SFF letter to all Councillors delivered a week prior to the planning meeting

3rd August 2017

Dear Councillor….,

Land at Teversham Road, Fulbourn:  Reference S/0202/17/OL

The above planning application is on the Agenda Item 7, next week.   I write as Chairman of Save Fulbourn’s Fields (SFF).  We, with Fulbourn Forum and the Parish Council, were professionally represented as a Rule 6 party as “Fulbourn Parish”, at last September’s Inquiry into the previous application, which was almost identical to this one.  We are expressing the views of the overwhelming majority of residents in Fulbourn.

In August 2015 the SCDC Planning Committee unanimously rejected Castlefield’s application. That rejection was upheld last September at the Appeal.  It is vital that you should again vote to reject this highly inappropriate proposal.  This letter explains why.

Our objections on grounds of ecology, flooding risk, heritage and landscape all remain valid, but the Inspector did not give them, by themselves, sufficient weight to justify refusal of Castlefield’s appeal. Instead he relied on the unsustainability of the proposed development (paras 136 and 138 of his Decision).  He concluded, “I cannot have any certainty that the appeal proposal would result in an acceptable development for future residents to live in”.  Nothing in the new application changes that sensible conclusion.  This site has always been considered by SCDC as unsuitable for housing.

The fundamental defects in the application are:

(i)   Access

              Access for vehicles and pedestrians is inadequate and potentially dangerous.  The proposed housing estate would be a giant cul-de-sac.  There is an obvious risk that the “emergency access” via Cox’s Drove (which is a narrow lane and has no pavement) would become the primary route for cyclists and pedestrians because it is the shortest route into the village centre, and the applicant’s proposed access across Poor Well is not deliverable.  The Parish Council, which owns Poor Well, has stated in writing that it would not allow the proposed raised boardwalk.  At the Teversham Road entrance/exit, all vehicles would be forced to queue at peak hours, close to another road junction, a bus stop, and a level crossing.

(ii)    Layout

               The design of the estate, though illustrative only, largely ignores pedestrians.  Except on the entrance road, there are no pavements, and safe passage for pedestrians around the public open spaces has to rely on fenced-in boardwalks, because the site will be so often wet.

The children’s play area (LEAP) is located in an area which is also designated for protection of important flora and fauna and for storage/flow of surface water: Castlefield (at the Appeal) conceded that, in a severe storm, it could be “under a foot of water”.

No tweaks of the design can solve the problems of safety, ecology management, flooding, and access for pedestrians.  Virtually all public open spaces are required to perform three conflicting functions, that of water retention and attenuation, the mitigation and translocation of the identified and important flora and fauna (effectively a nature reserve), and public recreation for adults and children alike. It is clear that these uses are incompatible and not achievable to the high standard required.

(iii)    Infrastructure

               The (unadoptable) roads, “bio-retention areas”, holding ponds, complex drainage and fenced in boardwalks would all require expensive maintenance in perpetuity.  At the September 2016 Inquiry, Castlefield were unable to provide a plausible guarantor or guarantee for any of this, causing the Inspector to conclude (his para 112) “the Unilateral Undertaking would not make suitable arrangements for the provision of infrastructure necessary to make the scheme acceptable in planning terms”.  Approving this application exposes SCDC to huge financial liabilities and legal risks for many decades to come.

The application being brought before you still, after 10 months, makes no firm proposals for the management and maintenance, in perpetuity, of the public open spaces. Instead, this fundamental issue (one of the main reasons for the rejection of the Appeal), has been buried in the Heads of Terms (SCDC 7) for future determination by officers under Section 106 arrangements.  With no clear proposals or agreement, the risk is enormous and the potential for an unsatisfactory outcome obvious.  In the event of the ultimate default, a not unlikely scenario, the proposal is that the entire responsibility will fall on the plot purchasers.  Given the complexity of the site, particularly with 30% affordable homes, this is not a sustainable option.

These are all grounds for rejecting this opportunistic application.

If there were another appeal, “Fulbourn Parish” would again intend to be represented, and would help SCDC to win again.

I therefore urge you not to let down a village which is trying so hard to protect its green fields from an offshore developer.    Please vote to reject Castlefield’s application.

This letter is copied to the Chair of Fulbourn Parish Council and to the Chair of Fulbourn Forum.

Yours sincerely

David Marchant,

Chairman,   Save Fulbourn’s Fields