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Six-week Greater Cambridge Local Plan consultation on 48,794 homes ‘was far too short’

A six-week consultation on the pivotal first proposals of the Greater Cambridge Local Plan, which will guide development for the next 20 years, has come to a close – but some residents have argued there simply was not enough time for communities to digest it all and respond.

The plan, as the Cambridge Independent has reported, features the suggested locations where 48,794 homes will be built by 2041, some 37,198 of which are already in the pipeline at sites including Northstowe, Waterbeach and Eddington, while 19 new sites for development are also featured.

Queen Edith’s resident Chris Rand. Picture: Keith Heppell
Queen Edith’s resident Chris Rand. Picture: Keith Heppell

Chris Rand, from Queen Edith’s in Cambridge, said: “The new Local Plan is rightly being described on its website as ‘the most important document you’ve (probably) never heard of’.

“We all know that responding to the first proposals is the only real chance that residents have to influence its general direction. Any later public consultations will just be on the detail – it’ll be unstoppable by then. So this particular consultation is incredibly important.

“The 372-page first proposals plan was unveiled at the start of November, and is perfectly well written and presented. But there are two massive problems.”

The first, he said, was the six-week time span.

“Even the most dedicated local council follower would have been hard pushed to find out about it, read it and comment in that time,” he said. “There have been many events organised by the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, but the final presentations were only last week!”

The second issue, he suggested, was that the document was primarily an online one, and those without internet access – or finding it hard to wade through on screen – may have struggled to find a printed copy.

The Local Plan is a joint operation between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, executive member for planning and transport at the city council, said: “We know there is always more we can do, but our officers have put an enormous amount of effort into ensuring that we reach out effectively in this consultation. We have done over 30 in-person and online events where we spoke to over 600 attendees, and we have had nearly 8,000 comments received so far on the consultation. We are still processing many others so the total will be higher.”

Cllr Thornburrow pointed out that draft proposals had been visible since August and the document was “pre-publicised” to residents’ associations and parish councils, while “main libraries” had hard copies.

Covid-19 restrictions prevented hard copies at other libraries, but they were available by contacting the councils.

The Local Plan proposals from Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service (53153515)
The Local Plan proposals from Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service (53153515)

She added: “There is always more we can do to make consultations accessible, but six weeks is standard across the country for Local Plan consultations, and we need to ensure that we keep on track with the timescales for the Plan preparation. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to get involved in shaping the proposals, during the next stages of plan-making and consultation.”

Read more

The six-week consultation on 49,000 homes that will shape Greater Cambridge for 20 years

Greater Cambridge Local Plan’s 48,794 new homes explained - including all 19 newly identified sites for development

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