Thakeham ‘will not bypass’ Local Plan with its 25,000-home proposal for South West Cambridgeshire
South Cambridgeshire’s MP has welcomed what he characterised as a “climbdown” by developer Thakeham over how it will progress its controversial plans for 25,000 homes in the district.
In a letter that followed a meeting between the Conservative Anthony Browne and Thakeham CEO Rob Broughton, the West Sussex-based company confirmed it would engage with the Local Plan process.
This is significant, because it suggests that the company does not expect to bypass the normal planning process - a fear expressed by those campaigning against the enormous development proposed for rural South West Cambridgeshire.
Thakeham outlined its shock proposal for a “zero carbon community” comprising a new town and connected villages in December. It said it controlled land around Barrington, Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth, Foxton, Meldreth, Orwell, Shepreth, Whaddon and Wimpole and was in discussions with other landowners ahead of submitting proposals.
In a letter to Mr Browne, Thakeham confirmed: “We will be making representations to the Greater Cambridge Local Plan.”
It went on: “Thakeham’s vision for South West Cambridgeshire is to create the UK’s first zero carbon community, helping the country reach net zero, delivering 10,000 affordable homes and providing a blueprint for sustainable placemaking. In order to achieve this, we are committed to engaging at every level of local, regional and national government, together the local community, as our proposals evolve.
“Since releasing our high-level vision in December 2020, a significant amount of work is being undertaken to enable a Local Plan submission to take place.”
This would happen “in the coming months”, the company said.
The Local Plan blueprint will be drawn up by South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council to guide development to 2040. Any major developments that do not make it into the plan are unlikely to proceed.
It means that local councillors - rather than central government - should be in a position to determine whether Thakeham’s plans should be taken forward.
Following speculation that the company might seek to have the plans imposed by central government in some way, Stephen Kelly, the joint director of the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, stated that he was “not aware of any other mainstream mechanism”, outside of the local planning process, “that would enable the delivery of the proposals”.
Thakeham has courted interest from both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at party conferences, but the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that no ministerial discussions have taken place with the company.
Mr Browne said: “While I am disappointed that Thakeham were not willing to listen to significant local concern and drop their proposals, I was glad to hear them admit there is no route to bypass normal planning rules and agree to work inside the bounds of the Local Plan process.
“In conjunction with statements from MHCLG, this should put to bed the rumours and conspiracies being circulated over the last few months. Everyone is committed to ensuring the District Councillors will make the decision on proposals and I am asking residents to make their feelings known to their District Councillors.
“I remain strongly opposed to this proposal, as do the vast majority of residents and their local council representatives. I would urge South Cambridgeshire District Council leaders to listen to their residents and say no to any such proposal.”