Anthony Browne MP has commented on figures released yesterday (November 17) as part of the Initial Findings for the new Greater Cambridgeshire Local Plan.
The data release marks one of the preliminary stages in formulating a plan to guide housebuilding across Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District.
These interim findings will be developed further as the Local Plan is progressed, and a range of other studies are also being developed. The plan is scheduled for full public consultation in 2021.
Anthony has long campaigned for fewer homes to be built in South Cambridgeshire, which remains an area of growth, and for increased transparency in the planning process. Writing to South Cambridgeshire District Council in July, Anthony noted: "Any growth must be sustainable. The biggest barrier to sustainable growth in our region is the creaking transport system. As our population has grown in recent years, increased demand has created longer and more stressful commutes for local people. It is, in my view, imperative that our transport plans are settled and necessary improvements have been made before we consider a significant uplift in house building.
"It is essential that all new and existing homes are supplied with services, including power, digital connectivity and on a more basic level, water. My recent conversations with Rebecca Pow, DEFRA minister for water, have highlighted the challenges our region faces with the resilience of its potable water network. We must have total confidence that these basic amenities can cope with the increased demand from additional homes. The sequencing of local development is of critical importance to its success. When putting together the next local plan, SCDC must reflect upon these challenges and adopt a principle of 'I before E: Infrastructure before Expansion'.
"Whilst the government is keen to encourage development to provide new homes, this is not a green light for inappropriate development. My fear is that the trajectory envisaged under the CPIER would put us on the course of unsustainable growth, fundamentally changing the character of South Cambridgeshire from rural to urbanised. I am therefore asking you for a clear commitment that SCDC will not seek to increase housebuilding levels beyond the government target, so that sustainable growth can be underpinned by the infrastructure."
A full copy of that letter is avaliable below.
Anthony Browne MP commented: "These figures confirm the worst fears of residents.
"Growth is not a problem in its own right – indeed, it is essential for any thriving economic and social hub like South Cambridgeshire. The problem lies in unwanted, unsustainable and unprecedented levels of housebuilding. This would fundamentally change the character of South Cambridgeshire from rural to urbanised, with all the pressures on services that will bring with it.
"I have raised this repeatedly with South Cambs District Council, writing a letter to the leader in July to ask that the council does not seek to build any more houses than required by national government targets. These initial findings suggest that local planners are contemplating going even further than I feared, with up to 3,000 new homes being built every year for the next twenty years – an extraordinary increase.
"It is vital that we have as transparent a consultation process as possible. Local voices should remain at the heart of any proposals, and I will continue to seek reassurance that residents will be properly informed and consulted as the Local Plan develops."
The initial studies can be viewed online in the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service Document Library so that they can be read by anyone interested in how the Local Plan is being developed.