Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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Local member statements, 150 homes Whaddon Rd Meldreth speculative planning application

by Susan van de Ven on 8 July, 2017

At the July 5th South Cambs District Council Planning Committee meeting, a decision was made to defer a vote on this speculative planning application,  pending further information on highways issues.

These two Meldreth local member statements were read out (District Cllr Philippa Hart, and County Cllr Susan van de Ven).  Additional statements against the application were presented by Meldreth Parish Council Chairman, Philip Kratz for the Marley Eternit Working Group, and Whaddon District Councillor Nigel Cathcart and David McCraith.

Cllr Hart:

My name is Philippa Hart, and I am the District Councillor for the Meldreth Ward. I should declare an interest which is that our family business, Roger Hart Farms, farms as tenants land belonging to Marley adjacent to the application site and that I live with my family within half a mile of the site.

As the Chairman of Meldreth Parish Council has already explained, when Meldreth residents were asked via public consultation for their views on this proposal, 80% of the respondents were against it going ahead. I am here today on behalf of my residents; notwithstanding that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the case officer recommending this scheme, I cannot support it. Were it not for the fact that South Cambs cannot currently provide a five year housing land supply, an application in this location on this site for this proposed use would never be given the light of day. My residents know this and feel angry about it; they know that there will be more competition to get an appointment at local GP surgeries, they know they will queue for longer at road junctions and they know that their High Street will be more congested. Such is its distance of the application site from the centre of the village there will two separate communities not one.

When Marley took on the site at Meldreth with its history of manufacturing amongst other things asbestos they took on the commercial liability of its inevitable eventual decontamination. What we now see is the the costs of cleaning up the site being indirectly passed to the local community in our being required upon “viability” grounds to accept a reduced allocation of affordable homes. The planning system should not be capable of being manipulated in this way. When we talk about the need for affordable homes, we are not only talking about local families hoping that their children can stay local to them, we are talking about providing the housing so that the people staffing our schools and care homes do not have to travel long distances to work. This is how a planning process, properly applied, can create the glue that sticks our communities together. There is simply not enough glue in this proposal.

Marley also took on the responsibility for maintaining an employment site. I recognise that part of their offer is to construct a commercial building providing a new technology and perhaps 25 new jobs. I invite committee members to enquire whether this offer can actually be conditioned. Had Marley chosen, rather than residential development, to develop the proposed site for a use consistent with creating employment (beyond a construction phase) then the extent of the decontamination operation would have been commensurately less and therefore less costly.

My residents are not against Marley. In fact, what they tell me is, that in view of the other speculative developments they know to be coming forward in Meldreth and Melbourn, if planning permission is given for this site, it will be the thin end of the wedge, leading to further unplanned development in this no man’s land, and the establishment of a large settlement way outside our village framework.

For these reasons I urge you to turn this application down.

Cllr van de Ven:

The required sustainable nature of the proposed development places considerable stock on community transport as a core service for getting to and from the village of Meldreth. The aspiration is understandable, given the distant and remote nature of the site.

Unfortunately, this is based on misunderstandings and inaccuracies, as follows:

Community Transport is not regular public transport, and is not designed to fill the gap when bus services disappear. Rather, it provides exceptional lifeline transport for people who have no other way of getting around. It depends on falling council subsidies, and volunteer drivers who come and go.

Beyond this year, there is no guarantee of continuation of council subsidies upon which community transport providers depend to cover their expenses. The scale of cuts which the County Council will be forced to make means that the future of non-statutory services like community transport is in serious doubt.

Nor is there any guarantee of subsidy for the last remaining bus connecting Meldreth to Royston (the annual subsidy for the 127/128 service is £62,490.01) – also a non-statutory service.

There is no commercial bus service to act as a back-up when the subsidized service disappears: the last remaining commercial bus service connecting Meldreth to Royston and Cambridge (the 27) is being withdrawn by Stagecoach at the end of this month.

The notion of £27K for Real Time Information for the remaining subsidized bus that comes once per day and is set to lose its operating subsidy, shows a lack of understanding of reality. The same could be said for the notion of improving bus stops. The subsidized bus does not even pass by the proposed site, which is understandable as it is far away from where people live.

The report indicates that community transport provision for this new remote community will be an extension of the ‘Melbourn scheme’ involving a new vehicle operated by ‘the parish council’. I’ve checked with Melbourn Parish Council who are not aware of such a scheme, nor their role in running a vehicle.   It would appear that the applicant is making erroneous assumptions about an S106 contribution designed for a six-month transition period for the 199 new homes off New Road, Melbourn. (That site sits in a completely separate geography.) That contribution is funding for the parish of Melbourn. If Melbourn Parish Council were to decide to extent the six-month scheme, it would have to precept its residents for the additional funding required – but could not legally operate that service for the benefit of another parish.

Royston and District Community Transport is the only Community Transport provider in this area. When I spoke to them last week, they were not aware of the Meldreth Road planning application before you today.

The applicant has portrayed a localized transport system that does not exist, but which is integral to the sustainability of the proposed settlement.

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