Plans to add 750 homes to Godmanchester decision due

Bearscroft plan

Bearscroft plan - Credit: Archant

TRAFFIC chaos has been predicted if Huntingdonshire district councillors follow planners’ advice and approve a 750-home development in Godmanchester next week.

The Fairfield Partnership’s Bearscroft Farm scheme for 114 acres of farmland off the A1198 includes a primary school, shops and offices.

HDC’s development management panel is due to consider an outline planning application, detailed in a 157-page report, on Monday.

However, Councillor Colin Hyams, who represents Godmanchester on the district council, has warned approving it would be a disaster.

The Conservative councillor said: “We cannot cope now with the traffic situation. It will be absolutely disastrous.

“I am furious about the A1198 being turned into a residential road. It does not make sense.”

Cllr Hyams said he was even considering his future with the Conservatives.

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“I have been quite frank, saying I may well leave the Conservative Party because of it. People are saying ‘What is localism all about?’ I stood 10 years ago to give something back to the town and feel I will have failed if Bearscroft gets the go-ahead.”

Campaign group Godmanchester Residents Against Bearscroft (GRAB) submitted a 2,069-name petition to HDC objecting to the proposal.

Godmanchester and Huntingdon town councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have recommended refusal and HDC received 99 letters and e-mails, all objecting.

Miriam Radford, of GRAB, urged people to attend next week’s meeting. She said: “We hope the district council will listen to their local residents and throw out this damaging proposal.

“We feel residents’ views have been ignored and the planners are bending over backwards to get the development approved.”

Other concerns include lack of school places and that it could destroy the identity of Godmanchester.

Cllr Graham Wilson, a Lib Dem county councillor for Godmanchester and Huntingdon East, suggested delaying the decision until the district-wide house-building plans were finalised.

He said: “Until the new housing targets have been agreed and other sites considered, the council should not make a decision on Bearscroft,” he said.

Despite the concerns, Louise Newcombe, HDC’s development management team leader, has recommended approval, concluding the development will “contribute to building a strong and competitive economy, provide a supply of housing to meet current and future generations, provide accessible services and local infrastructure”.

Studies in 2007 and 2008 concluded the site could be considered suitable only once the A14 is re-routed and A1198 traffic levels reduced.

Despite the reservations, the general area was adopted in the core strategy, HDC’s development plan for Huntingdonshire, as a “growth area” after the Highways Agency (HA) and Cambridgeshire County Council raised no objections regarding potential impact on roads.

Another study in 2010 identified a list of 10 problems and limitations but still concluded it could support new homes, a school and businesses.

Ms Newcombe reports thatargues all land identified for new homes, including Bearscroft, needs to be developed to meet the overall demand and the loss of agricultural land is seen as “not significant”.

The main access to the estate would be via two junctions on the A1198, a roundabout to the south and traffic lights to the north. A 30mph speed limit is planned along with four pedestrian and cycle crossings.

Traffic lights on would be installed on the A14/A1198 slip roads and transport consultants have concluded they would not lead to long queues.

The HA, which can use its powers to block planning applications, is willing to grant a “modest concession” on the number of extra cars using the A14.

Re-routing the A1198 has been ruled out due to the cost which would make the whole scheme unviable, says the report.

The proposals include removing the traffic lights on the ring road junction, just over the town bridge, so traffic merges instead.

If approved, the development would be built in four phases, the first to include the school, shop, bus route and A1198 improvements.

INFORMATION: The plans are due to be discussed by members of the development management panel at Pathfinder House, Huntingdon, at 7pm on Monday (July 15).