“You would think it were not green belt, but it is.”

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.

5 Replies to ““You would think it were not green belt, but it is.””

  1. To use an analogy that’s very much in the news at the moment, can I suggest the campaigners are acting like the King Canutes of Queen Ediths?!

    It’s inevitable that this land is going to be built on eventually, and why shouldn’t it be? You all live in houses which were built on open fields in the last century. Your properties have all increased massively in value because of planning policies that restrict supply and prevent young people from getting on the housing ladder at all, worsening inter-generational inequality.

    The so-called Green Belt is an emotive term, but most of this vast and uninspiring area, which I understand is about 6 times the size of the footprint of Cambridge, is completely inaccessible to the general public. It just acts as an empty buffer through which the poor are forced to commute every day to the employment sites in the City such as Addenbrookes.

    You’d be better focusing your efforts on campaigning for quality housing and decent facilities and green spaces as part of the developments rather than pointlessly trying to hold back the tide.

  2. Very apt, but wasn’t Canute making the same point as you, that the tide will come in regardless?

    The points I have been making is that the County Council’s plans are premature, given that the Local Plan is not yet agreed, and that there are thousands of objections to this site being taken out of the green belt – see http://greenbeltsos.wordpress.com/ – and that they need to consider the disadvantages of the site as well.

    The population of Cambridge has increased massively over the time I have lived here, eg Queen Edith’s had fewer than 6,000 people here in 1994, and there are now nearly 9,000. Much of the new housing has been flats.

    If, and only if, the sites are approved, I shall certainly be campaigning for the right infrastructure. I challenged the Tory Cabinet Member at the meeting yesterday on whether he would guarantee 40% affordable housing.

    New housing would need a lot of local facilities, as it is not near shops, medical facilities, or schools.

  3. There are ways to develop Cambridge and currently, because of land prices, the builders need to put as many properties as possible on the plot. This plan at Worts Causeway proposes a density of houses five times greater than what is currently there. these will be flats, small terrace houses and no gardens and very limited parking. Affordable will only be true for the first buyers and thereafter they will be sold at market value. The flats closer to the station on Hills Road are currently selling for upwards of 450K for 2 beds. The houses in Trumpington are upwards of 525K to 975K so not really affordable in anyone’s book. Parking spaces are selling at 10K so don’t expect that local people will get much of a look-in here. The council gets a hefty contribution for any development and is financially obliged to keep development going. As a city that is 55min to London much of the prices are driven up by London commuters, particularly along the southern corridors so if you are happy to loose Cambridge green belt to subsidise London overspill, go ahead.
    Personally I am loathed to see green belt disappear to either fill the coffers of the council or to continue to drive up the prices of houses within striking distance of the station.

  4. Dear All
    As you can see the so called green belt is being whittled at again, was the reason for creating this green line for children to colour in where numbered if this line can be changed willy nilly then why do we not rename it ,if everytime weight is put on we drill a few pierce a few more holes to compensate the extra weight.We need to keep to the plan we set out with with reviews every 25 to 30 years
    As you can see Hills rd has been specifically designed for housing Brooklands ave and surrounding areas ,an estimate of at least 4-5 thousand student flats have been built in and around this area very pleasing for foreign investment with no reduction in resolving local housing provision ,was the overbuilding a creation by councillors gaining extra revenue to reduce our housing rates wouldnt that be wonderful ,but then this would create another issue Traffic ,with excess traffic created by the city’s overdevelopment we would need extra revenue to spend solving the traffic issue we created in the first instance thats why the libdems are happy with the 1 billion they have secured for our roads due to the expansion ,or is this for the bypass over Cambridge so we could look at future building on the green belt on either side, poeple of cambridge you will need to make changes if you want to save your city ,

  5. Thankyou Chris for your posts about Queen Edith’s. I am, though, concerned about David’s comments that the green belt is a ‘vast and uninspiring area’. I carry out regular surveys of the bird populations in this area, and have found that it supports remarkably good numbers of threatened ‘red list’ farmland species, in particular grey partridge, yellowhammer, skylark, linnet and yellow wagtail, as well as a wide range of other birds – I have recorded 72 different species over the last three years – and other plants and animals including brown hare. There is a copy of my report from last year’s survey at the end of my blog at http://www.johnmeed.net/nightingales/.

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