Councils raise housing target but stand by plan to build beyond the green belt

Two Cambridgeshire councils have increased their housing target by 500 homes after their local plans' examination was paused by inspectors earlier this year, but have stood by proposals to deliver growth in new towns and villages beyond the green belt.

Cambridgeshire: Councils produce draft local plan modifications
Cambridgeshire: Councils produce draft local plan modifications

In May, planning inspectors Laura Graham and Alan Wood raised questions about Cambridge City Council's and South Cambridgeshire District Council's strategy of meeting large parts of their stated 33,000-unit housing requirements with new settlements beyond the green belt, rather than on development sites at the edge of existing urban areas.

Graham and Wood recommended a suspension of the plans’ examination and called on the councils to revisit their sustainability appraisals to explore all reasonable alternatives for housing delivery in the plan.

But draft modifications proposals published yesterday show the councils sticking largely to their original proposals for the years to 2031. They said additional expert advice suggested that their joint housing target should be increased to "just 500 more than originally put forward" and confirmed the strategy of delivering growth through new towns and villages, rather than developing the green belt, was "the right plan for the Greater Cambridge area".

Principal changes included in the draft modifications increase South Cambridgeshire’s housing target from 19,000 new homes to 19,500 new homes, and the removal of a piece of land from the green belt for the expansion of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Robert Turner, South Cambridgeshire’s cabinet member for planning, said the extra work requested by the planning inspectors had vindicated the original drafts submitted for examination."The end result is 500 additional homes are being suggested – far less than the 10,000 extra some developers had been suggesting during the examination," he said. 

Kevin Blencowe, Cambridge City Council’s lead member for planning policy, said it was hoped that the examination into the local plans could resume "early next year".

The councils’ Joint Strategic Transport and Spatial Planning Group is due to consider the draft modifications at a meeting next week. A public consultation on the modifications will start on December 2, if both councils approve the measure.

South Cambridgeshire's draft modficiations can be seen here, while Cambridge City Council's modifications can be seen here.

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