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Green belt will be ‘in tatters’ – and 5,000-home plan for Great Shelford could be revived under Michael Gove’s Cambridge 2040 plans, says leading councillor





The government’s plans to potentially double the number of homes across Greater Cambridge would leave the countryside in “tatters”, according to a leading councillor, and could lead to a revival of proposals for 5,000 homes near Great Shelford.

Cllr Brian Milnes, the deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said the green belt is “clearly under threat” from the government’s ‘Cambridge 2040’ ambitions.

Housing secretary Michael Gove. Picture: James Manning/PA
Housing secretary Michael Gove. Picture: James Manning/PA

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced plans last year to see “northwards” of 150,000 new homes built around Cambridge as it looks to supercharge its economy, centred around its prowess in science and technology.

This figure was down from an initial 250,000 homes that it was reported the government wanted to see in the area.

A Cambridge Delivery Group has been established by the government to work on the proposals, chaired by Peter Freeman, the head of Homes England.

Cllr Milnes (Lib Dem, Sawston) said there are currently around 150,000 homes across Greater Cambridge and said the feasibility of the house-building the government desires over the next 16 years was “questionable”.

Speaking to members of Great Shelford Parish Council at a meeting on January 17, Cllr Milnes said Mr Gove’s vision was “very nebulous” and much was unknown about the vision.

But he warned there were a number of problems such a plan faced, including the region’s water scarcity challenge, transport issues and the impact on the green belt.

Cambridge Green Belt: Map: This is a derivative work of an Open Street Map, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 licence. The underlying map is © OpenStreetMap contributors, http://www.openstreetmap.org. The boundaries for the overlays were sourced from the Department for Communities and Local Government, and contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 - OpenMap and the Department for Communities and Local Government (UK), CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65152595
Cambridge Green Belt: Map: This is a derivative work of an Open Street Map, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 licence. The underlying map is © OpenStreetMap contributors, http://www.openstreetmap.org. The boundaries for the overlays were sourced from the Department for Communities and Local Government, and contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 - OpenMap and the Department for Communities and Local Government (UK), CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65152595

He added the area would also need to “double all its resources” - such as schools and doctors’ surgeries - to meet the needs of a larger population.

And he questioned whether the district council had sufficient resources as a planning authority to process all the development applications that could be forthcoming.

Any area in Greater Cambridge could “be up for grabs” under the government’s plans, he noted, since Mr Gove has not specified the areas in which he expects these homes to be built.

“The green belt is clearly designed to protect villages from joining together and keeping them separate,” said Cllr Milnes.

“Michael Gove on the one hand has said that he assures everyone the green belt is sacrosanct, except in the specific example of Cambridge. He said Cambridge has very special circumstances. The green belt is under threat, clearly, under this plan.

“The scale of development that is proposed would clearly have the potential to leave the green belt in tatters.”

Cllr Brian Milnes. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Brian Milnes. Picture: Keith Heppell

The government has pledged to create a “new urban quarter” on the edge of the city, featuring laboratories, commercial developments, life science facilities and a country parkland.

Cllr Milnes said it was now understood, following meetings with government representatives, that this urban quarter is not one of the developments already in the pipeline, like North East Cambridge, where up to 8,000 homes could be built.

Cllr Milnes said it was “entirely his own speculation”, but suggested a previously mooted development that had not come to fruition could end up being this “quarter”.

He suggested the previously proposed Cambridge South development - envisaging 5,000 homes on land north of Great Shelford, and south of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus - could return.

Cllr Milnes said this development had “been on the cards” for a while but had not been brought forward.

From left, John Batchelor, cabinet member for housing, and Cllr Brian Milnes, South Cambridgeshire District Council's deputy leader, visit 15 efficient apartments at Block D, Railway Close, Babraham Road, Sawston, handed over to the council. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, John Batchelor, cabinet member for housing, and Cllr Brian Milnes, South Cambridgeshire District Council's deputy leader, visit 15 efficient apartments at Block D, Railway Close, Babraham Road, Sawston, handed over to the council. Picture: Keith Heppell

He stressed it was only his guess, but believed it fit what the government had been describing, by being close to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, on the edge of the city and not already planned.

Cllr Milnes said there were still a lot of unknowns around the Cambridge 2040 plans and questioned why when planning powers were devolved, the authorities in the area were not more involved in the discussions.

He said: “This is supposed to be a devolved area with local control, so why have we not been involved in conversations? Why are we fearful we might be excluded from the conversations?”



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