Proposed eco-town provokes debate

THE proposed eco-town at Hanley Grange has provoked comments from a wide range of people and organisations. While the new town could bring both benefits and drawbacks to the area, the response from various groups has been practically exclusively negative.

THE proposed eco-town at Hanley Grange has provoked comments from a wide range of people and organisations.

While the new town could bring both benefits and drawbacks to the area, the response from various groups has been practically exclusively negative.

South Cambridgeshire District Council executive director Steve Hampson said: "We have severe concerns about proposals for any extra development in South Cambridgeshire as we are just beginning to see our current development plans deliver new homes.

"We will be looking very closely at the consultation document the Government has published and formulating a detailed response. Our residents' views, of course, will form a key part of this."

Cambridgeshire County Council also spoke out about the plans. Cllr Matthew Bradney, cabinet member for planning and regional matters, said: "We are deeply concerned by these plans, especially in view of the ambitious rate of house building already planned for Cambridgeshire.

"There is a real danger that this proposal could undermine the successful delivery of major developments such as Northstowe and the area around Cambridge.

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"Furthermore, Hanley Grange is remote from major centres of employment and is likely to add to already high volumes of traffic, congesting local roads and the M11. The proposal has nothing to do with meeting Cambridgeshire's needs

"The county council will be working closely with other organisations to make sure the Government is in no doubt about our views."

Homelessness charity Shelter also spoke out about the development. Regional campaign officer Scott Bailey said: "Providing affordable new homes and protecting our environment are two of the biggest challenges for our generation, and eco-towns such as the one planned for Hanley Grange have the potential to provide thousands of desperately needed new homes to the highest design and environmental standards.

"We must ensure that environmentally sustainable homes are not just available for the wealthy, which is why at least 30 per cent of the homes in eco towns must be social rented, and a further 20 per cent other affordable housing.

"Unfortunately, there will always be opposition to house-building proposals, but we believe support for eco-towns would be far greater if a proportion of the new homes were guaranteed to help the 301 homeless households across Cambridgeshire currently suffering in temporary accommodation and many more thousands struggling to find a decent, affordable place to live."

Public policy officer for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, James Rowlands, said: "The development of brand new towns runs the risk of creating isolated pockets of housing that are not effectively linked into existing communities. Potential environmental benefits from eco-towns would be lost if strong communities are not created or if the people who live in them are reliant on private cars for transport.

"It may be better to look at the possibility of creating eco-extensions to existing communities, rather than completely new towns."

And the Cambridgeshire Horizons, the organisation responsible for delivering housing growth in the Cambridge region, said it was concerned that Hanley Grange would compromise its ability to deliver sustainable housing elsewhere in the county.

Sir David Trippier, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Horizons, said: "We are already working hard to deliver an unprecedented scale of growth in the Cambridge sub-region, which is extremely resource-intensive.

"Hanley Grange, like Northstowe, is within the South Cambridgeshire District Council planning area, and is a bridge too far in the current circumstances. We will be taking advantage of the consultation period to put our reasoned views firmly to ministers and officials in Government."

Alex Plant, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Horizons, added: "We understand the Government's policy objectives around delivering additional housing, and the importance of ensuring this is environmentally friendly.

"However, there is a real risk that a new town at Hanley Grange would impact on our ability to deliver new homes in Cambridgeshire over the coming years. This is because it would divert resources away from the existing planned sites, particularly Northstowe, which are further advanced through the planning system.

"In addition the scheme has no obvious sustainable transport solutions given its remote location and apparent reliance on the M11 and car-based journeys. It is therefore hard at this stage to see how it could meet the Government's objectives on environmental grounds.

"We are also concerned that there is a risk that the strong partnership working across local authorities in Cambridgeshire and genuine desire to deliver high quality growth could be affected by a proposal such as this coming in from left-field, rather than through a carefully considered plan-led process.

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