Sunday, 18 August 2013

Caldecote And Bourn Villages Sold Out By Council For Sake Of Expediency by Cllr Tumi Hawkins

Bourne Airfield Development - Proposed Boundary
On a number of occasions at planning committee meetings, I have told the South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) administration that Caldecote residents felt “dumped on” by the decisions of the council. Little did I know that it was going to get worse … This time, its not just a dumping on, but a betrayal, a sell out, a sacrifice!

In a previous article, I wrote that on 14 May 2013, SCDC announced that it had decided to build three new settlements to meet its projected housing need up to the year 2031. It chose Waterbeach, Bourn Airfield and West Cambourne. This was a bombshell to say the least, particularly as councillors had discussed the option at previous member workshops and clearly indicated they did not like the idea of building on the airfield and did not want to build on Bourn Airfield.

Comments from previous public consultations also indicated that the Bourn Airfield Development was not wanted. I’ve also written about that in a previous article in which I pointed out that the airfield choice flew in the face of local opposition.

So the question that has consistently been asked since then is “why chose Bourn Airfield”? Events have been unfolding which is bringing to light the reasons why.

Stop Bourn Airfield Development campaign

Local residents from Bourn and Caldecote have come together to formally oppose and campaign against the proposed Bourn Airfield Development under the banner of StopBAD. Led by Des O’Brien, a resident of Bourn, the campaign team has achieved a lot in a short space of time.

At the SCDC full council meeting on 25 July 2013, Des presented the 306 signature petition that he had started barely 2 weeks earlier. It shows the strength of feeling against Bourn Airfield Development that so many signatures were collected in that short a space of time. The councillors then debated the petition, which focussed on the soundness of the process that led to the decision to select Bourn Airfield for development. The petitioners maintain that the process was not sound, though unsurprisingly, the Planning Policy and Localism Portfolio Holder stated she was confident that the process was sound and that the Inspectors will find it so.

Since then, the campaign team and volunteers have been working behind the scenes and uncovering documents that show what some describe as a trail of betrayal. The latest of those documents is the Vision Document submitted by Andrew Martin planning consultants on behalf of the sponsors of Bourn Airfield Development. It makes for sober reading and proves the point that Des made in his petition speech – the council did not take a proactive strategic view and the plan has been developer/landowner led.

Why was Bourn Airfield Development chosen?

There is a short answer to that and it is this, to enable the council meet a government imposed target of having a 5-year housing land supply. SCDC does not currently meet that target, apparently because the Marshall Airport site which it had hoped would come on stream, was ruled out when the Airport owners decided not to move from the Cambridge east site.

This is the tail that is wagging the dog. It was also very convenient for SCDC that the owners of Bourn Airfield came up with this revised proposal in October 2012.

In 2007, the council successfully fought off countrywide developers from Bourn Airfield arguing in the High Court battle that the site was not sustainable. The Planning inspector agreed with SCDC’s evidence that there are more sustainable locations for development than Bourn Airfield. So what has changed in that time? Nothing at all – except this need for a 5-year land supply.

The Bourn Airfield Development masterplan

Bourne Airfield - Illustrative Masterplan
The vision document states that “the redevelopment of the brownfield land will create a complete, self-sustaining settlement that offers a range of accommodation, community facilities, shops and employment to maintain a diverse community at different stages of life.”

It also states that “The land at Bourn Airfield is well connected by public transport, walkable, efficient with land, connected to nature and offers high performance buildings and infrastructure.”

The promoters say the plan meets SCDC’s twelve sustainable development core planning principles, local needs, and that the Bourn Airfield Development will provide a good housing mix at an average density of 38 dwellings per hectare. Are we really expected to believe that?

The Betrayal

In the document, we read that on 4th September 2012 a letter was sent from Andrew Martin – Planning to planning officers – David Roberts and Keith Miles – at South Cambridgeshire District Council, setting out how the promoters of Bourn Airfield intended to take forward their advocacy of the site, in the context of the Local Plan – Issues and Options.

A reply dated 7th September 2012, outlined a specific request for the representations to address, amongst other things, issues of viability and delivery. Officers requested the following:

Viability – to demonstrate that development of the site will be viable and so deliverable in terms of the necessary infrastructure investment that will be required.

Delivery – to demonstrate when the airfield could realistically start to make a contribution to the five year housing land supply if it were to be allocated.

The response from the promoters seem to have satisfied those conditions. The following statement by the promoters is worrying but seems to be the underpinning of the decision.

“This site can make a meaningful contribution towards the Council’s 5-year housing supply. Unlike Northstowe or Waterbeach Barracks, the site does not require major infrastructure to be delivered before the houses can be built, and the land is in single family ownership with owners committed to the new development. Both of these factors, as well as the strong local housing market that exists in Cambridgeshire, means this development is much more financially viable than other typical schemes of this size” 
“In recognition of the likely lead-in times for developments of this scale, it is anticipated that an outline planning application would be prepared in parallel with the local plan process. The submission of an outline planning application for the site is envisaged by the end of 2013. It is assumed that consent will be secured by the summer of 2014“. 
“Current expectations are for the first houses to be delivered by the summer of 2016 with approximately 350 houses delivered by the end of 2017. The site therefore represents a realistic prospect of being delivered early in the plan period and contributing to the five year housing land supply and crucially helping to ensure the viability of the local plan“.
So, is this the deal that has been done on the Bourn Airfield Development?

The public consultation document states that nothing is expected to be built on this side until the latter part of the plan period, and that only 1500 are expected to be built by 2031 which is the end of the plan period. But that all seems to be nonsense, in the light of the vision of the developers. We all know what happens when it comes to negotiating these things … the developers get pretty much what they want!

Now that the residents of Bourn and Caldecote know exactly what the developers want, I have no doubt it will fuel their fight against the Bourn Airfield Development even more. The two wards are not fighting these for the sake of Nimby-ism, they feel that having taken 37% of all housing development in the district in the period of 2002 to 2012, it is about time that other parts of the district shared the burden.

Do you agree with that view? If so, please share this article with your wider community.