Inspector calls Local Plan into question

ecdc08:08 Wednesday 15th July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: East Cambridgeshire District Council could launch a review of its Local Plan just two months after it was adopted. Any review would cost up to £145,000 over three years, and see a new wave of public consultations. The Local Plan, we’ve spoken about them so much. You might remember what they are, but just in case, it’s a plan for the future development of a local area. So it decides whether or not any planning applications that are submitted can be given the go-ahead. A report is going to be seen by East Cambridgeshire District Council this week. It says the decision of a Government Inspector to override a planning refusal for 120 homes in Witchford has led to the possibility of a review. In allowing the national developers plans, the Inspector said housing supply plans in East Cambridgeshire were already out of date. Richard Kay handles forward planning on East Cambridgeshire District Council, and we will talk to Richard in just a moment, but first let’s have a word with Sebastian Kindersley, who is the South Cambridgeshire District councillor for Gamlingay, because these kinds of cases have occurred in South Cambridgeshire as well, haven’t they Sebastian?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Yes good morning Dotty. I’m afraid it has, almost exactly, where a planning inspector has agreed a number of appeals in Waterbeach in March. And the result of that has been an absolute flood of speculative planning applications from pre-application enquiries, which is rapidly transforming South Cambs. in a way that is unplanned, and actually frankly at the moment unwanted.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And these applications, these speculative applications as you are calling them, they hinge on what?
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Well they hinge on two things. The first that a Government Appeal Inspector says that South Cambridgeshire District Council could not demonstrate that it had a five year housing land supplies which it is required to do. And the second thing is the Local Plan Inspector has suspended further investigation into our forthcoming Local Plan, asking the Council to go back and do some further work. So basically we are in a planning limbo, and as I say, developers are taking maximum opportunity to am in planning applications which are neither in the proposed Local Plan nor wanted by local people. And we are talking about some very very significant numbers. For example just totting up what we’ve had so far since March, we have had applications, actual planning applications, amounting to over 1000 homes in South Cambridgeshire, to which you can add 2,000 plus at Cambourn, making a total of nearly 3,500 homes which were unplanned for, unexpected and as I say unwanted largely by local people.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now people might say Sebastian, you know, if these developers are finding these issues, finding these loopholes almost in the Local Plan for South Cambridgeshire, it shows that the District Council haven’t done their job very well.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Well you could very well argue that, and there is a certain amount of discussion going on along those lines. But the bottom line is whoever’s fault it is or whatever has happened, I’m representing communities as are my colleagues, who are being impacted by as I say these speculative planning applications which are unplanned and unwanted. South Cambridgeshire is one of the best places to live in the country, and at the rate we’re going, at the rate the development industry is going, it’s very quickly going to not be one of the best places to live in the country, because we’ll have created a series of dormitories effectively, nothing more than that. And that is not good planning. Nobody has any obection to proper planned development. This is not planned. This simply off the back of a fag packet.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well you say nobody has any objections Sebastian but we know that’s not true. Even when there is a properly planned development goes before a planning committee, lots of people object, because nobody wants new houses in their village.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: I think there’s always going to be an objector to a planning application, generally speaking. But in the great scheme of things, people in South Cambridgeshire recognise and understand that particularly for their kids and their grandkids, where are they going to live? We do need to build housing, and we particularly need to build affordable housing. So I think there is general buy-in from the population about that kind of thing, because they will have been involved in the whole process of developing the Local Plan. They have not been involved in any of these planning applications, because these are simply speculative applications that as I say have been jammed in by the development industry and landowners, and are unwanted. And of course not only are they unwanted, but they come with no infrastructure development either. So we’ll simply end up with tract housing across South Cambridgeshire, which doesn’t even deliver the proper infrastructure, school places, extensions to medical centres and so on and so forth. And we’ve already seen this with the planning application in one of my own villages, Barrington, where both local surgeries have said they can’t take any more people, and the application for 220 houses was approved regardless.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Sebastian, really good to talk to you. Thank you very much for your time. Sebastian Kindersley there, who is the South Cambridgeshire District councillor for Gamlingay and a few other surrounding villages as well. I mentioned we were hoping to speak to somebody from east Cambridgeshire District Council about their potential review of the Local Plan. Having a little bit of trouble getting hold of that guest, and we will see what we can do throughout the rest of the show, see if we can manage to get to talk to them before nine o’clock. (Did not materialise)

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17:11 Wednesday 15th july 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: East Cambridgeshire could have to launch a review of its Local Plan. just two months after it was adopted Any review would cost up to £145,000 over three years, and see a new wave of public consultation. .. So what’s happened? Let’s find out now from the man who looks after forward planning on East Cambridgeshire District Council. It’s Richard Kay, who is one of the Council officers. Richard, hello to you.
RICHARD KAY: Hello. Good afternoon.
CHRIS MANN: So a forward plan, a Local Plan is a really big thing. You’ve just signed off one. But you basically had to rip it up and start again. Why?
RICHARD KAY: It is a big thing, but I think it’s a little dramatic to say rip it up and start again. We did (UNCLEAR) one in April, and the vast majority of that is still sound, is still valid, and will be taken forward. However we came across a problem with an application in Witchford, which your reporter this morning was talking about on the Breakfast Show, whereby the Council refused an application, because it wasn’t allocated for development in the new Local Plan, but on appeal a Planning Inspector decided based on national policy that we didn’t quite have enough housing land. National policy says we have to have five years worth of housing land at all times. And that Inspector said we didn’t quite have it, and therefore he approved that application on appeal.
CHRIS MANN: And this is quite a serious issue, because as we know there’s a national shortage of housing, and particularly in this part of the world there’s a real housing problem. There’s just not enough being built frankly. So how could you have made that mistake?
RICHARD KAY: Well it wasn’t a mistake. One of our frustrations was a different Inspector two months ago said actually we did have enough land, and signed it off, signed the Plan off as sound. And then a different Inspector, and they are independent, said no you don’t. So it’s quite frustrating for us as a council to have one decision from one Inspector saying one thing and two months later saying a different thing.
CHRIS MANN: But surely there’s one set of rules that they go by.
RICHARD KAY: You’d hope. (LAUGHS)
CHRIS MANN: OK.
RICHARD KAY: Government set some rather vague rules on this issue. They don’t define precisely how you work it out. And so whilst one Inspector works it out and says yes, you’re absolutely fine, and I’m happy with your Plan, this Inspector says well actually on the laest evidence he’s got in front of him, he doesn’t think we’ve quite made it.
CHRIS MANN: Is this going to cost £145,000, this little bit of pernickertiness?
RICHARD KAY: It will cost up to. So what we’re having to do is review certain parts of the Plan, update our housing land supply issues, probably find a few more sites for housing as well. But it is wider than just the site issue. I think, as I’m sure you’re aware, that a Full Council election took place this yea, so they’ve got some new corporate priorities as well. So they want those reflecting in the new Local Plan, about keeping east Cambs as a great place to be, getting the infrastructure and a new leisure centre, and ..
CHRIS MANN: But a few extra houses here and there Richard, it wouldn ‘t kill the area, and it would certainly help people who need homes to live in.
RICHARD KAY: Absolutely, and affordable homes will come with it as well. And even to be fair to the Witchford one that did get through on appeal, they are going to be providing affordable homes. So there is some silver lining to the decision. And you’re right. It’s a national issue. Certainly in the Budget last week a big part of it was about we need to build more homes, and Government are really going to push local authorities to make sure that we have lots of supply there. In the right places, but plenty of supply, so that we can actually build the homes for everyone to be accommodated.
CHRIS MANN: So this wasn’t a mistake and no-one’s going to carry the can.
RICHARD KAY: No. It certainly wasn’t a mistake. No. Local Plan is often an ongoing process. We probably wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to update it immediately like this, but having this decision just forces us to think, well, .. Ultimately it’s Full Council’s decision tomorrow night. It’s not my decision. But if they do decide to take it forward, it will make sure we’re fully up to date with our Plan. We’re fully up to date with where we want applications and proposals to come forward, and hopefully we’ll have a good Plan in the not too distant future. And hopefully it won’t cost that 3145K . That was very much a precautionary figure, so it might cost up to that figure …
CHRIS MANN: OK.
RICHARD KAY: .. over three years. I hop it will be a lot less.
CHRIS MANN: Well good luck with that. Richard Kay, who handles forward planning on East Cambridgeshire District Council. Thank you for your time.

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