07:07 Thursday 11th September 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: An independent Government inspector will outline today how she’ll access plans to build 33,000 new homes in and around Cambridge by 2031. The South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Local Plan includes a new town north of Waterbeach, a new village at Bourn Airfield, and a major extension to Cambourne, as well of course as the massive Northstowe development. It also continued development of the area around Cambridge railway station, and sites on the edge of the city. The Inspector, Miss Laura Graham, will set the scene for how a series of hearings over the coming months will be carried out. The homes are part of a plan that it’s hoped will create 44,000 jobs in the area. Well Robert Turner is the Cabinet Member for Planning on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Robert, remind us what is in the Local Plan for Cambridgeshire. What are the keynotes of the Plan for the district?
ROBERT TURNER: Well first of all good morning to you and to your viewers. Well this is an exciting time for us here in South Cambridgeshire. We are trying to create 22,000 jobs within South Cambridgeshire, 19,000 new homes which will be going forward. Like you said in your earlier report, a Miss Laura Graham has been appointed as the Inspector, who will be carrying out the pre-hearing meetings today at two o’clock in the Guildhall. We’re looking forward to the start date, which will be hopefully confirmed some time for the middle of October.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Robert, what happens if Miss Laura Graham comes along, and she doesn’t like what you have put in front of her?
ROBERT TURNER: Well we have done extensive consultation for all the people of South Cambridgeshire, and I’d like to thank those people who have taken part in this consultation. It is now down to her to make the decisions that we have put forward for the best people to look at the plans that we are putting forward. And you know, we can’t please everybody, because you can never do that in a big survey like we have done on this. But it is our obligation now to put these jobs and homes forward to the people of South Cambridgeshire.
DOTTY MCLEOD: If she comes back and says, this part of the Plan doesn’t work, or I don’t approve of this part of the Plan, what happens then?
ROBERT TURNER: Well we’d have to have another look at it again, and well have to start doing another round of consultations, and maybe have to pick out another couple of sites. But at the end of the day, the sites that we have put forward are what the people of South Cambridgeshire want. It has been through the whole process of going through to the Council at South Cambridgeshire. Councillors approved the Local Plan to go forward, and it is down to her to make those recommendations. But the sites that we have picked are in line of what we need to do.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Kevin Blencowe is also on the line. He’s the Cambridge City councillor for Petersfield, and also the Executive Councillor for Planning, Policy and Transport. Kevin, remind us first of all as Robert did, what are the main points of the Plan that you’ve submitted for Cambridge.
KEVIN BLENCOWE: Good morning Dotty. In housing terms, the City Local Plan envisages 14,000 homes. Of those, 12,000 are already in the pipeline, so we’ve got to find an extra 2,000. So our challenge is not quite as great as the one facing South Cambridgeshire. In terms of jobs, we’ve been asked to find capacity for another 21,000 jobs up until 2030. Again, that’s quite a challenge within the city boundary when you think how constrained sites are, existing sites particularly.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We hear about these huge numbers of houses and jobs that are going to be created in this part of the County. Does this Inspector look at the infrastructure that’s going to be put in place Kevin, as well as the houses and the jobs?
KEVIN BLENCOWE: I’m sure she will. We both of us made references to the County’s transport strategy, as it relates to what we’re trying to do in terms of housing projections and job creation. And clearly that’s a very major part of it. Yes.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And it feels as if the saga of the Local Plans, I’m not saying it’s not important, because obviously it is important, but it has been going on for so long. Do we have any idea yet when this will all be signed and sealed?
KEVIN BLENCOWE: Good question. Yes. We don’t know exactly how the timetable will progress. Clearly there’s still a Local Plan in place. It was adopted in 2006 for us. And until the new one is signed off by the Inspector, obviously that one stays in place. But no, it is a long process. From memory, the previous one was quite a long process in terms of the examination. And actually we started in 2011, so the lead-in to this stage is clearly a very long process already. But there’s been huge public interest and huge participation by the public. We’ve had 18,000 representations from individuals and organisations in that period, at the various stages of the Plan so far. So you can gauge the public interest is huge.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And some real areas of controversy as well, I’m thinking Robert for South Cambs. the new settlement for Bourn Airfield, the new town on the outskirts of Waterbeach, Northstowe is always a controversial topic. Once the Local Plan is settled, how binding is it?
ROBERT TURNER: Oh it is. It is completely binding. Those sites have been picked out as you know. Bourn Airfield is a brown-field site anyway, so homes will be delivered on that site. So that will be an extension to the west of Cambridge. Waterbeach as well, another brown-field site, Government-owned land on the Barracks there. The only thing is what we are looking for for the Waterbeach site more often as not is an upgrade of the A10, because we need to get the infrastructure certainly in place for the Waterbeach settlement there. They are very big sites which we are looking at, but through our consultation period, very extensive consultation period, people came back to us, residents came back to us, and they said they wanted new towns and settlements, rather than development in the existing small villages which represent South Cambridgeshire. So we have listened to the representations from our tenants and residents of South Cambridgeshire, and this is the Plan we are putting forward. But it is working with Kevin Blencowe at the City, you know we have got a Memorandum of Understanding between the two councils. We are working very closely together, including the Cambridge City Deal which is being drawn up and being put forward to the two authorities. So we are very keen to work, and these two plans will be going forward to Miss Laura Graham later today, and it will be down to her to look at the two in parallel as they go through, and we hope they’ll be adopted early part of next year.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Because the reason I ask Robert whether the Local Plan is absolutely binding once it is sorted out is because there have been examples recently, I’m thinking of the plans for the development around Bannold Road Waterbeach, where in spite of it being against the terms of the plan that had been in place, it was recommended for approval because of the sheer demand for new houses.
ROBERT TURNER: Yes it was, and those two sites in Bannold Road in Waterbeach were refused by a local government inspector. We had every reason for refusing those at local level at the Planning committee, but it was down to a Government inspector who overturned those sites and said they can go ahead. Disappointing for us on a local level, but at the end of the day now the Plan is going forward which didn’t include those two sites. The Plan is going forward for the bigger settlements of Waterbeach, the new town there, and Bourn Airfield, and that’s where we will be concentrating our efforts.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But can you not see that when things like that happen, people might say well this Local Plan , it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
ROBERT TURNER: It is worth the paper it’s written on. We are very confident that these two Plans now going through side-by-side, with us and the city, we’ll be delivering the homes and the growth that we need for this area, so it will be putting homes down for our children and future generations to come.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So this Plan will be watertight. Not like the last one.
ROBERT TURNER: I think it will be. Absolutely.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Robert Turner, thank you for joining us. That’s the Cabinet Member for Planning on South Cambridgeshire District Council. And we also heard from Kevin Blencowe the Executive Councillor for Planning, Policy and Transport on Cambridge City Council.