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Scrapping off-road Cambourne to Cambridge busway could hit Bourn Airfield plans, warns councillor




Concerns have been raised that scrapping an off-raod Cambourne to Cambridge busway could affect the Bourn Airfield development.

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, and chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s executive board, raised the concerns at a meeting of the Combined Authority’s transport committee on March 6.

Aerial sketch of how Bourn Airfield development would look. (31038749)
Aerial sketch of how Bourn Airfield development would look. (31038749)

The Liberal Democrat said planning permission for the Bourn Airfield development is reliant on “high quality public transport” between Cambourne and Cambridge. Without that housing development, he said, the council’s five-year land supply may be at risk, opening the door to developers to push through planning applications that would otherwise be contrary to the local plan.

The area struggled with the same issue two years ago, leading to large amounts of unwanted development.

Combined Authority mayor James Palmer has taken over plans for Cambourne to Cambridge (C2C) transport improvements from the Greater Cambridge Partnership, dismissing its off-road busway plan and proposing improved bus services instead.

Cllr Van de Weyer warned: “Bourn Airfield is dependent on a high quality public transport scheme between Cambridge and Cambourne. We can’t get planning permission unless we have got some confidence about that.

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer. Picture: Keith Heppell

“If we don’t have confidence about C2C then we can’t give planning permission to Bourn Airfield, or it would be challenged. That means then that a developer who is appealing against a site can say ‘it’s just not reasonable for you to assume you can build houses on Bourn Airfield within five years’, and therefore it knocks down our five year land supply”.

He said: “Currently South Cambridgeshire has a housing land supply of just over five years… as part of the calculations for the five-year land supply there is some element of Bourne Airfield in there”.

But Mr Palmer said “I do not believe there is any danger to the local plan at all because we are committed to Cambourne to Cambridge. We are committed to CAM metro beyond Cambourne to Cambridge”.

“We have a stated construction period for CAM metro between 2023 and 2029 which I think falls into line with the time period being discussed by the GCP.”

And he put forward interim measures to provide additional and more direct buses within the next six months.

Bourn Airfield masterplan from Countryside. (31038743)
Bourn Airfield masterplan from Countryside. (31038743)

Asked at the meeting if the GCP’s C2C plans will be “confined to the scrapheap” by a member of the public, Mr Palmer replied: “The simple answer is yes.”

But his office later clarified the mayor intended that answer for another question, and instead said he had intended to respond: “We are proposing that we should introduce a strategy for the whole CAM network that will allow us to assess how far the route to the west of Cambridge needs to be reconsidered including the need to take into account the recent announcement around the alignment of East West Rail which I think is a significant development of which you are aware.

“It is important that the two schemes genuinely complement each other and maximise the benefits to the people of Cambridgeshire by provision of a genuine, integrated public transport network. It is also necessary that individual components of the CAM network should be fully integrated into the overall vision of the metro and I think, just to expand on that a little bit, and this is no fault of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, but their remit is South Cambs and the city.

“My job is to try and deliver an integrated public transport system for Cambridgeshire and a little bit like we say about East West Rail – Cambridge is not a bookend well nor is Cambourne a bookend, and we have to look to the wider route and I think it is very important that we do.”

In addition to preparing plans for improved bus services, the transport committee agreed to to prepare a “sub-strategy setting out the vision for the CAM metro as a whole, against which schemes contributing to the CAM can be considered,” including the Cambourne to Cambridge route.

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