A proposal by Liberal Democrat City Councillors to pause progress on the blueprint for development in North East Cambridge to explore options to improve space for sports pitches was yesterday rejected by majority Labour councillors.
The Liberal Democrats’ earlier campaign to ensure sufficient ‘informal' open space within the development had been successful and they welcomed the new commitment that the Local Plan’s standard would now be reached through a tripling of from the earlier version of the plan.
But despite this success, space provided for organised sport - courts, pitches and greens - remains at only 9% of the Local Plan’s policy and planning officers confirmed that this was the last opportunity to reconsider, the Labour majority on the City Council’s Planning & Transport Scrutiny Committee voted to proceed without any rethink.
Lib Dem Leader Cllr Tim Bick said: "We have championed the principle of this major new development at North East Cambridge when others in the past have held back. The site is an excellent sustainable opportunity to satisfy serious local housing need and we have accepted from the start that North East Cambridge development would be above average density. But we feel this has now been taken to an unacceptable extreme. It is ridiculous to treat it as if it was an inner-city site when it’s on the edge of the city. There is little point in the council’s own well-considered policy standards, if they can be overridden so easily in a development where the council itself is one of the developers.
"It is burying your head in the sand to hide behind the statement that 91% of the expected extra sports facilities that are justified by a new community of 16,000 will be provided somewhere outside the new development. Where? Existing sports facilities in North Cambridge are not particularly generous and have little or no space to expand. Residents of Milton are understandably worried about the implications for Milton Country Park which already operates over capacity. As a society we have re-learned from the pandemic the physical and social value of outdoor exercise and the exhilaration of competitive sport - so we are moving in diametrically the wrong direction to provide less scope in the future.
"We badly want to see the positive contribution this development can make to our growing city as much as anyone else - but it should not be happening at any price in terms of civilised amenities for residents of the future who can’t yet speak for themselves: when they can, it’s too late. It is outrageous that Labour members are conniving in the current version of proposals being already a binary 'yes-no' choice, when the plan does not need to be adopted for a further two years. Elected members should be trying to shape this plan for an optimum overall outcome, but they weren’t even willing to discuss whether this was already it."