the infrastructure is. They need to be built where train stations are, where big roads are, where jobs are. The jobs are being created in different parts of South Cambridgeshire. We should be looking again at where those jobs are being created, where people want to build. Astrazeneca, the Biomedical Park, they are the places that people are moving for jobs.
PAUL STAINTON: We can’t keep building in Cambridge. Tell me what are we going to do. Knock down some Universit ..?
DES O’BRIEN: I’m not suggesting we build in Cambridge itself. Obviously Cambridge is a historical centre. It is as big as it can be.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you mentioned train stations. Where are these train stations we’re going to build them round then?
DES O’BRIEN: Well they are to the South and the east of Cambridge. It needs sensible proper thinking. It doesn’t mean putting a suburb, essentially what they’re attempting to do is to put a suburb ten miles away from Cambridge, where there are no public transport options. Buses are just not used.
PAUL STAINTON: Simon, have you looked at other alternatives? Do you appreciate what Des is saying?
SIMON EDWARDS: Absolutely. We’ve been through a very long process looking at other alternatives. But the fact of the matter is that we have a shortage of infrastructure everywhere across the district. And let me tell you something, there is absolutely no way that infrastructure is going to be built without any supporting development. We’ve seen it bef ore. Look at the A14. Even the Government are asking for local contributions. The money just isn’t there. Now Madingley Hill for example which feeds into Cambridge from Bourn, is a nightmare at the moment. I think everybody would agree that. There’s no way that that’s going to be improved at all without additional funding. And that funding will come forward through a development like something at Bourn Airfield.
PAUL STAINTON: Simon, thank you for that this morning. Simon Edwards, Deputy Leader at South Cambridgeshire District Council. You also heard from Des O’Brien the Chairman of the group Stop Bourn Airfield Development, and Tumi Hawkins, the LibDem councillor who represents the area of Caldecote. They will be opposing plans to build over 3,000 homes and protesting tonight outside the Council exhibition in the village.