Wort’s Causeway: Council digging holes

Wort's Causeway dig 1People living in or travelling through Wort’s Causeway may have noticed the fields on each side being dug up. The previously tranquil meadows are now pitted with trenches and orange netting, as well as a jolly blue loo on the western side of the road.

Wort's Causeway Dig 5This is part of an archaeological survey, being carried out at this time of year while the fields are free of crops to establish whether there is anything of archaeological interest in the location.

The archaeologists will be on site until Friday and there will then backfilling work for a few more days.

Wort's Causeway Dig 5

The status of the land is still green belt until and unless the Local Plan determines otherwise. As Queen Edith’s county councillor I have made other councillors aware of the strong local opposition to development. When the land was discussed at the Council last year, I said it was insensitive (not to mention rash) to do any work relating to future building on this land before the Plan was settled. You can read my comments here.Wort's Causeway 4

The Tory councillors ignored objections this and gave officers the go-ahead to draw up a business case for future development. They are primarily interested in the revenue potential of the land rather than its community asset value.

I am nevertheless assured by the powers that be that ‘nothing has happened’ on the scheme. I shall continue to investigate, as it certainly doesn’t look like’ nothing’ to me.

Don’t play Bob the Builder with the Green Belt!

BobLast week, the Tory-led Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet voted to start putting together a business case for developing housing on Wort’s Causeway. The County owns 8.5 hectares of land to the south of Wort’s Causeway, known in the Local Plan consultation as GB2, GB1 being a slightly smaller parcel of land to the north.

I think this was premature. Both sites are still in the green belt, despite the fact that the City and District Councils’ Local Plans have proposed that they come out so they can be built on. As the Local Plan has not yet been decided, I think the County Council should wait before it starts playing Bob the Builder. To do otherwise is hugely disrespectful to the hundreds of people who have made representations about these sites. It is also speculative, making assumptions about the outcome of the Local Plan.

Although the County Council Cabinet takes major decisions, backbencher councillors are able to call in decisions and have them debated by overview and scrutiny committees. That is what I did, along with colleagues from Histon & Impington, East Chesterton and Fulbourn.

The paper was discussed at the Resources scrutiny committee this afternoon (download hereHousing call-in). Histon councillor Mike Mason and I addressed the committee and expressed our concerns regarding the prematurity of the decision, the principle of the County providing housing, and whether the business case development is properly provided for in the Council’s budget. I am pleased to say that the committee voted to refer the decision back to the Cabinet, who will now need to take a fresh look.

Watch this space.

Here is a transcript of what I said at the meeting today:

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The draft local plan and the green belt

local planCambridge  City Council has published its draft Local Plan, which sets the framework for future development in the city, and now is the time to give your views on it, for the government Planning Inspectorate to consider.

By law, local authorities must set a Local Plan for their areas, stipulating what kind of development can take place where. It covers employment and leisure facilities as well as housing, so it very much determines where people live and work and how they get about.  It is the master document against which individual planning applications are assessed, and incorporates local planning policies. For example, an important policy this time round is special protection for pubs, to preserve pubs as community facilities.

This Wednesday 28th August, there will be an exhibition on the options for the Cambridge Local Plan in the Hall at the Queen Emma Primary School, Gunhild Way, 2.30-7.30pm. You can also comment on line on the Council’s website set up for this purpose: http://cambridge.jdi-consult.net/ldf/

Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Transport Plan will also be on display. There will be officers from both councils to talk to.

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The green belt and the Cambridge Local Plan

local planAs I have been canvassing in this election, many people have asked me where I stand on the Cambridge Local Plan proposals – particularly the development sites in the Queen Edith’s area (Wort’s Causeway) which are currently in the Green Belt.

If elected to the County Council, I would not have a vote on this issue. However, I have put in a representation objecting to both the Wort’s Causeway proposals, as well as to CC911, an earlier proposal that was much more extensive. On the City Council website, you will find my comments summarized. Here they are:

The numbers proposed would overwhelm the existing residential community. Wort’s Causeway doesn’t have that many houses, and an extra 250-500 would overwhelm them.

The proposed developments are likely to compromise existing travel patterns, both private and public – in particularly, the operation of the Park & Ride buses. They would put extra pressure on local schools, and medical facilities; the schools are already full, and doctor’s surgeries in nearby Wulfstan Way are already busy.

Commenting on the Cambridge Local Plan

There are just a few days left to comment on the Cambridge Local Plan review, if you haven’t already. It is important for this area, as there are proposals to release land near Wort’s Causeway for housing – over 500 housing units between two sites shown on the map here.

Hundreds of people have commented, expressing concerns about the impact on the infrastructure that so many new houses would have. Building there would have a major impact on traffic movements, and could also compromise the viability of the Park & Ride service, affecting transport beyond the local area.

Many would miss the green space, and resist the encroachment of more building on what is now countryside. Building here would spoil a lovely approach to the Gogs and the Roman Road, and there would be implications for biodiversity, as there are many ancient hedges in the area that would be lost.

You have until 5pm on Tuesday to comment, on the Wort’s Causeway proposals or any other aspects of the Local Plan Review. One interesting idea is a community sports stadium – do we need one? Where should it go?

Some sites have already been identified by the City Council as unsuitable, eg CC911, land between Babraham Road and Fulbourn Road. It would strengthen the Council’s hand to have residents’ views on that site too, as developers have been pressurizing them to take this area of land out of the green belt too. So far there has been little comment, unless there is a pile awaiting approval of course.

It was easier than I thought it would be to comment on line. There is a document for each separate proposal; most comments are under 100 words. Do have a look and have your say.

http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/content/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/local-plan-review/issues-and-options-2.en

Cambridge Local Plan: deciding the shape of Cambridge for the next decade

local plan

By law, local authorities must set a Local Plan for their areas, stipulating what kind of development can take place where. It covers employment and leisure facilities as well as housing, so it very much determines where people live and work and how they get about.

It is the master document against which individual planning applications are assessed, and incorporates local planning policies. For example, an important policy being proposed for the Cambridge Local Plan this time round is special protection for pubs, to preserve pubs as community facilities.

On Saturday, there was an exhibition on the options for the Cambridge Local Plan at Netherhall School Sports Centre in Queen Edith’s Way.

Plans were on display showing sites in the city that could be allocated for residential, employment or other uses. There was also an option for a community sports stadium, near the football ground.

One of the options is causing a great deal of local concern: it is to build on either side of Wort’s Causeway, at present in the Green Belt. Over 500 new homes are proposed. This is a very large number of new properties, and there are concerns not only about the encroachment into the Green Belt, but also about road access, and how new development would affect the Park & Ride service. (more…)