Northstowe developer ‘optimistic’ about A14 improvement

THE developers of Northstowe, the 10,000-home new eco-town between Huntingdon and Cambridge are confident that a new improvement plan for the A14 will emerge soon, in spite of the scepticism of Cambridgeshire business leaders.

Last week, John Bridge, chief executive of the county’s chambers of commerce, called plans for further housing development in the A14 corridor – including Northstowe – ‘bonkers’ until the road was improved.

But two days later, joint partners the Homes and Communities Agency and developer Gallagher Estates unveiled plans for the first 1,500 homes at the development.

The first phase also includes nearly four hectares of employment land, earmarked for offices and light industrial use, a primary school, a local centre with a convenience store and other small shops, a community centre, sports hub with a pavilion and artificial and grass pitches and a household recycling centre.

The development has been on hold since the economy dipped in 2007, but the promoters now plan an outline planning application and new masterplan for the whole town to South Cambridgeshire District Council early next year, with infrastructure going in in 2013 and the first homes occupied in 2014.

Phase one is expected to take six to seven years to complete, with the whole development spread over 20 years or more, Gallagher’s executive director Alan Joyner told The Hunts Post.

Public transport will be a key feature of the development, including an initial link to the guided busway at Longstanton park-and-ride, a dedicated busway through the development with priority signalisation for public transport.

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“It will become a principal corridor with retail frontages,” Mr Joyner said.

But his own involvement in discussions about the A14 have left him optimistic that something will start happening sooner, in spite of the delay to the study promised by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond a year ago, which was supposed to have reported in mid-2012.

“I was surprised and disappointed by the cancellation [in the Chancellor’s comprehensive spending review announcement on October 20 last year], but �1.2billion would have swallowed up a lot of funding,” Mr Joyner said.

“But the Government has always acknowledged that the A14 is a trans-European network with problems.

“I have sat on a working group, and my consultants have done studies on what might be possible. Obviously there’s a funding issue, but the activity towards finding a solution is going on. The Government can’t walk away from it.”

Former county council leader Councillor Shona Johnstone, who was at a consultation event for the development last week, said what was missing was any mention of the A14 and proposals for health provision and a secondary school.

“And the primary school should be open from day one, even if it’s for just one pupil,” she added.