Susan van de Ven

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

New Town: Who Decides?

by Susan van de Ven on 16 March, 2021

We’re often asked, ‘Who has ultimate decision-making power on the proposed new town?  South Cambs District Council or National Government?’

The concern is that the developer is openly seeking an exceptional national development channel that would bypass the South Cambs District Council planning process, the standard process that everyone must follow and which is transparent and embedded in public consultation.

Thakeham promised to submit a bid in the South Cambridgeshire Call for Sites by Easter, following pressure from the Leader of the Council. It will be a very late submission but the Council is legally obliged to accept it for consideration. Ultimately, District Council planning decisions are subject to appeal, with rulings made by an independent Planning Inspector (appointed by Government).

The exceptional national channel in the form of what’s called a ‘development corporation’ remains a major concern. The South West Cambridge Action group submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, in order to understand any relationship between the ‘Cambridge development corporation’ included in Rishi Sunak’s budget last year, with the Thakeham proposal. The FOI was turned down on the basis that it would be a ‘distraction’ and ‘not in the public interest’ to release the information. This is being appealed.

The fact that Thakeham has over the past few years made donations to the Conservative party now in excess of £500K ‘makes it somewhat challenging’, in the words of a local resident, ‘to understand how decisions are made.’

The FOI response and everything else that’s been learned so far is posted at

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