St Ives 700-home plan ‘not illegal’

HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council yesterday denied that its planning document for expanding St Ives westwards towards Huntingdon was unlawful.

But planners agreed with Houghton and Wyton Parish Council that it could not use a document on which consultation closed last Friday to allocate land for hundreds of extra houses.

They insist that without that document having been accepted by the council as guidance there would be a risk of a developer getting permission for far more than the 400 extra homes HDC envisages being built to the south of Houghton Road up to 2026.

The next part of the process to allocate the land is with what is called a development plan document, a first draft of which will be submitted to HDC’s cabinet in November. That will be followed by public consultation and an examination in public by a government planning inspector.

Although the parish council will have the chance to put its views to the inspector, it would have had a better chance of resisting the expansion if it had made its objections known when HDC drew up its core planning strategy in 2008 – when the principle of expansion in that direction was established.

At the time the land was in St Ives. Following boundary changes, some is now in Houghton.

Planners did not want the current development off Houghton Road, but they were overruled by a planning inspector in 2005.

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The plan now being disputed by the parish council will bring the total number of new homes in that part of St Ives – including around 100 to the north of Houghton Road – to around 700.

Without the document, planners would be at risk of falling victim to a combination of landowners and developers seeking to maximise profits and perverse decisions of planning inspectors – as happened at Sawtry last year, when a developer was given consent for 230 homes in a village where the brand-new core strategy that had just been approved by the same Planning Inspectorate restricted development to 60 homes.

Houghton and Wyton Parish Council objects to the current plan, which it says in one of the 350 responses to the consultation “does not adequately protect the separate identity of the village of Houghton and Wyton and town of St Ives.

“It would require building outside of the designated spatial planning area, partly in an unsustainable location, adversely affecting the surrounding area in terms of properly conserving the natural environment, retaining the quality of the surrounding conservation area, protecting local business and tourism, increased traffic and pollution, threatening the status of the historic Thicket footpath, increasing crime and fear of crime and collectively reducing the quality of life.”

The parish council, which wants a complete review of the core strategy, adds that the proposal is “incomplete and devoid of some crucial details regards solutions for traffic and education, does not compensate residents in any way for their losses or provide sufficient protection for what green space remains”.

Far from it, says HDC’s head of planning services, Steve Ingram. “It’s a strategic green space opportunity,” he said yesterday.

And it envisages homes being built at far lower density than those currently being built.

“The landowners want to develop the land. We want that to happen in a balanced way, with more regard to context and, therefore, more green space.”

The 700 homes there are among about 14,000 required in Huntingdonshire between 2001 and 2026. Many have already been built or identified – a total of around 9,000, including the 1,200 homes at Northbridge off Ermine Street in Huntingdon. The St Ives homes, redevelopment at RAF Brampton and a further 4,000 to the east of St Neots make up much of the balance.

The 5,000 new homes proposed for Alconbury airfield by developers Urban and Civic and shown off last weekend are “for the future,” Mr Ingram said. They will require, among other extensive planning formalities, a revision of HDC’s core strategy. It will all take time.