Many people were surprised this week to read that the County Council (or at least, the little clique of councillors called the “cabinet”) had decided that it should already start preparing details for developing its part of the controversial proposed development area around Wort’s Causeway. This of course makes the huge assumption that the “Local Plan”, which is hoping to take the area out of the Green Belt, is going to be accepted, against the wishes of local residents.
However, as with the Park & Ride parking charges proposal (q.v.), councillors excluded from the “cabinet” are able to request that certain decisions are debated by committees after all. And Queen Edith’s county councillor Amanda Taylor, along with councillors from Histon & Impington, East Chesterton and Fulbourn, made just such a request today. You can read the official details of what happened here.
This is a tiny step back in the right direction, which doesn’t divert the juggernaut that is the Local Plan. However, I know that many residents have been disappointed by the way some local city councillors seem torn between party loyalty and supporting the residents they represent (q.v.), so it’s good to see Councillor Taylor taking this particular opportunity. Here is what she said to the Resources and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
“I speak in two capacities: as a substitute member of this committee and also as a local councillor for Queen Edith’s, home to GB2, one of the sites concerned. But I would like to talk to you first of all on behalf of my ward, which is the first priority for all of us.
“Wort’s Causeway is an area of outstanding beauty, with paths to the Beechwoods and Wandlebury and views of the Gogs. It was partly the original Roman Road.
“And it is in the Green Belt.
“The way councillors are talking about playing Bob The Builder, you would think it were not green belt, but it is, and it will stay in the green belt until the Inspector’s Report into the Local Plan. Maybe it will still be green belt after that too; we cannot be certain of that yet.
“I have to tell you that people who live in the area are vehemently opposed to taking GB1 and GB2 out of the green belt. There have been hundreds of objections as part of the Local Plan consultation, and a 2,600-signature petition. Going ahead with investigations into building houses on the land while the Inspector’s report is so imminent is treating these people and their concerns with contempt.
“The chair of the Save the Cambridge Green Belt campaign has said to me, ‘It is depressing. It seems everything is done and dusted before any vote takes place.’ People think it is profoundly undemocratic.
“Now — we are not the Planning Authority. But we are responsible for transport.
“Beyond the opposition to the environmental vandalism, residents have other concerns.
“It is unsustainable. The sites are not near shops, schools, nurseries or post offices. This is not a good environment in which to build houses.
“Development poses a threat to transport. It is estimated that if houses are built on these sites there will be a 15% increase in traffic – that is on top of the extra cars generated by the Bell School development very close by.
“At present, buses travel down Wort’s Causeway to avoid Babraham Road – about 19 buses an hour, including our Park and Ride buses. If this quantity of houses are built, these services will be compromised.
“I realize that the motivation for building here is to raise revenue for public services, but I would urge the Council not to count chickens before they are hatched. When the Local Plan is settled, it is likely that there will be many new applications. I have it on good authority that the City Council’s planners will not be able to develop a scheme for this area until about 2015/6. Look at the Bell School site, just half a mile away. Back in 2007, they applied for outline planning permission. Seven years one, not one brick has been laid. So the County Council is unlikely to see any return on investment for a very long time.
“In summary, this decision was premature. It shows a contempt for local people’s views in rushing to build before a decision on green belt status, and the site is unsuitable and unsustainable for what is proposed. And financially, it is reckless to rely on money coming in quickly.”
The next step in the Save The Green Belt Campaign’s attempt to keep pressure on our representatives will be at a City Council meeting next week. More on this soon.