1,200 homes and two new schools north of Cherry Hinton granted outline planning permission
Outline planning permission has been granted for 1,200 homes and two new schools just north of Cherry Hinton.
The decision was taken by the Cambridge fringes joint development control committee last Wednesday (May 27), with councillors voting 11 votes to two in favour.
Councillors for Cherry Hinton objected to the proposal, with one saying it would “obliterate” the identity of the area.
The decision establishes and grants approval for the principle of the development. Reserved matters planning permission – outlining more specific detail about the design – will be required for the final approval necessary for the joint applicants, the Marshall Group and Endurance Estates Strategic Land, to begin construction.
Of the 1,200 homes, 40 per cent will be designated affordable, and 90 will be for a retirement living facility.
The plan for the 56-hectare site also includes a primary and secondary school, retail space, outdoor areas and a community centre.
Most of the site is currently agricultural land, and also includes some land currently used by the airport.
The development will be accessible via Cherry Hinton Road, Coldhams Lane and Airport Way.
One member of the public who spoke at the virtual meeting criticised the development as part of a process he described as “concreting over Cambridge”.
Councillors debated the plans for around five hours before voting to approve. Transport, both through the development and its impact on the surrounding area, was a persistent point of contention, prompting scepticism of the transport arrangements from a number of councillors.
Councillors raised objections over the safety and desirability of a road running through the development, and about the infrastructure in place to support the additional movements of so many new households and the secondary school, with concerns raised that there will be little choice but for those travelling into Cambridge city centre to travel by car.
Cllr Mark Ashton, a Labour city councillor for Cherry Hinton, said “transport is the major concern here”. He said he found it “amazing” that the plans include a road “that will go through the middle of this estate”. He called for a periphery road to go around the outside of the development.
“No ward councillor or county councillor for Cherry Hinton supports the current proposals,” he said, adding: “There is no public support for the current traffic plan.”
The agent for the joint applicants said the road running through the development would be “low speed” that would be “designed sensibly”.
Another Labour city councillor for Cherry Hinton, Russ McPherson - now the mayor of Cambridge - said the development would have a “massive impact” on Cherry Hinton.
He said: “The village of Cherry Hinton and in fact of Teversham will be completely obliterated by such a massive, massive development.”
He added the traffic in the area caused by the development will be “horrendous”. “I just don’t see how we are going to cope with that,” he said.
Cllr Dave Baigent, a Labour city councillor representing Romsey, said: “The whole outcome of this development seems to be positive, but I have a real serious reservation about transport into Cambridge and surrounding villages.
“This flies in the face of the city council’s direct policy of reducing vehicles coming into Cambridge.
“The access to Cambridge from this site is poor. And if it’s not put right at this time then it will never be put right.”
He said the current transport infrastructure will create “bottlenecks”.
The advice given to councillors by the committee’s legal advisor, Keith Barber, was that based on the evidence provided by the highways authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, that “it would be very difficult to sustain an argument to refuse it on highway grounds”.
Liberal Democrat Cllr John Williams, who represents Fen Ditton and Fulbourn on South Cambridgeshire District Council, also raised concerns in the meeting that the development would replace around 40 hectares “of the best and most versatile agricultural land”.
Planning officers noted that “this is an allocated site, the principle of development of this site for the purposes proposed by these applications is long established in planning policy terms”.
The assistant director for delivery for the Greater Cambridge Planning Service, Sharon Brown, said: “The county council transport and highways officers have been through a very detailed technical assessment process.
“They have confidence and are supporting this application, and they are the technical experts.”
A county council highways officer said the transport mitigation package does promote walking and cycling. He said the transport plan adheres to the relevant transport policies and said modelling did not show “any firm basis to object to the proposals” on transport grounds. “We have followed the SPD,” he said, referring to the supplementary planning document for the site adopted by the councils in November 2018.
The chairman of the committee, Cllr Douglas de Lacey, an independent councillor for Girton on the district council, said after the meeting that although councillors spent a long time “wrestling with the details” on transport and other areas, “we were assured by the officers that the transport scheme would not cause problems and we had to accept that”.
He also noted the site had already been marked for development.
Cllr Douglas de Lacey said: “I think it’s fair to say that most members felt that the transport assessment was not going to deliver what the officers hoped. I think members felt that psychology suggests people are not likely to do what the transport assessment assumes they will do. Therefore I think we were all left a little bit worried at what this will do to transport flows around Cambridge.”
He added: “It’s always a very fine balancing act to weigh the big advantages, given we desperately need more housing, that this will be good for the local economy and so on and so forth. That has to be balanced against the harm of commuters coming into Cambridge, of not being able to provide the sort of infrastructure we would like.
“We have to accept that our traffic engineers have looked very hard and modelled the prospective traffic. There was a confidence on the part of the officers that the transport planning was good enough. Now, we may have been sceptical about that, but we have got to respect their expertise”.
The agent for the joint applicants told the committee :“The application provides extensive off-site transport improvements to enhance the connectivity of the scheme and the surrounding areas.”
Financial contributions for transport improvements mentioned in the council’s report for the application include additional bus services, crossing facilities across Coldhams Lane and a widened connection along Norman Way, a signalised junction at Airport Way, as well as “improvements” to the Tins Bridge.
The report says: “Whilst the proposed development will generate additional traffic, the residual cumulative impacts will not be severe.”
It adds: “The transport mitigation package includes the provision of strategic solutions.”
The meeting was the first time the Cambridge fringes joint development control committee has met since the county council took the decision to withdraw. The committee is now made up of councillors from South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council.
According to the planning application: “The vision for land north of Cherry Hinton is to create a vibrant, high quality and distinctive extension to the existing settlement, reflecting and enhancing the special character of the surrounding area, whilst working in synergy with Cambridge as a whole.”
A planning officer’s report says: “Overall, the proposed development will bring significant public benefits.”