Major plan to develop Peterborough with 21,315 new homes approved despite reservations

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Politicians from the major parties expressed concerns about the future growth of Peterborough before approving a plan which sets out how the city will develop over the next 20 years.

Conservative city councillors, including a cabinet member, criticised the council’s Local Plan which documents how Peterborough will expand by 21,315 homes up until 2036, while Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP councillors also expressed reservations.

But despite the concerns the plan was voted through by councillors, bringing an end to a long and difficult process which saw the campaign group Protect Rural Peterborough and senior politicians successfully lobby for a 2,500 home settlement north of Castor and Ailsworth (dubbed the Great Kyne) too be removed from the Local Plan.

Addressing the campaign, Cllr Peter Hiller, member for Glinton and Castor and cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, told councillors: “Our new Local Plan is an important document. It sets out our overall vision and objectives.

“The original proposed submission of the plan was subject to a huge public campaign, very capably organised and conducted by the Protect Rural Peterborough movement.

“Many of us on both sides of the chamber completely agreed with their rational stance and methodology.”

But cabinet adviser Cllr Steve Allen disagreed. He stated: “I broadly support the Local Plan, notwithstanding the removal of the Great Kyne site which I believe offered a substantial, sustainable development and fully recognised the future growth of Peterborough.”

Cllr Allen, Conservative member for Eye, Thorney and Newborough, added that Eye residents were unhappy the Local Plan was allocating another 250 homes for the village.

He said: “I can understand the frustration of Eye residents who feel their objections have not been listened to. There is a feeling the village has been dumped on in the past, with more and more houses without the necessary infrastructure improvements.

“Infrastructure improvements must be the red line for approval of any further housing. It’s essential the availability of school places is addressed before a further brick is laid. The school is already at near full capacity.”

Fellow Conservative member for Eye, Thorney and Newborough, Cllr Richard Brown, added: “”I’m supporting the Local Plan, but I’m not supporting the larger development in Eye.”

Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors also said they felt there should have been some development planned near Castor and Ailsworth.

But council leader and Castor and Glinton representative, Cllr John Holdich, said: “You can’t have any less than 2,500 because the infrastructure isn’t there, and you wouldn’t have been able to put the infrastructure in for less than 2,500 houses.”

The Local Plan earmarks a campus for the new University of Peterborough just north of the Embankment, but crucially states that any future development in that area has to include a foot and cycle bridge to the £120 million Fletton Quays redevelopment by the South Bank.

UKIP member Cllr John Whitby said he supported the Local Plan but that there needed to be limits to Peterborough’s growth.

He told councillors: “We already have problems, as does every other city, with poor health oucomes in the inner city areas. And when you develop and develop, your inner city areas get bigger and bigger, and your health outcomes in their get worse and worse.

“We cannot just continue to grow. We have to plan, at what point do we say this is where we stop?”

But deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said: “One has to realise this is not uncontrolled growth. We can’t stop people having children - we don’t live in China.

“We cannot stop growth, and the Local Plan is designed on the basis of what growth is expected.

“All the provisos that go into the Local Plan are based on those estimates. If we didn’t put those estimates in, we could find ourselves short and living in Mumbai which is overrun with poverty because they don’t have the infrastructure in place.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford said the Local Plan had “fantasy” policies, adding: “It actually says ‘we will make journeys by foot and cycle much easier through the use of direct, legible and segregated routes’.

“Those of us expressing concerns about Rhubarb Bridge, this is precisely not what the administration is proposing with their proposal to put in at-grade crossings.”

Both Cllr Sandford and fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Julia Davidson highlighted a lack of public transport at Manor Drive in Gunthorpe but Cllr Hiller said this will be brought in when the development is finished.

The Local Plan will now be subject to a further six week consultation in the new year before being submitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination.