HUNTINGDONSHIRE planners are advising councillors to ignore a compromise proposed by their former leader that would have reduced the number of new homes to be built south of Houghton Road, St Ives.

Cllr Ian Bates, who is county councillor representing part of the proposed site, recently-elected district councillor Alan Williams and other members of a working group on the development two weeks ago suggested reducing the number of additional homes from 500 to 300 to widen and protect the 'strategic gap' between the town and the village of Houghton.

They said the change would also alleviate traffic problems on the A1123 and mitigate the impact of the development on other areas of local concern, such as education provision.

But planners say the 500 homes were included in the core planning strategy approved by a government inspector, and the highway authority had taken account of that number of homes in its plans for the future of the road.

Departing from that principle could result in piecemeal development that would lead to the same number of homes at lower quality, they imply.

But Houghton and Wyton Parish Council is still threatening an application for judicial review if the council adopts a 'supplementary planning document' (SPD) before the 'development plan document' (DPD) to which it is supplementary. The council's legal advice is that HDC would be acting unlawfully if it did that.

The action group Stop Houghton East Development this week complained that the threat of legal action was not made clear in the planners' consultation summary to be considered by a council scrutiny committee tonight and its cabinet next week.

"The report recommending that the St Ives urban design framework SPD be approved as a document for planning guidance fails to mention that the council is facing the serious threat of Judicial Review following a barrister's advice taken by Houghton & Wyton Parish Council," a SHED spokesman said on Monday.

"It appears to be deliberately misleading and tries to disguise significant process failings in the preparation of the local development framework. This is risking putting HDC and the councillors in the embarrassing situation by recommending that they act ultra vires.

"The report fails to highlight that these process failures affect all supplementary planning documents across the entire district, raising potential issues in Brampton, Godmanchester, the Hemingfords and elsewhere.

"It suggests the St Ives urban design framework offers a degree of protection from undesirable development, which is an unsubstantiated claim as the document has no standing."