James Palmer wants massive expansion of 'zero cost' £100k homes

Mayor Palmer campaigning across Cambridgeshire for a second term as Mayor. 

Mayor Palmer campaigning across Cambridgeshire for a second term as Mayor. - Credit: JAMES PALMER

Mayor James Palmer says he will not be releasing an official manifesto, but says he has a clear vision for a second term.  

The mayoral election on May 6 will decide the next leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. 

Mr Palmer says that his ambition is that £100,000 homes will make up 10 per cent of all new developments in the county.  

He acknowledged that the goal cannot be directly achieved through the office of mayor, but said: “It’s achievable if the councils are willing. 

"If you are any council, you can change your local plan at any time if you have got the will to do so. 

His idea is that as part of a new development’s affordable housing provision developers can offer homes available to purchase for £100,000 regardless of their market assessed value, and the discount applied. 

For example, 50 per cent of market value will stay with the property when it is resold.  

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The combined authority confirmed on April 15 that eight have been completed so far, in Fordham, and a further eight are under construction, four in Ely and four in Great Abington, with a further three allocated for Cambridge city.  

Mr Palmer says the homes are delivered at “zero cost to the taxpayer”. 

But critics have said the current homes in the scheme have required loans of £1 million each. 

This tying up of capital, they say, is linked to the government’s assessment that the wider combined authority housing programme has made “insufficient delivery progress and that the value for money being achieved is below our expectations”. 

Mr Palmer says that under his leadership the combined authority has “proved the concept” for £100K Homes and that “the next stage is to do it at significant scale”.  

He said that if 10 per cent of new developments are £100K Homes it will deliver “around 500 a year”, adding he is “confident” it is achievable and that local plans will be changed.  

Mr Palmer also highlighted the “massively important” proposals in the current combined authority pipeline. 

These include dualling the A10 and A47, upgrading Ely North Junction, building a new Cambridge South Station, reopening Wisbech’s railway line, and delivering the next phases of the new university for Peterborough. 

“Four years ago, none of those projects were happening at all”, he said.  

Mr Palmer is also proposing to absorb the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) into the combined authority, an idea which has not attracted government backing or support from the GCP’s constituent councils when he and others have suggested it over the past few years. 

He has also said he will deliver bus franchising in Cambridgeshire, which is also supported by the other two candidates, and which Mr Palmer said could integrate the bus network with other transport services, including the proposed metro, and prevent the various modes of public transport competing with each other. 

Mr Palmer said he is still committed to delivering his proposed metro, which he says would use autonomous vehicles and include underground tunnels in central Cambridge. 

He added that the plan “protects from inappropriate and poorly planned development”, describing a metro as a “platform for sustainable growth”. 

Asked if he is still proposing a 2029 delivery deadline for the later phases, including underground tunnels carrying passengers, he said “we’re looking at 2023 to 2029, 2030, that’s where we are”.  

He said a metro system “takes the burden off Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire” when it comes to building new homes, by connecting areas further afield.  

He said since being elected four years ago the housing need is “now 20,000 more because our transport network does not allow for sustainable growth across the area. 

"So of course, there will be homes in South Cambridgeshire because South Cambridgeshire is a very desirable place to live, but it doesn’t mean to say all the homes will be in South Cambridgeshire. 

"Absolutely not, that’s why CAM Metro was planned to spread that burden of growth across the wider area."