URBANISATION of the east of the parish of Houghton and Wyton will result in the two picturesque riverside villages being railroaded into becoming part of St Ives, parish councillors believe.

At the heart of the controversy is a move to earmark more of the former St Ives golf course for 400 additional houses and a 'country park' – another feature of urban life.

That is on top of the 300 new homes for which outline and some detail planning consents have already been granted off Houghton Road, St Ives, and building has already started on two of the developments.

The further move would leave just a narrow 100-150-metre wide strip of undeveloped land between urban St Ives and the nearest housing on Houghton Hill, in Houghton.

That, believes Houghton and Wyton Parish Council, would be easy prey for a developer to argue building on it would be 'in-filling' something planning authorities are pre-disposed to allow.

Parish council chairman Alan Williams told The Hunts Post: “One or two district councillors seem to have had this in mind for about four or five years. They are rather railroading things.

“The 'strategic gap' would be very vulnerable to developers, and that would have the effect of coalescing St Ives and Houghton. The gap is so small as to be useless, and that's an argument that could be used by a developer.”

In advance of a public consultation between February 14 and March 25 next year, with a decision by Huntingdonshire District Council's cabinet in May, the parish council has organised a meeting of concerned residents in Houghton's Pavilion this evening (Wednesday).

Ironically, the development would not have been in Houghton and Wyton had HDC not moved the parish boundary eastwards earlier this year at the same time as correcting an anomaly that previously placed Houghton lock in Hemingford Abbots.

The move means that planners may now be contravening their own core planning strategy, which was approved by the planning inspectorate earlier this year, parish councillors say.

In that document, most housing growth is concentrated in the market towns, with very restricted development allowed in smaller settlements including Houghton and Wyton.

But HDC's head of planning, Steve Ingram, who will be at this evening's meeting, said the core strategy referred to settlements rather than parishes. The land in question was in St Ives for settlement purposes, and the strategy clearly showed growth westwards from the existing built-up area.

It envisaged that 400 of the extra 500 homes to be accommodated by St Ives over the next 15 years would be in this development, though one-third of the site would be green space, large tracts of it wilderness.

Housing on the site could be low density, since the Government had dropped its predecessor's demand for high-density housing, though there would be a significant element of affordable homes.

“There's a lot of landscape here that we are determined to protect.”

And he promised to defend the strategic gap vigorously from any attempt at infilling, adding that the parish council could help in that by asking the planners to extend the St Ives and Houghton conservation areas.