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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