Fears raised by Melbourn and Barrington councillors about Local Plan’s future

District and parish councillors Jose Hales and Val Barrett.

District and parish councillors Jose Hales and Val Barrett. - Credit: Archant

An emergency meeting has been held to figure out the best steps forward after the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan was criticised by inspectors.

They believe more work needs to be done to explore alternative options to building new settlements like Bourne Airfield, such as more houses on the edge of Cambridge. Inspectors also said the plan did not take into account need for ample affordable housing stock, which might signal more homes on the agenda.

District councillors were given just one hour to debate two motions raised at last week’s extraordinary meeting.

It was decided that a timetable will be presented at the end of the month, with a view to resubmit the plan at the end of the year.

Immediate independent advice was also agreed for councillors who fear a flood of unstructured and undesired applications in the absence of clear Local Plan guidelines.

Councillor Jose Hales, who represents Melbourn on South Cambs District Council, said he was left ‘troubled’ by the debate, and felt it was far too short for a full discussion.

He said: “The chairman only wanted 30 minutes for each of the motions. There was uproar. I believe that the debate was stifled.”

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A scheme for 220 homes in Barrington was given the green light at a committee meeting on Wednesday last week.

Councillor Hales warned: “There’s going to be an awful lot more ‘Barringtons’. You can’t discuss that in 30 minutes per motion. It’s an undemocratic process.”

Barrington district councillor Aidan Van De Weyer said he feared the council leadership is ‘seriously downplaying’ the severity of the Local Plan suspension.

He said: “The risks are huge. The inspector is telling us that the evidence we have presented on housing numbers, on sustainability and on the protection of the Green Belt is not adequate. She has told us to go away and come back with better evidence.

“The leaders of the council are suggesting that this is just a technical process.

“But there is no assurance that we will be able to find the necessary evidence. If we can’t, we’ll need to find sites for more houses, we won’t be able to build at Bourne Airfield and we won’t be able to protect the Green Belt.

“I believe that we will effectively have to start the Local Plan process again. It could take another year or two to get a new plan accepted. The sooner that we recognise this and get on with it, the better.”