3,500-home Bourn Airfield development recommended for approval despite transport concerns
Plans for the 3,500-home Bourn Airfield development are recommended for approval by councillors on Friday (February 19).
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee will convene in a special session to decide the outline planning application to develop the Bourn Airfield site.
The council’s planning officers have recommended councillors approve the application, subject to the council and developer agreeing Section 106 community contributions.
But there is opposition to the plans from Bourn Parish Council.
The airfield site, which was constructed during the Second World War, is allocated for development in district council’s 2018 Local Plan.
The application, submitted by Countryside Properties and the Taylor Family, includes community facilities including a new secondary school, two primary schools, community centres and playing fields.
Outline planning permission will grant approval to the general concept of the development proposed. But a reserved matters application will still need to be submitted and separately approved before construction can begin.
The principles of development agreed at the outline stage cannot be used to refuse the reserved matters application, which makes Friday’s decision a key milestone in establishing if the plan is or is not likely to go ahead.
Residents and councillors for the area have voiced opposition to the idea of the new village on the site for many years.
The chair of Bourn Parish Council, Des O’Brien said that the “biggest issue by far” when it comes to the planning committee’s decision on Friday is the unresolved question of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway.
The council’s report on the application says the development “will require a strategic transport intervention, the [Cambourne to Cambridge busway] or equivalent strategic scheme”.
Currently the expectation is that, subject to approval, up to 500 homes could be built on the site prior to a busway or alternative public transport scheme being in place.
But a suggested condition includes a review mechanism which would monitor the development’s impact on traffic, and could adjust the requirement for a public transport route accordingly. The parish council is concerned it could leave open the possibility that more than 500 homes – and potentially all 3,500 homes – could end up being built without the required public transport to mitigate the impact on the surrounding roads.
Mr O’Brien said it is “completely bizarre” that the application is coming forward without further progress having been made on the busway. And he said that owing to the crucial role the busway has played in securing the allocation of the site in the local plan for development, it would be “perverse” for it now to proceed without such a commitment.
He believes the decision should be delayed until there is more clarity over the future of the busway.
More key decisions related to progressing the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (GCP) Cambourne to Cambridge busway and travel corridor scheme were expected to have been taken by now. One source of delay has been opposition to the plans from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and its leader, the mayor James Palmer.
The GCP is currently subjecting the planning undertaken so far on the transport project to an independent review. If the review is favourable, a vote on a preferred route – a key milestone which narrows the planning focus to detailed work on one route – is expected in the summer.
One condition suggested by the council’s planners for granting planning permission on the Bourn Airfield site is that the applicant makes a £20million contribution to the public transport scheme.