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Retirement village in green belt at Stapleford is approved on appeal

A government planning inspector has overturned a district council’s decision and approved plans for a retirement village in the green belt at Stapleford.

Stapleford retirement village plan has been approved by the government's planning inspectorate (54865315)
Stapleford retirement village plan has been approved by the government's planning inspectorate (54865315)

The inspector also rejected concerns that the scheme would impact the £132million Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) off-road busway.

South Cambridgeshire district councillors refused the plans from Axis Land Partnerships Ltd in April last year.

The council’s lead cabinet member for planning, Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, said: “We are naturally disappointed by the Planning Inspectorate’s decision, but at the same time we must note the different balance the planning inspector struck and we are bound to accept their decision.

“We were very clear in the reasons that we gave for our refusal and did not feel that the very special circumstances outlined by the developer justified this scheme. However, we do not plan to challenge the decision because the inspector was very clear in their view, which means the likelihood of a successful challenge is greatly reduced.”

The Greater Cambridge Partnership objected to the plan because the proposed development is astride and in conflict with the preferred route for the CSET scheme. It will now be forced to delay progress and take the scheme back to its executive board rather than seeking permission for a Transport and Works Order.

A spokesman for the GCP said: “We are assessing the implications of a decision to grant planning permission for a retirement village in Stapleford for the Cambridge South East Transport Scheme. The planning inspector made provision for the scheme as part of their decision and we will now consider this and report to our executive board this summer.”

South Cambridgeshire Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins
South Cambridgeshire Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins

The council’s planning committee said the proposals for a retirement care village and associated facilities –including a new country park – on land between Haverhill Road and Hinton Way in Stapleford would be an unjustified and inappropriate development that is harmful to the Cambridge green belt.

The refusal was also based upon the council’s view that the plans did not reflect the local area.

The committee agreed with officers’ recommendations that the provision of a new park and meeting the needs of accommodation of this type did not amount to the very special circumstances that justified building in this location.

The inspector said: “I conclude that the uses proposed and their disposition on the site, which can be secured by imposing the parameter plans as a condition of permission, could be made consistent with the existing landscape character of the area; that the physical harm to the landscape would be relatively small; visual harm to the character of the countryside would be somewhat greater, but there is no reason to presume that the built development would be inconsistent with the character of the village.

“The proposed development would therefore provide about nine per cent of the total demand for extra care dwellings and about 14 per cent of the total demand for care home bed spaces in the market area in 2024.”

On the busway, the inspector said: “This provision is not presented as a benefit of the proposal; there is no suggestion that the proposal would dedicate or donate the corridor to the promoters of the scheme. Nor is it suggested that the proposal would be dependent on the busway scheme or its two stops proposed on Haverhill Road and Hinton Way. The appellant’s view, not contradicted by the local planning authority, is that, if planning permission for the appeal scheme is granted, a different alignment for the busway – avoiding the part of the site to be developed for a retirement care village – can be envisaged.”

Stapleford Parish Council also objected and said it would be seeking to influence the ‘reserved matters’ via the emerging Great Shelford and Stapleford Neighbourhood Plan.

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