A guide to responding to the Local Plan First Proposals, and some personal thoughts on the issues, written by: John Meed, local resident, writer, researcher and musician
The Greater Cambridge Local Plan – First Proposals contains a number of themes. You can find them all here.
The theme ‘Biodiversity and green spaces’ sets out to ‘increase and improve our network of habitats for wildlife, and green spaces for people, ensuring that development leaves the natural environment better than it was before’. I welcome both the overall objective and the specific policies, but they do raise complex questions. For example:
- Whether it is genuinely realistic to hope that proposed new developments will in practice ‘leave the natural environment better than it was before’?
- How the councils will work with land owners and managers to ‘increase and improve our network of habitats for wildlife’?
- How decisions will be taken about which species and habitats will be favoured, and which not, and how ‘improved’ habitats will be managed?
- What will happen in the future if new development turns out to result in a loss of existing species and habitats?
You can also comment on individual policies. The planning service’s Biodiversity and Green Spaces Topic Paper sets out more background for each policy.
Policy BG/BG: Biodiversity and geodiversity
Policy BG/BG: Biodiversity and geodiversity sets out the plan’s requirement that any new development should achieve at least 20% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – this means that habitats for wildlife must be enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were in before development. This is an important commitment – greater than the government’s requirement for 10% BNG – and deserves support.
The policy states that ‘Biodiversity net gain should be delivered on-site where possible’ but does offer the alternative option of ‘contributions to off-site projects’.
While the latter may sometimes be valuable, there is a risk that this could offer both an easy opt out for landowners and developers, and a justification for planners to support contentious new development and removal of land from green belt.
In addition, Objective 3 talks about situations ‘Where it is agreed that off-site habitat measures would bring greater biodiversity benefits than on-site measures’. Who would agree this, and when in the process?
Policy BG/GI: Green infrastructure
Policy BG/GI: Green infrastructure sets out a ‘list of strategic green infrastructure initiatives’ and there is more detail in the Biodiversity and Green Spaces Topic Paper. All these initiatives are important, and Initiative 3: Gog Magog Hills and chalkland fringe is of particular relevance to Queen Edith’s.
A further document, the Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping presents yet more detail for individual initiatives. The final version of the Local Plan itself will be the only document that would have weight in determining a planning application. So if there are things in the Opportunity Mapping or the Topic Paper – such as the objectives for the strategic green infrastructure initiatives – that you think should become part of the local plan, now is the time to recommend this.
- My own response to this policy reflects my particular concern for farmland wildlife – you can download this here.
Policy BG/TC: Improving Tree Canopy Cover and the Tree Population
Policy BG/TC: Improving Tree Canopy Cover and the Tree Population will require development proposals to protect and enhance trees and hedgerows, and to plant new ones where appropriate.
Policy BG/RC: River corridors
Policy BG/RC: River corridors will control development that has an impact on river corridors in Greater Cambridge, principally the River Cam and its tributaries.
Policies BG/PO and BG/EO: Open spaces
The final two policies are concerned with open spaces, such as parks, sports and recreation areas, allotments, community orchards and village greens. Policy BG/PO: Protecting open spaces focuses on protecting existing open spaces, while Policy BG/EO: Providing and enhancing open spaces sets out how new development should provide new and enhanced open space to meet the needs it generates.
To comment on these policies, here’s what you need to do:
- Go to the proposal’s web page here
- Scroll down the page to near the bottom, until you get to the ‘tell us what you think’ section. Ignore the + button on its right, but click on the blue speech bubble on the left.
- Log in, or create an account and then log in.
- Then you can add your comments and/or upload a separately-written document.
Additionally, I recommend completing the Local Plan’s online questionnaire, where you can make similar points to those you’ve made above, but also comment briefly on many others.
These guides to commenting on the Local Plan First Proposals are provided by the individual authors. The Queen Edith’s Community Forum does not take any political stance on local issues. We welcome other guides on the same lines, written by local residents. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to write one.