I am still really confused by the decision to grant planning permission at the Glenfields/Snowley Park site. I could ask questions about almost every aspect of it. But, the area I am most unhappy about is highways. I have been putting in some challenge since the planning decision and have not got satisfactory answers. So, I have decided to ask some questions publicly.
The first issue that really, really concerns me is that it was specifically stated at planning committee that the current approval that is being built out to the rear of 148 Stonald Road was not factored into the highways assessments. This is worrying, not just because of that issue, but because it then begs the question what else hasn’t been factored in. Residents deserve answers to this and they need confidence that the application was properly considered. So my first question is:
1. 1. What existing planning consents were factored into the traffic statistics? Specifically what consideration was given to:
a. The existing approval for 460 homes at Bassenhally Field.
b. The Sainsbury Supermarket and country park at Station Road
c. The business park that has approval on Eastrea Road.
d. The development to the rear of 148 Stonald Road
e. The old nursery site along Peterborough Road which has now got permission
The second issue, which I am wrestling with is the issue of sustainability. That is, the expressed need for the planning system to work to make communities more sustainable in public transport terms. The National Planning Policy Framework has extensive things to say about sustainability and it is clear to me that, from a public transport perspective, Whittlesey is not a sustainable Town. This is what paragraph 50 of the Framework says:
“Encouragement should be given to solutions which support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce congestion. In preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should therefore support a pattern of development which, where reasonable to do so, facilitates the use of sustainable modes of transport.”
Let’s be clear where Whittlesey is; our rail service is dreadful, despite our Town being within commutable distance to London; our bus service offers nothing outside of normal working hours; and the green wheel cycle route into Peterborough is not safe at night. It is also true that 80% of Whittlesey residents commute out of the town to work.
The committee report about the Snowley Park/Glenfield development recognised this when it said this:
"It is anticipated that 70% of the trips generated will be by the car driver, 3% public transport, 3% walking and 3% bicycle.”
That clearly states that this development is not a sustainable development – less than 10% of the journeys from this site will be by sustainable methods. The reason for this is clear, if you live in Whittlesey and work out of Town, unless you can guarantee you will never work outside of normal hours you have to use a car to get to work. For a Market Town the size of Whittlesey that sits within commutable distance of Peterborough and within commutable distance of Cambridge and London - two economic powerhouses. This situation is totally unacceptable, yet we are having development forced upon us that is clearly unsustainable and adds to our woes.
So, my next questions are these:
2. 2. Do Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council accept that, in terms of transport, Whittlesey is an unsutainable location. If not where is the evidence it is?
3. The committee report for Snowley Park/Glemfields mentions a tiny contribution to the Market Town Transport Strategy,, a questionable scheme of offering new residents a few free bus tickets and a contribution to Station improvements. Where is the evidence that this will work and what evidence that proves this will work was presented to committee? Do they accept that it is not good enough to accept money without evidencing what it will be used for and how it will make the Town more sustainable.
4. 4. What public consultation was carried out that specifically described the proposed contributions so residents had an opportunity to challenge and make alternative suggestions?
5. 5. Do officers accept that Snowley Park/Glenfields development will put more traffic along Stonald Road on the route into Whittlesey Town Centre (which is the recognised cycle route that extends the green wheel into Whittlesey). Do they accept that putting more traffic along a route which does not segregate bicycles makes that route less sustainable! Not more?
My next point is about consultation with Peterborough City Council. I am glad to say we are moving towards a situation where Kings Dyke crossing is going to be sorted. That is great news. However, that is increasingly becoming only part of the story. Whittlesey people know what happens when more cars are forced onto the A605- we see the results every year when the North Bank and Wash Road close – and one thing we must do is make sure that we don’t force more cars to use the North Bank – the deaths and serious incidents of last year are all the evidence you need for that. What we, as residents, know is that the problem is increasingly about both Kings Dyke and Stanground.
Given that we know Whittlesey residents are likely to work in Peterborough and that, for the most, they are going to drive, it goes without saying that more housing in Whittlesey means more queues at Stanground, making the commute from Whittlesey increasingly impractical and making life for Stanground residents increasingly difficult, and more importantly adding to, not reducing, greenhouse gas emissions – a specific requirement of the NPPF as outlined above.
6. 6. What consultation was carried out with Peterborough City council about the impact of this application on Stanground?
7. 7. What discussions have taken place about improving the cycle route along the North Bank to make it navigable at night?
My final point is about housing. Fenland’s draft Core Strategy identified that Whittlesey should have only 1,000 new homes in the period to 2031, largely because of our poor transport infrastructure – a decision that was supported by an inspector. We are already reaching that limit and the last time I challenged about it, I was told there was nothing they could do to enforce that 1,000 limit. They have to find a way.
8. 8. What method are Fenland going to use to make that housing limit enforceable? If they can’t what are they going to do to give us a sustainable transport system.
I am pretty sure if I thought longer, I could ask more questions, but I think the responses to these will ensure we get the gist of whether there was adequate thought about the impact of this application on Whittlesey or whether our current unsustainable transport position has been properly considered. I will make sure both senior planners at Fenland, and officers at Cambridgeshire County Council are aware of this blog and I will publish the responses.