Councils pledge to continue to work together to deliver best plan for Greater Cambridge
Leading councillors have pledged to continue to work together to address concerns raised by independent planning inspectors assessing plans to deliver thousands of new jobs and homes in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.
In a letter issued to the Councils at the end of May, the inspectors outlined issues that they consider need to be addressed and the work required to ensure that key parts of the plans can be found sound.
The letter also stressed that the inspectors have not asked the two authorities to go back to the beginning of the Local Plan process, nor have the inspectors said that the plans are unsound.
At Cambridge City Council’s AGM last week the Leader of the Council, Lewis Herbert, reiterated their commitment to delivering the Local Plans working along side South Cambridgeshire District Council as a top priority.
The first motion agreed at a meeting held at South Cambridgeshire District Council to discuss the Local Plan today (Thursday 4 June) also welcomed the opportunity to address the inspectors’ concerns, complete a timetable for the additional work needed by the end of June, and anticipates that work being done by the end of the year.
A second motion was also agreed to commission immediate independent advice on how the Council can best manage the speculative planning applications until the Local Plan is agreed by the inspectors.
One of the areas the inspectors have raised was whether the councils’ assessment of the number of new homes needed has fully taken account of market signals, such as affordability. This is a requirement of new national planning guidance published after both councils had already prepared plans and were ready to submit them to Government.
The inspectors have also asked for more evidence on the development strategy which sets out where growth will go to test if the plans are right to focus development in new settlements rather than more Green Belt releases on the edge of Cambridge.
In the inspectors’ letter they have emphasised that the request for this work should not be interpreted as an indication that further releases of Green Belt land would be necessary to ensure the soundness of the plans but have provided a clear steer on the further work needed.
Cllr Kevin Blencowe, Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, said “The Inspectors’ pragmatic approach is not unusual in the current climate. There are huge challenges in preparing Local Plans for growth especially during a time of changing national planning policy and guidance. The Councils are pressing on as quickly as possible in order to respond to the inspectors and are committed to prioritising the technical work that needs to be undertaken in order to provide the evidence the inspectors have requested”.
Cllr Robert Turner, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “Making sure we have in place Local Plans that support the economic success of the Greater Cambridge area and deliver much needed new homes for local people is vitally important. We will now establish the next steps needed so we can publish a timetable by the end of June and want to resubmit our Plan to the inspectors before the end of the year. It is really important to remember that the inspectors have not made a final judgement on the Local Plans we have both submitted as yet, what we need to do is extra work to demonstrate what we have put forward. The extra work could result in changes being made but until the work is carried out it is too early to jump to a conclusion.”
Cambridge’s submitted Local Plan includes provision for 21,100 more jobs and 14,000 new homes, while South Cambridgeshire’s submitted Local Plan plans for 22,000 new jobs and 19,000 new homes up until 2031.
The letter sent to the Councils by the Inspectors can be viewed by visiting www.scambs.gov.uk/local-plan-examination and https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/local-plan-review-about-the-examination
The two motions at South Cambridgeshire District Council’s extraordinary Council meeting to discuss the Local Plan are as follows:
“This Council notes the letter from the Inspectors regarding the suspension of the Local Plan examination and their call for more work on the evidence supporting the Plan. It welcomes the opportunity to address the Inspectors’ preliminary concerns at this stage and looks forward to the
officers presenting their plan and timetable for the additional work to the Planning Portfolio Holder and, subsequently, to present their findings, their evidence and any new or additional recommendations to Full Council at the earliest opportunity. This Council requests officers to provide a timetable for this process by the end of June, and anticipates that all the work will be completed and the plan will be ready for resubmission to the inspector not later than 31 December 2015. The Council agrees to satisfy all reasonable requests for the resources necessary to adhere to this timetable.”
“We also call on this Council to commission immediate independent advice on how we can best manage the speculative planning applications which we are undoubtedly going to have to deal with in significant numbers over an unspecified period.”