Two cheers for the Local Plan
"Its been a long, long time coming" as the song goes, but finally, after four years, the Planning Inspector has judged "sound" the joint local plan put in by South cambs and City Of Cambridge way back in 2014. This Plan sets out where houses should be built for the next ten or more years, and against which any big planning application is assessed. So it matters because without a Local Plan there is a free for all of development.
The Inspector has though concluded that the land for development at Waterbeach and Bourn Airfield is needed for housing. It will be interesting to see how the new administration at South Cambridgeshire takes this because it has been described by Lib Dems as a "failed Local Plan" and the new planning portfolio holder campaigned against Bourn Airfield. So will they now vote against it?
Given the complexity of a plan covering two high-growth economic areas, and the huge interest and challenge from developers keen to nibble into the Green Belt and build in and around Cambridge (mostly around) some might say that it isn't perhaps too surprising that it has taken longer than most Local Plans to get through the part-time Inspector's analysis.
To be honest however, it has taken far too long. Communication with the Inspector has been harder work than it should have been, and understanding the timetable of the Inspection process like interpreting the utterances of some ancient Greek oracle. The economic geography has changed too, in the time from when the plan was worked up in 2012. South Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing economies in the country, and demand for housing and infrastructure is not only growing, it is accelerating.
The Inspector has concluded, finally, that the way of counting projected house building submitted by the two councils is ok, which means that it will be more difficult for speculative developers. Again, that conclusion has been a long time coming and had it been indicated earlier it would have prevented a lot of unwanted bids from developers in South Cambs villages.
I don't think it ends here though - such is the pressure to build houses in South Cambs that I would expect one of developers to try a legal challenge on some aspect of green belt despite the Inspector's findings.