Plans for 750 new homes in Godmanchester given go ahead

Campaigners opposed to the Bearscroft Farm development outside the district council offices before M

Campaigners opposed to the Bearscroft Farm development outside the district council offices before Monday’s (July 15) meeting - Credit: Archant

MEMBERS of Huntingdonshire District Council have been accused of ignoring the views of hundreds of people after approving plans for 750 homes and a new primary school in Godmanchester.

Despite widespread opposition to The Fairfield Partnership’s Bearscroft Farm scheme, off the A1198, HDC’s development management panel voted 11-2 in favour.

More than 100 people packed into the council chamber for Monday’s meeting ... and most left feeling the wrong decision had been made.

County councillor Graham Wilson, Lib Dem member for Godmanchester and Huntingdon East, said: “I’m very disappointed but not surprised. I think the members of the panel had already made up their minds before they came. They were not listening to what I was saying and did not listen to what other objectors said.”

Cllr Wilson said campaigners had asked for the decision to be called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to be reviewed by an independent inspector.

Speaking on behalf of Godmanchester Town council, Cllr Wilson had argued new, better sites were available for housing, such as Alconbury Weald and RAF Wyton, and Bearscroft should be thrown out.

Zoe McGowan, of campaign group Godmanchester Residents Against Bearscroft, said the preferred option for Cambridgeshire County Council had been a bypass with a re-aligned A1198. But it had been ruled out because profit went before safety, she said.

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Concerns about children crossing the A1198 prompted Lib Dem Cllr Mike Shellens to say he did not want another child’s death on the council’s hands, a reference to teenager Warren Hay, who died on the A141 in Huntingdon in 2007 where a crossing had been proposed but rejected.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s transport assessment manager Mike Salter stressed the proposals would “dramatically change the character” of the A1198. It was due to be made narrower, he said, with a 30mph limit.

On the impact on the A14, The Fairfield Partnership’s agent Colin Brown admitted the Highways Agency had previously said the dual carriageway would need to be re-routed before Bearscroft could go ahead but had changed its position.

HA asset manager David Abbott said the development was now acceptable, providing traffic lights were introduced on the slip roads.

He also twice emphasised that the HA had not promised the A14 upgrade would happen. “It’s impossible to guarantee the scheme will come forward until contractors sign and they start building it,” he said.

Commenting on the impact on town roads, UKIP’s Cllr Peter Reeve, whose proposal to reject the application was defeated, warned that tampering with the layout of Huntingdon’s ring road – removing the traffic lights by the Old Bridge Hotel – would create a new pinch-point for traffic coming from Hartford and the A141, where two lanes would be reduced to one at the Godmanchester turn off.

Meanwhile, Steve Biart, of The Fairfield Partnership, said he was delighted with the decision.

He said: “Our plans will deliver benefits for the local community, including a new primary school, a £250,000 contribution towards the enhancement of the Judith’s Field Pavilion, and £600,000 of the Community Infrastructure Levy charge reserved for Godmanchester Town Council to use on local projects.

“The conditions and legal agreements attached to the planning permission will ensure these benefits, and the measures to address local concerns, are delivered.”

On at least seven occasions, members and officers stressed the value of the developer contributions – totalling more than £8m – and the risk of losing what had been agreed should the application be won on appeal.

HDC’s planning services manager Andy Moffat said they were “as good as they could be expected at any time”, while Cllr Richard Tuplin called it an “excellent” agreement.