Garden village proposal could result in 7,000 new homes being built on the edge of Linton, just a few miles from Haverhill
Proposals which would effectively create a new town on land just outside Linton, and with it the resulting added pressure on the A1307 from Haverhill to Cambridge, have been revealed.
The development for up to 7,000 homes on the land east of Linton, which would stretch across both sides of the A1307 towards Bartlow, is one of four potential locations for new developments, three of them clustered within a few miles of each other, which could help fund a Cambridgeshire metro.
James Palmer, the Conservative mayor and leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, has written a letter in support of the 7,000-home proposal.
The site is one of four included on a map, dated from early 2019, that was leaked to, and been revealed by, the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The map reveals the four locations suggested by the combined authority as potential sites for ‘garden villages’ in South Cambridgeshire.
In addition to the land east of Linton, a village with about 4,500 inhabitants, the combined authority map of potential sites in South Cambridgeshire includes around 1,000 acres north of the A428 and west of Madingley, another 1,500 acre site around Babraham, and around 600 acres on land east of the A11 and south of Great Abington. It is not yet clear how many suggested new homes are linked to the other sites.
The combined authority said the sites were ‘still very much early options being considered as part of a much wider piece of work, not solid commitments’.
Mr Palmer said in 2018, and has repeated since, that garden villages could be used to help pay for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) while also providing more affordable connected homes.
The idea is to use ‘land value capture’, where the increase in the value of land once connected to a transport network helps pay the upfront costs of building the network.
But no potential locations have been made public until now.
The land east of Linton has been put forward for the development as part of the ongoing Greater Cambridge local plan process.
The site is owned by Pembroke College.
It has been put forward for consideration to the Greater Cambridge Planning Service for a development of up to 7,000 homes, as well as other uses including for employment sites, industrial uses and community facilities.
The mayor has written a letter in support of the site being included in the local plan for development, arguing it has “the potential to address elements of regional growth requirements” and could be served by a metro.
The letter, sent from the mayor’s office in March 2019, says: “The landowner has discussed the proposed development with my office and officers from the combined authority who consider the location has potential to be well served by the proposed Cambridge Area Metro (CAM)”.
A letter from Bidwells included in the local plan submission says the metro and other transport schemes linked to the Greater Cambridge Partnership “could support a new settlement at this location and the new settlement could support the delivery of the infrastructure, which would also support the existing communities nearby and along the route”.
The submission includes a map of the proposed metro network, and says the college and the mayor “would be keen to discuss the proposals” with the relevant planning authorities.
The Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate for the May elections, and deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Aidan Van de Weyer, said: “Mayor James Palmer has spent the last three years putting together a plan for half a dozen new settlements across southern Cambridgeshire in order to pay for his wildly expensive metro scheme.
“The is a barmy way of going about things.
“From what we can tell, Palmer has got some options on various pieces of land and wants to design the CAM network around these locations, regardless of the merits of building there”.
He added: “Palmer has spent too long concocting this idea behind closed doors.
"He now needs to come clean about what deals he has done and what his real plans are for Cambridgeshire.”
Asked if he is supporting the Pembroke College submission for the purposes of providing a development site which could help fund a metro, mayor Palmer said: “Yes, and any other sites that are deemed suitable”.
He would not say what other sites are being considered, but he said there are “currently less than 10 sites identified across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.
He said the map obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows “potential sites”, and that as the metro develops “other suitable sites may come forward”.
Speaking about garden villages, he said “we expect more sites to come forward for development over the next 50 years, but not all will be developed all at once”.
He added: “The key point is it is a possible funding source, but certainly not the only”.
And the mayor dismissed a suggestion by Cllr Van de Weyer that garden villages “now seems to rely entirely on these new villages”.
The mayor said: “It is clear that Cllr Van Der Weyer is completely out of touch with how to deliver major infrastructure and with the views of the local public.
"To say that garden villages are the only potential funding source for the CAM is, coming from a member of the combined authority transport committee, disappointingly misinformed and at worst disingenuous.
“It is imperative that we deliver infrastructure in advance of housing, and it is essential to speak to local landowners ahead of time to do that.
"It is also the best way to capture the value of land and development for sustainable economic growth”.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have spoken to a few landowners in and around Cambridgeshire – doesn’t mean to say that those sites will come forward.
"I don’t know where the garden villages and towns will be, that will be up to public consultation where we look at appropriate sites along the route”.
He said any development proposals linked to the CAM would be “done in the proper way, through proper consultation, total understanding from local people of the options that are there”.
He said: “This is about trying to provide a platform for growth that is both ecologically sound and common sense planning policies that do not ruin the nature of the villages that we have”.
He also noted that the mayor has “absolutely zero powers over planning” but said the county “needs to build houses” and they should built in places “linked to public transport”.
He added the metro “will be a platform for growth across all Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and we will welcome all communities who want the new homes and new jobs this network will bring.
"The aspirations for what CAM will achieve, and how we can get it built, are limitless, and I think the public welcome that level of vision and opportunity”.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Pembroke College but it said the notice period offered to respond was insufficient.
The local plan process will set planning policy, including identifying areas suitable for development, for the greater Cambridge area, and is being carried out by Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council through their joint planning department.