General Election 2019: Green belt becomes a blue and yellow issue for South Cambridgeshire
The Liberal Democrat candidate for South Cambridgeshire has said there are places where building in the green belt "can be done sensitively".
In a half-hour interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, asked if he is comfortable with the pace of development in South Cambridgeshire, Ian Sollom said the area has had "too much unplanned development," stemming from the years where the district council did not have a local plan.
When pressed, he did not say that he was against the current pace of development in the area, but said it has to be "treated sensitively" and "the right sort of development," and said the area needs to address "the crisis of affordable homes," adding the pace of development "needs to be in-keeping and working with local communities".
On building on the green belt, he said: "I think there are places where it can be done sensitively, where actually the local community is open minded about it". And he said calls from people for "revitalising" Harston was one such example.
He said it "has to be where there is support from the local community" and take into account environmental concerns. And he said "the principle is the green belt is there for a reason, and we don't do it lightly".
Mr Sollom added that party will be in a "very awkward situation" if the result is a hung parliament, but also accepted it is reasonable his party will not win a majority.
Mr Sollom was coy about lending support to either Labour or the Conservatives, saying he believes the leaders of both parties to be unfit for the role as prime minister, but when pushed said "we are not going into coalition with a Boris Johnson-led Conservatives or a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party".
On Brexit, Mr Sollom agrees with the party line to revoke Article 50 if his party wins a majority. He said his personal view – accepting it is a reasonably assumption his party will not win a majority – is to support a second referendum, with Remain pitted against Boris Johnson's deal.
He said that if the second referendum was won by the leave side "then clearly the public has spoken at that point". But said there would still be a "long process of democratic scrutiny," that would need to be applied to future terms with the EU.
South Cambridgeshire Conservative candidate Anthony Browne responded: "The housing completions in South Cambridgeshire were 3,987 in the past five years, and the Lib Dem controlled-district council are proposing increasing it to 7,376 in the next five years, an 85 per cent increase.
"In total, the council are planning to build 23,709 homes by 2031, about a fifth more than required to by government (and something like a 50 per cent increase in population).
"Ian repeatedly evades answering whether he supports this or not, but in the end when asked 'are you happy with the pace' he says 'yes'. Asked about building on the green belt, he said there are 'places where it can be done' and 'we don't rule it out'. He supports a huge acceleration in development in South Cambridgeshire."
Mr Browne, who has consistently spoken out about the scale of development in the constituency, added: "The Lib Dems really do want to turn South Cambs into a giant housing estate. The election on Thursday is the last chance voters have to stop the Lib Dems concreting over the countryside.
"I really do care about this because I have known this countryside and these villages my entire life and would hate them to disappear."
There are three candidates for South Cambridgeshire:
Anthony Browne - Conservatives
Dan Greef - Labour
Ian Sollom - Liberal Democrats
More by this authorBen Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter