Thakeham's homes bid is deceitful, say campaigners
- Credit: Anthony Browne
With less than a week to go before the door closes on the chance to submit proposals to South Cambs District Council’s Local Plan, speculative developer Thakeham is yet to put in a formal bid for their homes plan.
Thakeham announced a plan for 25,000 new homes - a new town and surrounding areas around Barrington, Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth, Foxton, Meldreth, Orwell, Shepreth, Whaddon and Wimpole in December 2020.
It said the development would be the UK’s “first zero-carbon community”. The proposal has no formal planning status, and no planning application has yet been submitted.
Thakeham said its vision would include 10,000 affordable homes and biodiversity net gain of at least 20 per cent.
At the time of the unveiling Rob Boughton, Thakeham chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to reveal our vision to create the UK’s first truly sustainable new community.
“A zero-carbon place with green transport links, where school and work are readily accessible and community facilities are owned by the local residents.
From the start, concerned residents and councillors feared the developer was looking for ‘new national channels’ that would bypass the local planning authority. As no formal application as been submitted, the group say their fears look to be confirmed.
Speaking for the South West Cambridge Action Group, Cllr Sebastian Kindersley said, "SCDC, the Local Planning Authority, has taken great pains to get community involvement and inputs to the next Local Plan.
"Thakeham had many opportunities to do the same. Thakeham promised to engage with our communities and promised to submit a plan in the same way everyone else has. Thakeham has done neither. This appears at best deceitful."
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Cllr Jose Hales, who represents Melbourn on the district council, said: "SCDC has worked carefully over decades to plan population growth – which government mandates – in a sustainable manner.
"The planning hierarchy is based on the infrastructure needed to serve large new populations, mainly at Cambourne and Northstowe. The council has set a high bar on water availability and carbon. Thakeham’s new town idea is totally unsupported by sustainable planning principles. It’s literally off the charts."
Melbourn, Bassingbourn and Whaddon, Cllr Susan van de Ven said: "South West Cambridge Action Group submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Treasury and Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government asking what discussions had taken place between Thakeham and senior members of the Government over a new town in the vicinity of Cambridge – announced by Rishi Sunak in his 2020 budget. But these have all been refused as 'not in the public interest'."
Barrington, Orwell and Wimpole representative, Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer said: "Meanwhile Thakeham has spent a great deal of money on helicopter surveillance over the summer – we’ve had numerous complaints about this. Why would Thakeham do this unless someone had given them assurances that it was money well spent?’
Duxford ward's Cllr Peter McDonald said: "A series of donations by Thakeham to the Conservative Party totalling £536K over the past three years suggest that the developer is working back channels toward its Tory Town plan."
The Crow put forward concerns that Thakeham was being deceitful - and trying to get their application through away from public scrutiny - but they maintain they are committed to working openly and collaboratively with the community.
A spokesperson said: "Thakeham Group has a proven track record of working positively with a range of stakeholders, including residents, local businesses and decision makers to promote sustainable new development.
"We remain wholly committed to working openly and collaboratively with landowners, residents, communities and all levels of government as our proposals for a zero-carbon new community at South West Cambridgeshire continue to evolve.
"We will be making detailed representations to the Local Plan process and will continue to engage with stakeholders through this important process."
They did not comment when asked about Conservative Party donations.