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5,000 homes, three schools and local centre due for approval at Northstowe

Plans for 5,000 new homes in the third phase of the Northstowe development are recommended for approval by councillors on Friday.

Three primary schools, shops, sports centres and open space are also envisaged under the two applications from Homes England.

Northstowe phase 3a - an illustrative image of Military Lake. Picture: Homes England
Northstowe phase 3a - an illustrative image of Military Lake. Picture: Homes England

They will be examined by a special planning committee of South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The new town, built on the former RAF Oakington base, is eventually due to comprise 10,000 homes.

While planners backed the latest applications, there were more than 100 objections to them.

The first, for phase 3A, covers 4,000 homes across 210 hectares and two primary schools, to be built on land just to the north of Oakington and south of the previous two phase sites. The developers would also make a contribution towards the existing 12 form-entry secondary school and special educational needs school in Northstowe, along with a contribution towards post-16 education.

A ‘local centre’ with a neighbourhood square, retail space and park are planned as a focal point for community activity, offering the potential for markets and other events. Allotments, sports hubs and a BMX park are also included in the plans.

Northstowe phase 3a - an illustrative image of Military Lake. Picture: Homes England
Northstowe phase 3a - an illustrative image of Military Lake. Picture: Homes England

A design and access statement says: “Phase 3A will provide a range of house types, including affordable homes for rent and purchase, self-build and custom build homes, to help establish a mixed community.

“Opportunities for employment within Northstowe, together with measures to facilitate home working will support the development of the town as a place to live and work.”

In a report that recommends delegating approval to the joint director of planning and economic development, a council officer says: “Overall, the proposed development will bring significant measurable economic, social and environmental public benefits.”

A sustainability strategy includes targets to exceed building regulations on energy efficiency at the later detailed design stage “through building fabric, orientation, air tightness, provision of appropriate solar shading, creation of thermal mass and use of proven technologies”.

But Daniel Fulton, of the Fews Lane campaign group, said: “Environmental impacts on groundwater levels have been ignored in the officer’s reports for the planning committee, both in regards to the local impacts on the aquifer in Longstanton and the harm caused by increased abstraction from the Cam chalk aquifer.

“Locally in Longstanton, all the ponds have run completely dry in the summers since 2016. Prior to commencement of Northstowe, the ponds had never been dry within living memory. Groundwater levels locally are predicted to drop by another two to three metres as a result of the further development. None of the findings of the HR Wallingford reports into local groundwater effects have been included in the officer’s report to the planning committee, and the impacts on the ponds in Longstanton aren't even mentioned anywhere in the reports, which are several hundreds pages long.”

Northstowe phase 3a masterplan. Picture: Homes England
Northstowe phase 3a masterplan. Picture: Homes England

Among the concerns raised by 88 letters of objection to these plans were the effects on nature and wildlife, the impact on Oakington and the “lack” of sufficient green space between the village and the new town.

One objector said the plans show “clear coalescence” between Northstowe and Oakington, arguing “no effort” has been made to keep a clear gap between them.

The second application for phase 3B is for 1,000 homes plus a primary school on land to the north of the existing Northstowe development and Longstanton.

Delegated approval is also recommended for this application, which prompted 16 objections, including concern over the impact on traffic.

One objector said: “For properties that back on to the B1050 the current volume of traffic is quite audible.

Northstowe phase 3a illustrative sketch. Picture: Homes England
Northstowe phase 3a illustrative sketch. Picture: Homes England

“The additional volume of traffic for the build and the 1,000 new residences will only increase the volume and have an adverse effect on people’s wellbeing.”

Cycling charity Camcycle objected on the grounds that a primary school was planned on a primary road, exposing children “to pollution and traffic danger”.

Three comments were made in support of the application, but offering preferred recommendations, including that construction traffic not be allowed to travel through Willingham, and urging planners to ensure that all green spaces are ready for when the first people move into the new homes.

Northstowe phase 3b. Picture: Homes England
Northstowe phase 3b. Picture: Homes England

The developers pledge to achieve a net gain in biodiversity of at least 10 per cent with the first application and 20 per cent with the second.

A phasing out of fossil fuels for heating by 2023 is proposed, with air source heat pumps expected for homes and potentially ground source heat pumps for non-residential buildings, along with photovoltaic panels.

If approved, further applications will need to be submitted to the district council presenting more detailed information on the developments.

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