Leave rural areas alone’
HUNTINGDON and the surrounding villages could coalesce into a single conurbation unless curbs are placed on development, countryside campaigners believe. The Campaign to Protect Rural England fears the district is coming under intolerable pressure from ce
HUNTINGDON and the surrounding villages could coalesce into a single conurbation unless curbs are placed on development, countryside campaigners believe.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England fears the district is coming under intolerable pressure from central government to accept extra homes - at least 11,200 between 2001 and 2021 - and wants a public debate to assess people's priorities.
Its comments coincide with publication of a new study showing that more than half of Cambridgeshire is now either built on or affected by noise and light pollution.
CPRE says the East of England, once quieter with broad stretches of undisturbed countryside, is now the third most disturbed region. At the current rate of loss of tranquil countryside, the entire region could be blighted in 70 years, the campaigners say.
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"There was a 127 per cent increase in the amount of Cambridgeshire overshadowed between 1960 and 1990," Huntingdonshire group chairman Gareth Ridewood told The Hunts Post. "Huntingdonshire has expanded rapidly in the last few decades and will have more in the near future.
"We have been talking to people about what they value most about the district. It is the tranquillity, the character of the market towns, the River Ouse and places such as Paxton Pits. We are fighting to ensure that character is protected by pressing for development to be concentrated on brownfield sites first," he said.
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Mr Ridewood accused the Government of adopting a central planning doctrine of "predict and provide". "Where is this housing going to go, and is the infrastructure going to be provided?" he asked.
"We have huge pressures. There's also the threat of the new roads. The new A14 will slice through the countryside whichever route is chosen. There's also the dualling of the A428 between Caxton and Black Cat, which will threaten more of our villages.
"These are cumulative pressures that threaten to change the face of Huntingdonshire. How much urbanisation do we want to see? Or are we going to stand aside and watch it happen?
"The fear is that the smaller places such as Godmanchester and Brampton are expanding, and we don't want it to coalesce into a Huntingdon conurbation.
"If you develop too much, you lose the character of the market towns and villages that people really cherish."
He stressed that CPRE did not oppose all house-building. "There's a need for affordable housing, especially in the villages. That's urgent. But the large-scale growth that's planned is another matter."
Mr Ridewood praised Huntingdonshire District Council's recently-published environmental strategy, but said it conflicted with policies being forced on the council by Whitehall.
"You can either dress up policies with the word 'sustainable' or you can have truly sustainable policies. But the district is under huge pressure to accept this growth.
"People should make their views known about what they think is best. It's not for CPRE to decide. It's for the people.
The campaign is eyeing up the former RAF bases at Alconbury and Brampton as brownfield sites suitable to take growth. "Alconbury could be an ideal site in the future for a proper eco-town like Northstowe. Planning these things takes a long time, but is it the best use for the site?"
On current thinking, HDC's planners would say no.
* Cambridgeshire comes 19th in CPRE's list of undisturbed countryside, even though it is now 52.48 per cent disturbed. The table contains 117 areas of England, 33 of which are described as 100 per cent disturbed.