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Claims developers have 'gun to the head' of council

There are claims developers have a “gun to the head” of the council, as plans for a permanent community facility in a Cambridge development get pushed back.

Darwin Green (7347693)
Darwin Green (7347693)

The new Darwin Green development between Huntingdon Road and Histon Road in Cambridge will eventually be the site for 1,593 new homes.

The outline section 106 agreement (which ensures the community benefit from major schemes) for the development had required a community facility to be constructed, completed and fitted out prior to the occupation of the 101st dwelling.

But developer Barratt say they now won’t be able to meet that deadline.

Cambridge City Council’s joint development control committee heard on Wednesday (February 20) that they will now deliver a “temporary community room” prior to the 50th dwelling at Darwin Green One. A permanent community facility won’t be delivered until the completion of the 300th dwelling occupation.

Barratt had asked for the trigger point for building the permanent community centre to be pushed back even further to the occupation of the 500th home, but this was rejected by the council.

Councillors on the committee hit out at what they said was a “cynical” approach from the developers.

Cllr Mike Sargeant, who represents west Chesterton at Cambridge City Council, said there was very little the authority could do.

Cllr Sargeant said: “Where did it go wrong? We have approved a scheme which would kick in at 100 houses. I assume Barratt signed up to that and then got on site and said ‘we won’t build it that way’.

“We’ve got a gun to our head is where we are. There won’t be facilities for the community coming together.”

Cllr Sarah Cheung Johnson, who represents Longstanton, Oakington, and Northstowe at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “It’s a kick in the teeth for residents. This is Barratt. It’s not some inexperienced developer.

“For them to turn around and say they can’t deliver it because of how it is designed, it seems really cynical.”

Cllr John Williams, the cabinet member for finance at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said he worried the temporary community facility could in fact be “dangerous” for the number of residents that may need to be using it.

Cllr Williams said: “My concern is I can’t see it being satisfactory for 300 dwellings. In fact, I think it would be dangerous to have such a room for residents to use. I think we will be causing ourselves trouble for the future if we go ahead with this proposal.

“I also have no faith in Barratt to deliver the proper facilities. When they get to 300, what’s to stop them pushing it along even further? There is no incentive.”

According to a report which went before the committee: “The reason that a temporary community facility is being brought forward in advance of the permanent facility and the permanent facility proposed to be delayed from 101 occupations to 300 occupations, is because of the construction logistics and constraints associated with bringing forward the local centre.

“The design and layout of the local centre involves a number of blocks with flats above commercial and community uses including the health facility and library as well as the community rooms and shops.

“The current trigger for the permanent facility in the S106 agreement of 101 dwellings occupation would mean that construction would still be going on in the local centre area around the community rooms whilst the facility was in use.

“This would result in health and safety and access issues to the community facility. Both the library and health facility have significantly later triggers for provision so are not affected by this issue.”

Despite councillors’ concerns, the committee was recommended to approve the bid to push forward the delivery of the permanent community centre, and 11 councillors voted in favour, and three opposed it.

Cllr Claire Richards, who represents Castle ward at Cambridgeshire County Council said she is “very angry on behalf of residents” about the decision, and said Barratt “must be held to account” for not providing proper community facilities earlier.

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