A Cabinet minister is being asked to intervene after campaigners against a 2,500 home development near Castor and Ailsworth discovered a 30-year-old parliamentary order which they hope might prohibit the land from being built on.
The Protect Rural Peterborough (PRP) campaign believes the order, signed by environment secretary Nicholas Ridley in 1987, creates uncertainty about whether the proposed development is legally allowed.
The campaigners’ cause is being taken up by North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara who has called on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to personally look into the case.
However, the Government and Peterborough City Council do not believe the order will prevent development from taking place.
Mr Vara, a vocal critic of what has been called the Great Kyne settlement, which also includes plans for a new country park, employment land and a cemetery, said: “The research carried out by the Protect Rural Peterborough campaign could prove to be very important.
“I am awaiting a response from the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, providing clarification on whether it is the case that there is a prohibition on homes being built on this site.
“If there is a restriction, then the whole development could be called into question.”
The proposed development on countryside north of Castor and Ailsworth (with the A47 in between) first came to the public’s attention in October last year when the council included it in the first draft of its Local Plan.
The plan addresses housing need in the city up until 2036, and a final draft will be revealed next month which will also include a proposed campus site for the new University of Peterborough.
PRP has spent countless hours pouring over documents and researching planning policy, while also voicing its opposition through social media, as it continues to fight the proposed ‘township’, which it claims will threaten important historical sites and wildlife such as the Castor Hanglands nature reserve.
Martin Chillcott, leader of the PRP campaign, said: “The determination and efforts of PRP volunteers continues to amaze me. Whether it’s diligently wading through historical records, shining a light on the many inconsistencies in the city council’s Local Plan, surveying the local wildlife and archaeology to the highest academic standards and building a website and using social media, volunteers just keep on keeping on.
“We’re in this for the long haul.”
The parliamentary order banning development on the site was created in response to the Peterborough Development Corporation’s plans to build a township at Castor which never came to fruition.
Mr Chillcott added: “After a long fight which gained the attention of national government, it was agreed that it would not be right to build a township of homes and industry in this sensitive area. That’s why the Secretary of State created the order.
“It is clear that Nicholas Ridley and the Government of the time felt this stretch of countryside should remain untouched and nothing has changed.”
The Government agency which owns the land - the Homes and Communities Agency - hopes to eventually see 5,000 homes built in the area. A spokesman told the Peterborough Telegraph it is seeking legal clarification of what the parliamentary order means having been made aware of it in April.
He added: “The agency is currently in discussions with both Peterborough City Council and others concerning this issue.”
However, the council is adamant the land can be developed on. A spokeswoman said the 1987 order only concerned the development corporation’s masterplan and would not affect its new Local Plan.
She said: “The parliamentary order is the New Towns Act which we are aware of and have always been aware of. This act does not prohibit the land from being developed.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We don’t consider that this order will have an impact upon the Peterborough Local Plan.”
Council leader, and member for Castor, Cllr John Holdich, has previously labelled the plans “environmental vandalism.”