Cambridge PPF opposes development in the Green Belt
Local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future (Cambridge PPF) continues to question the necessity for the release of yet more Green Belt land for development, arguing that Local Authorities have so far failed to make a compelling case. In the context of the total housing target for the Cambridge sub-region – some 35,000 new homes up to 2031 – the additional 1,000 new properties proposed for Green Belt sites could be assimilated elsewhere in the City and South Cambs.
Robin Pellew, Chairman of Cambridge PPF, said: “While we accept the need for more housing, especially affordable and social, for people who are needed to work in the district, Cambridge PPF believes that no coherent and compelling argument has been presented by either Council as to why any of this housing has to be located in the Green Belt. Both the City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council(SCDC) seem to think that the pressure for more housing in and around the city is itself sufficient evidence to constitute the necessary ‘exceptional circumstances’ needed to justify building on the Green Belt as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). We believe that the Local Authorities have yet to demonstrate what these exceptional circumstances are.”
Although it believes the Green Belt cannot be regarded as sacrosanct, Cambridge PPF feels that releasing more land from the Green Belt should be the option of last resort. The charity feels that, during the 18 years of the plan period, potential sites within the urban area may well come forward that might benefit from regeneration or from re-development and that these should be properly explored before Green Belt land is taken. It must be clear that the Green Belt sites will only be brought into consideration, if at all, when other sites have been developed. If ‘easy options’ are available on Green Belt land, they will reduce the likelihood of more appropriate but ‘difficult’ sites in the City being tackled.
Cambridge PPF also questions the basis for the split in the housing targets between the City and SCDC.
Development land in the city is highly restricted but possible sites for housing are available in the surrounding South Cambs area. A modest shift in the split would remove the need by the City Council to take more Green Belt land.
In addition, the County Transport Strategy proposes rapid transport links along all major corridors into Cambridge, yet the contribution that the nearby Market Towns might make to the housing target for the Cambridge Sub-Region is underplayed in the current thinking.
Continuing, Robin Pellew, said: “The South Cambs draft local plan includes several small areas for housing development that lie outside the boundaries of villages in Green Belt land.Clearly some villages will benefit from additional housing to strengthen their local facilities and services, but the justification for some of these Green Belt developments against the wishes of local residents is not obvious. For example, Impington has a proposal for 25 new houses and Comberton for 90. Simple common sense would dictate that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required by the NPPF cannot apply for just 25 houses, especially when the justification of ‘limited infilling’ with social housing does not seem to apply. In the context of the overall target for the Cambridge sub-region, 25 or even 90 properties is irrelevant. So why breach the Green Belt and stir up so much antagonism for so little gain? This just looks like bad planning.”
Commenting on the ‘Save the Green Belt’ petition launched by local residents, who are opposing further development in the Green Belt, Robin Pellew said: “It is disappointing that the draft local plans up to 2031 continue to show areas of Green Belt at the City fringe and around some local villages that are proposed for development, despite the requirement of the Localism Act 2012 for local neighbourhoods to have a greater say in planning decisions. It is little wonder that local people feel frustrated. Cambridge PPF endorses the general aims of the campaign as we also oppose the further release of the Green Belt when alternative housing provision is possible. We are in contact with local residents leading the campaign, offering assistance where appropriate. In parallel our Planning Committee is scrutinising the final version of draft local plans and will be engaging directly with both Local Authorities to press our concerns. The Green Belt, although of great importance in protecting the green setting of the historic city, is one of several issues, which we will be commenting on, including business and retail development, green spaces, public transport, and the provision of community facilities. “
The public consultation on the Cambridge City Council draft local plan closes on Monday 30 September. The South Cambridgeshire District Council consultation closes on Monday 14 October. Cambridge PPF encourages everybody who is concerned about the future of the city and the surrounding area to respond to the public consultation, which can be accessed through the charity’s website, http://www.cambridgeppf.org
The “Save the Green Belt Petition” can be accessed via: http://www.greenbeltsos.org.uk