Countryside under threat from council say protesters

HUNTINGDONSHIRE has one of the worst records of any planning authority in the country for allowing housing to swallow up the countryside, according to environmental campaigners. But the district council rubbished comments by the Campaign to Protect Rural

HUNTINGDONSHIRE has one of the worst records of any planning authority in the country for allowing housing to swallow up the countryside, according to environmental campaigners.

But the district council rubbished comments by the Campaign to Protect Rural England as based on old data and a failure to understand the difference between urban and rural areas.

CPRE, which accepts that its data may be slightly dodgy, accuses HDC of allowing development at an average of only 18 homes per hectare - one of the 19 worst councils in the country - compared with Government planning guidance requiring 30-50 homes per hectare.

CPRE's Cambridgeshire planning spokesman, Sean Traverse-Healy, said: "Both density and brownfield sites are extremely important in terms of environmental damage, so land use needs to be as high as possible. Both Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire have only limited brownfield sites available, so they need to redouble their efforts to ensure they build at maximum density possible - but in keeping with the distinctive character and setting of the area.


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"Since these figures are based on the three years up to 2004, we hope more recent figures will show a considerable improvement."

Exactly the point, said HDC's head of planning services, Steve Ingram. "The character of a predominantly rural area with market towns is completely different from an inner city."

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In common with other planning authorities, HDC is working to the Government's guidelines of 30-50 dwellings per hectare.

"The need to protect the local character means that there will be lower density in villages and higher in towns," Mr Ingram said. "The new Saxongate development in Huntingdon is a very good example of high density on a brownfield site in a town centre. It's appropriate there."

He said planners took advice from colleagues dealing with meeting affordable housing needs about the sort of homes that were needed. He pointed out that much of the affordable housing being provided on the Sapley Road site, near Tesco in Huntingdon, was low density bungalows. "That what the need is there," he explained.

"CPRE raises a valid issue, but different places have different character.

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