“Common sense prevails” after Castor and Ailsworth development is ditched

Shailesh Vara
Shailesh Vara
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“Common sense has finally prevailed” MP Shailesh Vara has said after a landmark planning decision.

After vocal opposition from the MP, Peterborough City council’s leader and the council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, the authority has finally ditched the development of a controversial plan to allow a 2,500 home development on countryside near the villages of Castor and Ailsworth.

The decision comes after the council put a pause to its Local Plan - the document which sets out the housing target in the city up until 2036.

Mr Vara said: “This is the right decision and it is good to see that common sense has finally prevailed.

“Building what would essentially have been an urban extension of Peterborough at Castor and Ailsworth would have been completely inappropriate.

“I am delighted that the local community has pulled together and fought off this outdated proposal for such an historically important landscape.”

The deferral allowed council officers time to consider a new government consultation and its impact on calculating the city’s future housing need.

This has now resulted in a revised housing target of 21,315 new homes to be constructed, a reduction of 1,673 homes.

Cllr Peter Hiller, cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, said: “The decision to pause and review the new evidence from government was both correct and important given the significance of the Local Plan on the development of the city and surrounding areas.

“As our officers previously suggested, the Government’s new approach in determining future housing provision has reduced our targets overall which were further reduced by the number of homes completed in the city in the last five years.

“This has resulted in their recommendation to remove the new settlement proposed to the west of the city from the Local Plan.”

Cllr Hiller, who represents Castor on the council, has previously called the 2,500 home settlement a “blight” and urged for it to be scrapped.

Council leader Cllr John Holdich, who also represents Castor, described the development as “environmental vandalism,” while North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara has been another vocal critic.

A campaign group called Protect Rural Peterborough (PRP) has also spent countless hours researching documents to prepare its case against the council’s proposals north of Castor and Ailsworth, which also included a new country park, employment land and a cemetery.

PRP said the development, which it labelled a ‘township’, would threaten important historical sites and wildlife.

In the revised version of the Local Plan additional housing allocations totalling 550 homes are proposed across sites in Norwood and Fengate South.

There has also been a slight adjustment - an increase of 302 homes - to the council’s ‘windfall’ allocation which predicts the number of much smaller one-off developments over the next two decades.

A public consultation was held on a draft version of the plan earlier in the year and all comments have been carefully considered.

The revised plan will now be reviewed by committees before going to cabinet on November 20.

Cabinet will decide whether it is suitable for consideration by Full Council on December 13.

If approved by Full Council, then a further six week consultation would take place in the new year.

Thereafter, the Planning Inspectorate would carry out an examination of the plan to check it is appropriate and suitable for Peterborough and the surrounding areas.

The Proposed Submission Local Plan being considered by councillors can be viewed on the council’s website, as part of the agenda papers for the forthcoming committee meeting - http://democracy.peterborough.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=657&MId=3951&Ver=4.

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