Why I am campaigning against Thakeham's proposed new town in South Cambridgeshire
When the property developer Thakeham proposed a 25,000 home ‘South West Cambridgeshire’ site that would cover the villages in between and including Melbourne, Bassingbourne, Wimpole, and Barrington, I made my thoughts immediately clear on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire - no, no, no!
South Cambridgeshire has already seen three new towns approved at Cambourne, Northstowe, and most recently Waterbeach. That is a huge and unsustainable level of development in itself, and while I have done all I can to ensure the Government does not support this development, I cannot vote against this development. Only District Councillors can do that.
I can ensure they hear the voice of our community. I have been clear with South Cambridgeshire District Council that the side should not be adopted by the Local Plan, a document that offers a blueprint for planning policy in South Cambridgeshire over the next two decades. If they keep this site out, it becomes much harder for the developers to secure planning permission.
By not including these proposals in the Greater Cambridge Local Plan, South Cambridgeshire District Council can send a strong signal that they are listening to their residents. This is an issue that crosses political divides and parish boundaries. By speaking with one voice, we can put a stop to this development.
So far, I have
- Submitted a petition with over 3,000 signatures against the proposal, that was sadly rejected by SCDC and not even debated at their Council meeting.
- Wrote to every resident in the affected area twice, ensuring they were kept up to date with my campaign and did not fall foul of misinformation
- Held virtual public meetings, including one with local Parish Councils and the South West Cambridgeshire Action Group, attended by over 300 residents and viewed over 2,000 times through Youtube and Facebook.
- Submitted multiple parliamentary questions, confirming that planning matters remain in SCDCs hands and the central government was not supporting plans
- Ensured the Government was not supporting or planning for another new town in South Cambridgeshire.
- Written to SCDC multiple times, urging them not to support proposals and to ensure the site was not a late submission to the Local Plan
- Written to the responsible Ministers, who have assured me that the decision remains with SCDC should the matter come before them
- Met with the lead officer at the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service and the responsible SCDC Cabinet Member
- Met with the developer once, to highlight the strength of feeling locally and urge them to drop their proposals
- Wrote publically to campaign against the proposal, including multiple columns, interviews, releases and social media posts
Following speculation that the company might seek to have the plans imposed by the central government in some way, I have forced assurances from the developers, the government, and local planners that this is not a possibility. I am glad to say that even SCDC's own joint director of the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service stated that he was “not aware of any other mainstream mechanism”, outside of the local planning process, “that would enable the delivery of the proposals”. In conjunction with statements from MHCLG, this should put to bed the rumours and conspiracies being circulated about government involvement in the project.
While I am disappointed that Thakeham was not willing to listen to the significant local concern I relayed to them when meeting their Chief Executive, I was glad to force the admission that there is no route to bypass normal planning rules and agree to work inside the bounds of the Local Plan process. I remain strongly opposed to this proposal, as do the vast majority of residents and their local council representatives. I would urge South Cambridgeshire District Council leaders to listen to their residents and say no to any such proposal.