The new Cambridge Local Plan was prepared while the Liberal Democrats were in control of the City Council. The City Council worked with South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) and both took it through their Council meetings and presented it to the Government in March 2014 – just before the elections when the Lib Dems lost control of the City Council.
The Government appointed an Inspector and Assistant Inspector and they have been conducting hearings as part of the Examination in Public. There were an enormous number of comments to consider (about 10 times what Birmingham had!) and a lot of objections both to specific plans for sites (e.g. Ridgeon’s) and to the overall strategy. In particular, many Developers said that more land should be taken out of the green belt.
Last May the Inspectors wrote a letter to both Councils and suspended the hearings.
They asked for further work to be done particularly on how many houses we would need in the plan period, to show more clearly why we had excluded parts of the green belt, and to explain how we would pay for the transport links if we were putting such a high proportion of the new houses into the satellite settlements. They were especially concerned that the Councils had not taken into account Market Signals as Government guidance suggested. This particular piece of Government guidance had been issued a few days before the plans were submitted – long after all the research work had been done!
Both Councils appointed consultants and have been working on these issues and the results were published Monday afternoon (9th. November). To the disappointment of some – there is very little change from the previous plan.
The numbers were added up the new way – and came out the same for the city and 500 higher for SCDC.
With one exception, the arguments about the green belt remain the same: the exception is a small piece south of the Addenbrooke’s Bio-medical campus which could be taken out for employment purposes. It is in SCDC and they will consult on it.
A piece of land near the airport (already out of the green-belt from the last plan) will be developed earlier than originally thought – part of it is in the city and part in SCDC and sites like Bourn Airfield will no longer be given a date for starting but more sensibly say “when the infrastructure is in place”.
Adjustments have been done in various places to bring the draft Local Plan into line with recent Government policy changes.
Councillor Catherine Smart, who is the Lib Dem Spokesperson on Planning Policy and Transport on the City Council, says:-
“We’re pleased that this additional review has vindicated the Liberal Democrat City Council’s administration’s original proposals for the new Local Plan, even in the context of new, additional, government policy on responding to the state of the local housing market.
“This additional process strengthens the new Local Plan, which was, after all, approved through an extensive democratic process over a two year period, against over-ambitious developers circling round the city, pushing for inappropriate development.
“When the City Council was run by the Liberal Democrat we consistently implemented ambitious policies for building homes for our young people and newcomers to the city. The Annual Monitoring Report shows that, by March 2014, over 7,000 homes had been built, including 1,012 in 2013-14 alone, with still more to be reported next month. Cambridge Liberal Democrats will continue to support measures to address the housing shortage which prevents people who need to live here from contributing to and benefiting from the city’s success.”
The next steps are that, first, various committees and both Councils will pore over the small print then it will go out to consultation. The period of consultation will be in two halves, before and after Christmas. It will only be on the changes (even if some people feel they have to repeat what they have already said).
Then the Councils will repeat the cycle of meetings, including Full Council, considering all the responses about the changes. When they are satisfied, the Plan will be resubmitted and the Examination in Public will re-start.
It is hoped that the new Local Plan will be fully adopted by this time next year.